Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle asks whether the 49ers acted too hastily in publicly committing to Alex Smith as their veteran quarterback for 2011. But in looking through the list of alternatives, the 49ers' decision on Smith makes more sense, in my view. The team projects Colin Kaepernick as its longer-term quarterback. None of the quarterbacks likely to become available would have enough appeal for the 49ers to justify making an investment significant enough to displace Kaepernick. In the meantime, Smith was the perfect ambassador for new coach Jim Harbaugh, who needed someone to promote his offense while the lockout prevented the 49ers' staff from interacting directly with players.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Smith and 49ers players are planning another camp for this week. Maiocco: "The 49ers own the rights to 31 offensive players. That includes 26 players under contract and five unsigned draft picks. Twenty-two players were on hand for the first Camp Alex, which ran June 6-9. That total includes two unsigned veterans: Smith and center David Baas, who flew in from Florida for the final day of classroom and on-field activity."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Kaepernick will attend the team's next player-organized camp at the expense of the NFL Players Association's version of the annual rookie symposium. Barrows: "It's not yet known which 49ers rookies will be on hand this week. However, wide receiver Ronald Johnson and guard Mike Person were working out at San Jose State last week. So was first-round pick Aldon Smith. The defensive players may be more involved with this week's minicamp than they were the previous one, but because they do not have playbooks they will not be working on anything specific." Kaepernick appears more grounded and more mature than the typical rookie. He'll probably benefit more from the extra week getting a jump on the 49ers' playbook.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News offers highlights from Joe Staley's recent appearance on Sirius radio. Staley on receiver Michael Crabtree: "Michael Crabtree, he’s a great teammate. … He has his own workout routine, (but) Crabtree isn’t the only one. He looked like he was in great shape when he was out here and he’s eager to learn."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says no team faces greater challenges than the Cardinals once the NFL reopens for business following the lockout. The quarterback situation is most important, but hardly alone among areas for concern. Somers: "They have to not only bolster an offensive line, they also need to assemble one. Two returning starters, center Lyle Sendlein and right guard Deuce Lutui, are not under contract. Alan Faneca, last season's starting left guard, retired in the offseason. One starting receiver, Steve Breaston, is not under contract for 2011, and the other, Larry Fitzgerald, is entering the last season of his deal." How the Cardinals address their immediate needs could affect their ability to bring back Fitzgerald. I also think this offseason will be pivotal for the Cardinals as they seek to maintain sellouts at University of Phoenix Stadium. The stakes are definitely high.
Craig Harris and Ginger Rough of the Arizona Republic say the Cardinals and other Arizona sports franchises have sought to improve their political standing by offering free tickets to lawmakers. Harris and Rough: "For the Cardinals, giving away free tickets was a way to go head-to-head with the Fiesta Bowl, which for years battled the NFL team over stadium issues. The Cardinals didn't have any bills before the Legislature during the time it gave out the gifts. Nonetheless, the team gave 35 lawmakers pairs of tickets to its home opener in 2006. It gave a pair of loft tickets 47 times to lawmakers or incoming legislators for a dozen different home games from 2007 to 2009, according to the team. Each loft ticket had a value ranging from $132.50 to $167.25. In most cases, however, the lawmakers attended only one game during the calendar year. That meant they were not obligated to reveal their acceptance of the gift on their annual financial disclosure forms, since the value fell under the $500 reporting threshold."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic doubts the Cardinals would part with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in a deal for Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. Somers: "He's been inconsistent in Arizona, and there's no question coaches' patience will run out if DRC doesn't mature and put in the necessary study time. But great cover corners -- and DRC has the potential to be great -- are hard to find. And it's not as if the Cardinals are deep at the position. Patrick Peterson, the fifth overall pick, is unproven. Behind him the Cardinals have Greg Toler. The next two corners are Michael Adams and Trumaine McBride. Neither is under contract. (EDIT: I forget to mention A.J. Jefferson in my original post. Coaches like his potential.)" Fair questions: To what degree would Kolb, as a quarterback with roots in Andy Reid's West Coast offense, fit the system in Arizona? And does the Cardinals' overall need for a quarterback prevent them from being picky on such things?
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com notes Fitzgerald's standing at No. 14 on NFL Network's list of best players in the league.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com reflects upon Peter McLoughlin's first nine months as the team's president. The team extended its stadium naming-rights deal by five years as part of the switch to CenturyLink Field. McLaughlin also negotiated a sponsorship deal with Anheuser-Busch, his former employer. McLaughlin: "To get the long-term deal on the stadium naming rights is huge. The financial stability that provides from a sponsorship standpoint is really, really important. You don’t want to be out in the market really looking for a new naming-rights deal in this economy." It's easy to forget that team budgets exist separately from whatever personal resources an owner might have available to him. On the other hand, sports franchise ownership is, at its purest, about much more than making money. It's about trying to win. There's often more to gain from selling a franchise than from operating one.
Kathleen Nelson and Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch check in with Rams linebacker David Vobora after a court offered at least some vindication regarding the supplement Vobora unwittingly ingested in violation of NFL rules. This story broke shortly after I stepped away for vacation last week. I thought it was worth revisiting given the damage done to Vobora following his four-game suspension. The court ruling does not affect Vobora's standing in the NFL's eyes. He was ultimately responsible for taking the supplement, even if the manufacturer could have done a better job spelling out ingredients. Vobora: "Vindication. That's the single word I'll continue to use. From the get-go, my lawyers and I were on the same page about that. Compensation was secondary. The number one thing was to right the ship and restore my reputation."