NFC West: Kevin Ellison

The strange story of Kevin Ellison

June, 15, 2012
The Seattle Seahawks claimed Kevin Ellison off waivers two years ago when they were looking for veteran depth in the secondary.

Ellison, a sixth-round choice by San Diego in 2009, had played for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC. He initially appeared to have a shot at earning a roster spot, but Ellison made little impact. The Seahawks released him within months. End of story -- until Friday.

Authorities in Spokane, Wash., arrested Ellison and plan to levy a federal arson charge against him following a bizarre incident. Ellison, now playing for the Spokane Shock of the Arena League, reportedly "was sending out texts to people claiming he was Jesus and was part of the second coming" prior to setting his apartment on fire.

The report mentions no injuries even though Ellison, who started nine games as a rookie, jumped from his third-floor window.

Here's hoping a once-promising talent gets whatever help he needs.

While with San Diego, authorities arrested Ellison for suspected possession of a controlled substance. They reportedly found more than 100 Vicodin pills in his vehicle.

Confirmed roster moves in NFC West

September, 5, 2010
The San Francisco 49ers appeared mostly quiet Sunday, signing players to their practice squad while the rest of the division scrambled to rearrange 53-man rosters.

Among the confirmed moves in the NFC West to this point Sunday:
By "confirmed" moves, I'm talking about ones either announced by the teams, confirmed by the teams, processed by the NFL office, or all of the above. As noted before lawn-maintenance obligations intervened, rosters remain quite fluid.
The Seattle Seahawks looked up long enough Sunday to announce a few roster moves, but not the ones reported previously.

The team said it has released offensive linemen Mansfield Wrotto and Steve Vallos, and safety Kevin Ellison. The team said it has claimed off waivers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith from the Green Bay Packers and defensive back Nate Ness from the Miami Dolphins. The team also announced offensive lineman Stacy Andrews' acquisition from Philadelphia.

The team made no mention of previously reported moves involving Julius Jones, Jordan Babineaux, Kevin Vickerson or Junior Siavii.

The roster appears in flux to such a degree that meaningful analysis should be postponed. My plan is to step outside for the next hour or so, mow the lawn, then come back inside and see if the pieces have come together any more clearly. The grass is getting high, anyway -- unless Pete Carroll and John Schneider cut that, too.

Post-camp roster analysis: Seahawks

August, 30, 2010
NFL teams have until Saturday to reduce their rosters to 53-man limits, with the 75-man deadline passing Tuesday.

I've been putting together roster breakdowns similar to this one for roughly 10 years. They're a quick read and worthwhile exercise because they require thinking through each position. The numbers in parentheses shows how many players the team has on its roster. The average number kept since 2003 reflects Week 1 counts by position.

In some cases I've used the "looking safe" category for players that could qualify as "keepers" (the term "locks" is one I used previously). The Seattle Seahawks remain somewhat unsettled at quite a few positions and they could be active in claiming players off waivers. Some players looking safe one day could become expendable quickly. The same could be said for some keepers.

Here's what I'm thinking Monday:

Quarterbacks (3)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.9

Keepers: Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst

Looking safe: J.P. Losman

Comment: Some teams keep only two quarterbacks when other positions demand special considerations. Seattle could have some interest in Matt Leinart if the Arizona Cardinals released him. I wouldn't expect the Seahawks to invest anything trade-wise, however.

Running backs (6)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.3

Keepers: Justin Forsett, Leon Washington, Julius Jones, Quinton Ganther

On the bubble: Owen Schmitt

Also: Louis Rankin

Comment: Schmitt isn't a top special-teams player and he isn't versatile enough to carry the ball. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates says he has room for traditional fullbacks on his roster. We'll see if that's enough to spare Schmitt. I don't think the team would release Jones even though Forsett and Washington have sometimes looked better.

Wide receivers (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.3

Keepers: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Mike Williams, Golden Tate

Looking safe: Deon Butler

On the bubble: Ben Obomanu, Brandon Jones

Also: Ruvell Martin, Kole Heckendorf

Comment: Jones probably needs to make an impact over the next week, including during the final exhibition game, to prove he's worth a roster spot. Obomanu can play multiple positions, he's good on special teams and he's caught the ball when given chances. Jones has shown more during past regular seasons and he can also provide special-teams value. Butler's strong offseason should be enough. Houshmandzadeh seems to be gaining momentum following an injury-affected offseason.

Tight ends (5)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.1

Keepers: John Carlson, Chris Baker

On the bubble: Anthony McCoy, Cameron Morrah

Also: Nick Tow-Arnett

Comment: McCoy has dropped too many passes, but he's a draft choice and he also scored a touchdown during the preseason. It's possible the Seahawks could keep four tight ends. They'll use more double-tight personnel groupings this season, most likely. Carlson and Baker are clearly the top two. I'm not sure McCoy or Morrah would rank among the 53 best players overall.

Offensive linemen (15)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.9

Keepers: Russell Okung, Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer, Max Unger, Mansfield Wrotto, Mike Gibson, Ray Willis, Chester Pitts

Not sure what to think: Steve Vallos, Ben Hamilton

Also: Mitch Erickson, Jeff Byers, Joe Toledo, Gregg Peat, Jacob Phillips

Comment: This position is difficult to figure. The Seahawks expect Willis back at some point early in the season. If that holds true, the team wouldn't want to place him on injured reserve. Pitts falls into the keeper category if his knee holds up (reserve/PUP is not an option for him after Pitts passed a physical). Spencer and Unger can both play center, and Gibson could start at guard, making me wonder if there's a spot for Vallos. Hamilton entered camp as a starter. Line coach Alex Gibbs values him as a mentor for Okung. But with Gibson overtaking Hamilton recently and with Pitts getting medical clearance, Hamilton appears less valuable. Seattle might want to keep 10 while the injury situation settles out. Expect the Seahawks to check out the waiver wire, too.

Defensive line (15)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.6

Keepers: Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Colin Cole, Kevin Vickerson, Nick Reed, Kentwan Balmer, E.J. Wilson, Dexter Davis

Looking safe: Quinn Pitcock

On the bubble: Craig Terrill

Also: Ricky Foley, Rob Rose, Amon Gordon, Jonathan Lewis

Comment: Clemons suddenly rivals Okung as the non-quarterback Seattle could least afford to lose. This reflects Clemons' strong play during preseason and the lack of attractive alternatives. Pitcock's youth and third-round potential could give him an edge over Terrill, at least in my view. Terrill has fought through knee trouble to remain in the mix.

Linebackers (8)

Average number kept since 2003: 6.9

Keepers: Lofa Tatupu, Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne

Looking safe: Matt McCoy, Tyjuan Hagler, Will Herring

Also: Joe Pawelek

Comment: Leroy Hill will open the regular season on the reserve/suspended list. He'll join the keepers once eligible. Hill, Curry and Tatupu have never played a full game together during the 2009 regular season or the 2010 exhibition season.

Defensive backs (15)

Average number kept since 2003: 7.9

Keepers: Marcus Trufant, Earl Thomas, Josh Wilson, Lawyer Milloy, Walter Thurmond, Kam Chancellor

Looking safe: Kelly Jennings, Jordan Babineaux

On the bubble: Kevin Ellison, Jamar Adams, Roy Lewis

Also: Cordelius Parks, Kennard Cox, Josh Pinkard, Marcus Brown

Comment: Trufant's return to form stands out as one of the most welcome developments for Seattle this summer. Thomas upgrades the coverage and playmaking ability of the secondary. The more Milloy plays, the more he looks like an enforcer type. Thurmond's return from knee surgery qualifies as the most pleasant surprise for Seattle in the secondary. Jennings' durability could be a concern. Babineaux's versatility makes him valuable even though it's looking as though the team doesn't have significant long-term plans for him.

Specialists (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.1

Keepers: Olindo Mare, Jon Ryan, Clint Gresham

Also: Clint Stitser

Comment: Mare missed from 43 yards against Minnesota on a strange night for kickers in the NFC West. Joe Nedney and Shane Adrus missed for the San Francisco 49ers.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart declined comment until Friday after learning Derek Anderson would start against Chicago in the third exhibition game. Somers: "Whisenhunt selected his words carefully Thursday, but it's no secret the Cardinals want to see more confidence and leadership qualities from Leinart, the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft. Leinart has thrown only 13 passes, completing 10, but most of those have been short throws, and Leinart has developed a reputation for "checking down" from his primary receivers, perhaps too quickly. It's a critical season for Leinart, who is due a hefty pay raise in 2011. If Leinart proves himself a starter, the Cardinals likely would renegotiate the contract. If Leinart fails, the Cardinals are likely to release him." Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. was apparently right all along in discounting Leinart this offseason. We spoke for the Football Today podcast Friday. I'll post that audio when it's available.

Darren Urban of did not expect Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt to make a quarterback change at this stage. Urban: "I’m not going to lie, and anyone who has read my stuff knows this anyway: I thought all along Matt Leinart would at least start the season under center. I suppose that can still happen. He will have Beanie Wells behind him at running back for the first time in Chicago barring something unforeseen, so maybe that helps in some way. But clearly, had Leinart played the way the Cards were hoping, Derek Anderson would not be starting against the Bears. I can still see a scenario where Leinart plays against the Rams Sept. 12, and obviously, I can see Anderson playing as well."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals want to see how Leinart and the rest of the team respond to Anderson's promotion.

Ben Malcolmson of says Earl Thomas was among the Seattle players most scared by a snake prank at team headquarters. This one comes with video. Nicely played.

Clare Farnsworth of says the team is looking for a way to keep cornerback Roy Lewis.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times gives Jamar Adams the edge over Kevin Ellison for a Seahawks roster spot at safety.

Greg Johns of says Leon Washington, not LenDale White, wound up being the most important running back Seattle acquired during the draft.

Also from Johns: A sore hip is sidelining Seahawks linebacker David Hawthorne.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks plan to play their starters into the third quarter at Minnesota.

Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers and quarterback Alex Smith probably will not talk seriously about a new contract until after the season. Smith's agent was at practice Thursday. Also: "Undrafted rookie receiver Kevin Jurovich and rookie cornerback Phillip Adams are expected to see some action on punt and kickoff returns, along with Bobby Guillory, who muffed two punts in the first two exhibition games."

Also from Maiocco: Frank Gore will play one series, possibly more, against the Raiders on Saturday night. The starting offensive line will play the first half.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Gore, Michael Crabtree and Brian Westbrook will make their 2010 preseason debuts for the 49ers at Oakland.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Sam Bradford passed a significant test by playing well in his first preseason start. Thomas: "Yes, Bradford missed a wide-open Laurent Robinson for what would have been a third TD in the closing seconds of the first half. Robinson caught the ball, but out of bounds, right at the goal line. But maybe coach Steve Spagnuolo should concede what looked obvious Thursday, that Bradford will be his starter on Sept. 12 against Arizona."

Also from Thomas: New Rams majority owner Stan Kroenke addressed the team before the game Thursday night. He also had nice things to say about Bradford.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams suddenly appear relevant with Bradford at quarterback and Kroenke owning the team. Burwell: "So here's where new owner Stan Kroenke's presence could be immediately felt. No longer hamstrung by any budgetary restraints, general manager Billy Devaney needs to find a way to get Bradford some real receiving weapons. If you have invested as much in Bradford as reported (guaranteed $50 million), and now it looks like he's clearly worth the investment, wouldn't it be an equally wise strategy to surround him with the tools he needs to not only survive, but thrive?"

More from Thomas: Donnie Avery's knee injury appears serious.

Around the NFC West: New era for Rams

August, 26, 2010
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says NFL owners needed less than an hour to approve Stan Kroenke's bid to purchase majority ownership in the Rams. Thomas: "Kroenke has until December 2014 to be fully compliant with NFL cross-ownership rules. That gives him four years to work out a financially efficient way to actually sell the Nuggets and Avalanche to Josh Kroenke, or another family member. Those familiar with the sale process say Kroenke isn't entirely sure how he's going to do that at this point but is considering several options."

Also from Thomas: Shahid Khan bows out gracefully.

More from Thomas: Chip Rosenbloom reflects on his family's ownership of the Rams. Thomas: "Rosenbloom made it a point to stay out of the spotlight Wednesday. He respectfully declined an invitation to join Kroenke at a news conference following the owners' vote. And he quietly checked out of the hotel where the meetings were held a couple of hours before the meeting concluded, heading to the airport for the flight back home."

Brian Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees Kroenke as the right man to own the Rams, even though he doesn't necessarily trust the billionaire. Burwell: "Until Kroenke agrees to a new lease agreement, or the Rams are playing in a new stadium in the greater St. Louis area — or two other NFL franchises end up in Los Angeles over the next five years -- I will continue to raise an eyebrow to his every move when it concerns the long-term future of the Rams in St. Louis. ... Yet in spite of my ever-diligent distrust of the man, here's why Kroenke still could and should be great for the Rams. He will hit the ground running. Because he is no stranger to the workings of the organization, there will be no learning curve. He knows how everything works, and just as important, what doesn't work. And I would be surprised if everyone in the organization doesn't already understand that the clock has been ticking on their evaluations for more than a year."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects Kroenke to evaluate the Rams' structure.

Also from the Post-Dispatch: a recent Rams ownership timeline.

Clare Farnsworth of says Leon Washington impressed during practice Wednesday. Washington will start for the Seahawks this week.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers notes from Seahawks practice, including this one: "Ben Hamilton worked as the second-unit center on Tuesday. He watched Wednesday's practice at one point with an ice bag on his knee. Chester Pitts was on the field, but was limited. Extremely limited, and he also iced the knee after individual drills."

Also from O'Neil: a look at the Seahawks' roster on defense. O'Neil: "Lawyer Milloy and Earl Thomas are lined up as the starting safeties, but behind that duo is a logjam of players that includes former starter Jordan Babineaux, a fifth-round pick in Kam Chancellor the team probably doesn't want to cut and free-agent addition Kevin Ellison, who has a bad knee, but all he did last year was start nine games for the San Diego Chargers."

Greg Johns of says Seahawks tight end John Carlson isn't sweating too much over a couple dropped passes.

John Morgan of Field Gulls appreciates Mike Williams' sure hands.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in from the Cardinals' spirited practices with the Tennessee Titans. Somers: "The pass-rush session between the Cardinals' offensive line and the Titans' defense was the only serious threat to decorum. The Titans' front four is relentless, and the Cardinals started to take offense to what they viewed as extracurricular behavior. Cardinals backups Jeremy Bridges and Rex Hadnot ratcheted things up a notch with some talking. After the Titans were stopped on snap, Hadnot said, 'No soup for you!' Bridges did some hitting and talking, prompting one Titans player to ask later if Bridges had eaten enough biscuits."

Also from Somers: "Matt Leinart continues to play with the starting unit and backup Derek Anderson got some work with the starters, too. Rookie Max Hall worked some with the second unit. Leinart looked sharp in the two-minute drill, driving the team down the field. Anderson looked decent and Hall was in command, too."

More from Somers: a chat transcript with his thoughts on the quarterback situation in Arizona. Somers: "I sense some worry. Staff is waiting for Leinart to make the plays he should. But it's not as if Anderson is pushing him. I think the staff feels comfortable the line, backs and receivers will be fine. ... Some people I talked to think Leinart is not looking downfield long enough. It seems to be he's a little cautious of making a mistake. The go route to Williams was an aggressive play call on 3rd and 1. Coaches wanted to see how Leinart would handle it."

Darren Urban of says Greg Toler was working at right cornerback with the Cardinals' first-team defense.

Also from Urban: Were there unrealistic expectations for the Cardinals' offensive line?

More from Urban: Ken Whisenhunt and Jeff Fisher sounded satisfied with the work their teams got in practice.

Matt Maiocco of says 20 players missed 49ers practice for various reasons, but Ted Ginn Jr. was not one of them. Maiocco: "Quarterback Alex Smith hit receiver Ted Ginn with 29-yard touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone, over the coverage of Patrick Stoudamire. Ginn narrowly avoided running into a table in an empty hospitality tent. Ginn spiked the ball in the tent." I'm often amused by the seemingly arbitrary rules coaches set for practices. They'll ban cell phones or drink containers among spectators, only to let sponsors set up tables within a few yards of the fields.

Also from Maiocco: Phillip Adams is making a positive impression with the 49ers.

More from Maiocco: The 49ers held their morning practice in full pads.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates 49ers position battles. Barrows: "At the beginning of training camp, four players -- Brandon Jones, Jason Hill, Dominique Zeigler and Kyle Williams -- were competing for perhaps two spots. Jones is out of the running and Williams is out with a toe injury. (He was seen walking in a boot today). But while Williams has been recuperating, no one has stepped forward to take his place as the top punt returner."

Also from Barrows: Defense prevails in a staple of 49ers practice.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' return game.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News explains the reasoning behind the "ownership" drills the 49ers run in practice. It's a chance for players to call the plays.

Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with former 49ers standout Bryant Young.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers do not want Ginn returning punts.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says there's evidence Smith's experience in the 49ers' offense is paying off.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Seahawks coach Pete Carroll as saying quarterback Matt Hasselbeck tried too hard in 2009. Carroll: "It was clear that he was over-trying. Tremendously over-trying. He was trying to make things happen, in classic fashion to try and make a play and that caused him to make decisions where he would throw the ball into trouble. He wouldn’t read everything out. He wasn’t patient enough because he felt like there wasn’t room enough to be patient. And so those decisions, it takes you to ... another level of production that goes totally against you. And you have to play within the system and the concepts or you’re just making stuff up. And so he pressed too much."

Also from Williams: checks in with Seahawks rookie E.J. Wilson. Draft analyst Rob Rang says he probably underrated Wilson coming out of college.

More from Williams: Deon Butler has more than speed to offer Seattle's offense.

Clare Farnsworth of says linebacker Leroy Hill downplayed the knee injury he suffered during practice. Hill could miss some time, however. Hill has never played a full 16-game regular season since entering the NFL as a third-round draft choice in 2005. He has missed nine games over the past two seasons and he'll miss at least one more in 2010 thanks to an NFL suspension.

Rod Mar of offers photos from practice, including one showing rookie Golden Tate making a one-handed grab.

Ben Malcolmson of says T.J. Houshmandzadeh was highly productive in practice Tuesday.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times was ringside for the Seahawks' most contentious practice of camp. Brandon Mebane took a swing at someone (it might have been Max Unger).

Also from O'Neil: Aaron Curry was back at practice following a concussion and determined to make a strong impression.

Greg Johns of says the Seahawks formally made Russell Okung their starting left tackle Tuesday. Also, Kevin Ellison picked off a pass. Ellison appears to have a good shot at sticking in the secondary.

Also from Johns: The defense seemed to like practice Tuesday. Safety Earl Thomas: "Today was just a great day. The defensive line and O-line were battling it out. That's what we've got to have in practice. It felt good. It gave me chills in my body. I'm just glad to be part of this team. We're going in the right direction and are just looking forward to the first game."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals like having some seasoned veterans on their roster. They have 12 players in their 30s at present, including Joey Porter. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "If you watch Joey walk into a meeting room and you watch the younger players, they watch him. They look at where he sits, how he prepares, because this guy is a Pro Bowl player. So when things aren't going well, or are going well, that's where the younger players are going to look to, to see how those guys are going to handle it."

Also from Somers: Beanie Wells might not play Sunday after taking a hit to the ribs this week. Sitting out sounds like the safest strategy.

More from Somers: an early Cardinals depth chart with rookie Dan Williams listed as the third nose tackle.

Darren Urban of says the Cardinals could be looking to sign a veteran at inside linebacker, where Pago Togafau worked with the starters Tuesday. Also, second-year outside linebacker Cody Brown is showing signs of progress, a very good sign for Arizona.

Also from Urban: a look at how the 7,000-foot altitude affects players at Cardinals camp.

More from Urban: Safety Hamza Abdullah fasts from sunrise to sunset during camp in observance of Ramadan.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch heads to Bears camp to check out former Rams Lovie Smith, Mike Martz, Isaac Bruce, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Brandon Manumaleuna. Too bad the Bears did not bring back Orlando Pace. Martz: "This is a good football team. I love the organization. Good players. The coaching staff has a real special chemistry with this group. You know, you get in those moments where things are really good and everything kind of meshes. This has that kind of feel. Everything's just kind of -- it's hard to explain -- there's a lot of good things that could happen. We'll just see."

Also from Thomas: That was Jason Smith working with the starters during team drills for the first time this summer.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have lots to figure out at tight end. The Rams have been happy with what Billy Bajema has added, not only as a blocker but as a receiver.

Also from Coats: The Rams' exhibition opener will not be televised live in St. Louis.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams have worked on contingencies at kicker while Josh Brown rests a hip injury.

Also from Korte: Rookie George Selvie has made a positive impression lately.

Matt Maiocco of says two Alex Smith completions stood out as highlights of 49ers practice Tuesday morning.

Also from Maiocco: New special-teams coach Kurt Schottenheimer had nice things to say about returners Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye says Smith will be judged on whether the team wins, nothing more, and that is one reason not to worry about a rough practice. Barrows: "Raye also said there were extenuating circumstances to Smith's day. He noted that Smith usually makes 94 throws in the morning and another 86-90 in the afternoon. He said this is the point in camp that quarterbacks get what Raye called 'arm weary'. And he also noted that both of Smith's top targets, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, were given the morning off. (That's two straight practices for Davis). One more obstacle: Smith is getting used to a new center, David Baas, who had a few errant snaps. Raye said he hoped to settle the center competition between Baas and Tony Wragge by the third preseason game."

Also from Barrows: The mystery of Kentwan Balmer continues.

Taylor Price of offers notes from 49ers practice, plus a photo of Dominique Zeigler's acrobatic grab over Shawntae Spencer.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the linebackers San Francisco signed for depth.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with Baas, who is on to his next challenge. Brown: "David Baas has a knack for showing up unexpectedly, starting with the day he was born. His parents steered their Datsun into a parking lot upon realizing there was no time to make it to the hospital. Baas greeted the world just outside a bank in Tulsa, Okla. That set the tone for a life in which Baas could pop up almost anywhere." Next stop: center.

Also from Brown: notes from practice and a challenge (name the five running backs with the most rushes of at least 20 yards last season).

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the conversion to Baas at center is tougher because the team has inexperienced guards around him.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider wonders how Crabtree gets a veteran's day off in only his second season. By playing like a veteran, perhaps?
Pete Carroll isn't the only NFC West inhabitant defending USC's honor following NCAA sanctions against the football program.

Like Carroll, the former USC coach in his first season with the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart has a legacy to uphold. As Arash Markazi of points out, the 2005 BCS trophy Leinart helped win no longer sits on display at USC's Heritage Hall.

"People can say whatever they want but we still played every game the way we had to, we beat almost every team we played and, to me, no one will ever be able to take that away," Leinart told "I've talked to a lot of people I played with on those teams and we all say the same thing. Everyone who knows football knows we won those games and we won the title."

Leinart said he remains close with former USC teammate Reggie Bush, whose alleged actions brought about the sanctions. Leinart said the two speak to one another "all the time" and Bush recently attended Leinart's bowling event.

Current NFC West players from USC include Leinart, Dominique Byrd and Deuce Lutui of the Cardinals, Chilo Rachal and Taylor Mays of the San Francisco 49ers and eight players from the Seattle Seahawks: Josh Pinkard, Kevin Ellison, Lofa Tatupu, Lawrence Jackson, Jeff Byers, Anthony McCoy, Mike Williams and Ryan Powdrell. The St. Louis Rams are the only team in the division and one of six in the NFL without a player from USC. Byrd and LaJuan Ramsey were the former USC players on the Rams' roster most recently.
Matt Maiocco of explains why Aubrayo Franklin's play improved over the last one-plus seasons and why the 49ers aren't rushing out to extend the nose tackle's contract beyond 2010. Maiocco: "The 49ers never seemed all that determined to get a deal done with Franklin, whose play was consistently strong from the mid-point of the 2008 season through last year. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky simplified the defense after the firing of Mike Nolan, and Franklin did not have as many two-gap responsibilities from that point forward. It wasn't until the second half of last season that the 49ers decided the best course of action was to restrict Franklin's ability to hit the free-agent market with the application of the franchise tag. The club wants to see him continue to perform at a high level before extending him with the kind of lucrative, multi-year offer the other 'franchise' nose tackles received from their respective clubs."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are interested in extending contracts for their best young players, but Franklin isn't all that young any longer. Barrows: "He turns 30 next month, and while he may have avoided wear and tear early in his career, the 49ers have to wonder whether he's reached his peak. They also have to wonder why Franklin had his best season in his contract year."

Taylor Price of looks at the team's offense heading into training camp. Price on running back Michael Robinson: "Primarily known for his role as the 49ers special teams captain, Robinson is a leader on the field and in the locker room. On offense, Robinson adds value as a third-down back and proved his importance on 'Monday Night Football,' with several important catches in the second half of the 49ers season sweep of the Arizona Cardinals."

Nick Wagoner of profiles rookie quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who played in a pro-style offense at Duke. Lewis: "It helped me a whole lot. I wasn’t fazed at all coming out to these practices because he makes his practices up tempo and fast. The transition was great so that part wasn’t hard at all. It’s just learning the language. The language is different. You have to forget everything you learned in college. Pretty much, the route concepts and running plays are the same. The defenses never change. They add a few things to it but it’s pretty much the same."

Michael Silver of checks in with Rams running back Steven Jackson, who says he does not feel as though his career is wasting away. Jackson also shares details from a shark-watching trip he took to Seal Island near the Capetown coast. Jackson spent 10 minutes in an underwater cage while sharks feasted nearby. Jackson: "I was freaking out all the way down. I had a lot of trouble with the air at first; I was breathing really fast and [screwing] up the oxygen tank. Eventually, by getting control of my breathing, I calmed myself down, but it was still pretty insane. Like I told my mom when I got back, the scariest part isn’t when first see the shark or when he eats the bait right in front of you -- it’s when he disappears into the murky water and you’re like, 'Where the hell did he go?' " Jackson laments the Rams' struggles and says he hopes coach Steve Spagnuolo has enough time to implement his program.

Jim Moore of says Pete Carroll's new book offers a glimpse into how the Seahawks' new coach operates. An exerpt: "By paying close attention to the actions, mannerisms and traits of our players…and by taking note of the clothes they wear, the hairstyles they choose, their personal interests, and the people they choose to hang out with, we get mountains of information." provides photos from recent efforts to paint Qwest Field's white roof blue. The white roof had become a brown roof thanks to dirt.

Clare Farnsworth of says about 1,000 gallons of paint were used in the roof project.

Brent Schrotenboer of the San Diego Union-Tribune says the arrest of former Chargers safety Kevin Ellison, now of the Seahawks, triggered an investigation into a Chargers team doctor. Schrotenboer: "The case’s origins can be traced to the arrest in May of former Chargers safety Kevin Ellison, who had been charged with illegally possessed 100 Vicodin painkiller pills when he was stopped for speeding in Redondo Beach. The Chargers have said the Vicodin was not provided by the team or its doctors."

Gerry Spratt of says Carroll plans to make a book-related appearance July 23 in Seattle.

Doug Pacey of the Tacoma News Tribune offers quotes from Seahawks safety Jamar Adams after Adams "pulled 7 Gs" in a high-performance jet. Pacey: "Adams flew with the Patriots Jet Team out of Olympia Regional Airport as they practiced maneuvers in preparation for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Expo this weekend." Adams called it "the best fun" he's ever had.

Darren Urban of provides a screenshot of Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt from the new Madden 11 game. The simulated shot shows the Bucs leading the Cardinals, 14-7, with 2:38 left in the third quarter.

Also from Urban: Newly signed rookie receiver Andre Roberts has a shot at becoming the fourth wideout. Urban: "Roberts, from The Citadel, is a wide receiver vying for the fourth spot behind Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. He is expected to battle veteran Onrea Jones for that work, although Roberts is also in the mix to replace Breaston as punt returner. Breaston, moving to the No. 2 receiving slot, will likely lose return duties to protect him for offense."
Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat breaks down Oshiomogho Atogwe's new contract with the Rams. The deal pays $4.1 million in guaranteed money to Atogwe in 2010, with no promises thereafter. That sounds about right. The team had refused to pay the $6.976 million Atogwe would have commanded if the team would have assigned a high tender to him as a restricted free agent. Atogwe had refused to sign the $1.226 million offer the Rams extended. Add $6.976 million to $1.226 million, divide by two and the total is $4.101 million -- what Atogwe will get under his new deal. Atogwe could earn more than $30 million if the Rams honored the full contract, but this appears to be a one-year deal dressed in fancy clothes. Expect the Rams to re-evaluate Atogwe's situation after the 2010 season. Atogwe needs to stay healthy and resume the ball hawking ways that made him a franchise player previously.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks receiver Ben Obomanu. Williams: "At 6-foot, 206 pounds Obomanu has decent size. He’s not a burner, but possesses enough speed to get deep and create separation against man defense. He’s got great hands, and is a good blocker in the run game. He’s a smart receiver who can read defenses and find a soft spot in a zone. Essentially, Obomanu is a good, all-around receiver who does not do one thing particularly well." Obomanu, a seventh-round choice in 2006, hopes to pattern himself after teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who also entered the NFL as a seventh-rounder.

Clare Farnsworth of profiles Seattle defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. Farnsworth: "Gray not only was a two-time All-American and Southwest Conference defensive player of the year for the Longhorns, he set the school record with 28 career interceptions and was named to the school’s all-time team as well as Texas’ All-Decade team for the 1980s. Gray took only two recruiting trips -- to Colorado and Texas. Austin already had a recruiting boot in the door, because Gray had competed there for three years at the state track and field championships while attending Estacado High School."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times suggests the Seahawks probably offered Kevin Ellison a split contract designed to protect the team in case of injury.

Jon Kraczynski of the Associated Press reports from Larry Fitzgerald's training sessions in Minneapolis. Kraczynski: "What started as a group of about five or six players a few years ago has swelled to about 40 athletes, all working on an efficient and demanding routine that lasts for three weeks. Greg Jennings, Brandon Marshall and Sidney Rice have participated in the past. On Tuesday, Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, Seattle rookie Golden Tate, New Orleans defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, St. Louis linebacker James Laurinaitis and Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson were among those in the group, which changes from week to week." It's a good sign when young players take the initiative to put in the extra work. Working with Fitzgerald has to help Tate in particular. Training in a competitive setting is a plus.

Darren Urban of says rookie Dan Williams continues to push himself on the conditioning front. Nose tackles aren't always symbols of fitness, so this is a welcome development from the Cardinals' perspective and another indication strength-and-conditioning coach John Lott is getting his message across. Urban: "Williams has taken Lott’s preaching to heart, including the idea that, if Williams sheds a few more pounds it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Regardless, Williams has proven himself a steady worker. Anxious to play football with pads again and also to prove himself to the coaching staff, football has been constant since the end of the college season but that’s OK too."

Matt Maiocco of takes a look at 49ers players possibly in line for contract extensions. Maiocco on Vernon Davis: "Nothing changed in Davis' game last year -- only the perception of his game. The major difference was that offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye used him as a route-runner, not a blocker, in the passing game. As a result, Davis posted exceptional numbers: 78 catches, 965 yards, 13 TDs. Davis is seeking to become the highest-paid tight end in the league at $8 million per season, NFL sources say. It's doubtful the 49ers will go that high."

Around the NFC West: Vickerson emerging

June, 30, 2010
Arizona Cardinals

Might the Cardinals have an interest in former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell?

Former Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin has high expectations heading into the 2010 season.

San Francisco 49ers checks in with first-round draft pick Anthony Davis.

How is Taylor Mays like Luke Skywalker? Matt Barrows explains.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have signed safety Kevin Ellison to a new contract a week after claiming him off waivers.

Kevin Vickerson is emerging as a force at defensive tackle.

St. Louis Rams

The New York Times' Fifth Down blog previews the 2010 Rams.

Former Penn State linebacker Josh Hull is excited about his opportunity with the Rams.