NFC West: LeCharles Bentley

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree remains limited after aggravating a foot injury during a June 6 workout session. Maiocco: "Crabtree attended the Alex Smith-led classroom session Tuesday morning at San Jose State. He joined his teammates on the field at Spartan Stadium, and caught some warm-up passes from the team's three quarterbacks. But Crabtree did not run any full-speed pass routes. Instead, he remained close to the 49ers' quarterbacks and referred repeatedly to a copy of the practice script he held in his hands." That level of engagement beats the alternative. Crabtree previously appeared somewhat indifferent to the 49ers' practice sessions when he continued working out on his own, missing a chance to learn more about the offense while engaging his teammates. The stress fracture Crabtree brought into the NFL wasn't considered serious. What to make of his current foot trouble? It's tough to say without information coming from the 49ers' team doctors.

Also from Maiocco: play-by-play coverage from the 49ers' practice session Tuesday.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers players, led by Alex Smith, are checking out video from previous versions of West Coast offenses. Barrows: "Smith's classroom work includes film cups of an array of West Coast offenses, including college (Stanford) and pro clubs. The NFL clips include Steve Young and the 49ers, Rich Gannon and the Raiders and recent Philadelphia Eagles footage. Players said it was helpful to get a bird's eye view of the plays they are running on the practice field."

Also from Barrows: Colin Kaepernick can get the football to its target in a hurry. Left tackle Joe Staley: "He doesn't have that rookie, deer-in-the-headlights mentality. I think he's going to be a good quarterback. The ball comes off his arm pretty fast. He's a real, real intelligent kid. I think he'll pick up this offense pretty quickly."

The 49ers' website catches up with former coach George Seifert, who has this to say about his fondest fan-related recollections: "I was there when San Francisco lost to Detroit in 1957, when it appeared they were going to win the game and go on to the championship. That was certainly a downturn, but to be there when Dwight Clark made 'The Catch' and Eric Wright made the tackle to help us beat Dallas to put us in the Super Bowl was such a high. Having had my background, I’ve been very fortunate to appreciate those moments like our fans."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' receivers will have to adjust the velocity Kaepernick puts on his throws. Branch: "The bad news for Niners receivers is they might need to place their hands in ice baths this week. But the good news for Kaepernick is that he was able to participate fully in the first day of the four-day camp at San Jose State. Kaepernick was limited at the first camp -- only tossing warm-up throws -- in early June after undergoing a minor surgical procedure on his lower left leg following the NFL draft."

Also from Branch: One pass from Kaepernick seemed to knock down receiver Lance Long.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says 49ers tackle Alex Boone has been working with former NFL center LeCharles Bentley in Ohio.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers players have bonded during their offseason camps.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com considers whether Joey Galloway had the most impressive rookie season in franchise history. I might go with Galloway or Curt Warner. Farnsworth on Warner: "Coach Chuck Knox traded the team’s first-, second- and third-round draft choices to move into the third spot so he could select the back needed for his Ground Chuck offense. Warner did not disappoint, rushing for 1,449 yards (on 335 carries), catching 42 passes and scoring 14 touchdowns to earn AFC offensive player of the year honors."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune takes a closer look at the Seahawks on third down last season. Williams: "Seattle might be looking to take more chances on third down this year after drafting players like linebackers K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith, corners Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell and safety Mark LeGree, in addition to Kam Chancellor, Walter Thurmond and Roy Lewis -- all fast, explosive players who can tackle and cover. Specifically, the Seahawks will look to free up safety Earl Thomas more and allow him to use his play-making ability, as they did against St. Louis in the final game of the year."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com traces the roots of Dennis Green's famous they-are-who-we-thought-they-were outburst back to training camp that season. Urban: "Bears coach Lovie Smith was asked about Leinart’s good game in the preseason and talked about that game meaning nothing, as a 'glorified practice.' Green, hearing this, clearly didn’t agree and said as much, although it wasn’t exactly 'who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bull.' At least, not yet. Then came the game. The Cards dominated, and they lost. Green calmly answered most of the questions and then the one hit him the wrong way, especially with the leftover irritation with Smith’s comments percolating all week and the frustration of the season building (for instance, kicker Neil Rackers missing what should have been a game-winning field goal that night)."

Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World says Rams receiver Mark Clayton is eager to resume contract negotiations with the team. Clayton: "I would love to stay. I love playing with Sam [Bradford]. The organization is great. Coach 'Spags' [Steve Spagnuolo], I love him. I love his passion. He's a real fiery dude. He's a defensive guy and I play offense. Opposites attract, I guess." Getting a deal done with Clayton shouldn't be too difficult. The team has improved its depth at the position, but with Clayton and several other receivers coming off injuries, the Rams need numbers. Clayton developed an instant rapport with Bradford last season. He's coming off surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon suffered at Detroit in Week 6 last season.

NFC West Penalty Watch: Ejection notes

December, 17, 2010
12/17/10
11:26
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Justin Smith's disqualification from the San Francisco 49ers' game against San Diego on Thursday night marked the first for an NFC West player since 2005.

Officials ejected Damione Lewis, then with the St. Louis Rams, from a 2005 game. Two more Rams, Tommy Polley and Orlando Pace, suffered ejections in 2004.

No other players have suffered disqualifications for current NFC West teams since at least 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

A quick look at NFC West disqualifications since 2001:
  • Smith, 2010, Week 15: The 49ers' defensive end shoved umpire Garth DeFelice's arm away while DeFelice separated players following a play. Smith said he didn't realize it was an official making contact with him.
  • Lewis, 2005, Week 7: Replays showed the defensive tackle punching New Orleans center LeCharles Bentley in the groin area during the Rams' 28-17 victory over the Saints.
  • Pace, 2004, Week 10: Pace made contact with side judge Don Carlsen during a fracas involving Rams and Seattle Seahawks players. The Rams won the game, 23-12.
  • Polley, 2004, Week 15: Polley shoved Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Russell Davis in the face while Davis was standing on the sideline without his helmet during the fourth quarter. Trash talk escalated when Davis tapped Polley's helmet.

These were the only four ejections I could find by searching for fouls listed as disqualifications.

I recall Cardinals offensive lineman Elton Brown drawing an ejection for bumping an official during a 2009 exhibition game. Back in 1998, officials ejected 49ers defensive lineman Bryant Young for twice retaliating against allegedly dirty tactics used by Kyle Turley, then with the Saints.

Around the NFC West: Foote's plans

March, 15, 2010
3/15/10
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Terry Foster of the Detroit News says free-agent linebacker Larry Foote could be close to signing with the Steelers after visiting Arizona. Foster: "Foote said there was a slight chance he could still sign with Arizona."

Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says he expects Foote to sign with the Steelers if he passes a physical examination. Dulac: "Foote met last week with the Washington Redskins, where former Steelers defensive assistant Lou Spanos is the new linebacker coach; and also with the Arizona Cardinals, where he would be reunited with several former Steelers coaches and players, including head coach Ken Whisenhunt and former linebacker mate Clark Haggans. But, in each instance, Foote was allowed to leave without signing a contract, something that is not expected to happen with the Steelers, pending a physical."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says adding Charlie Whitehurst wouldn't necessarily prevent the Cardinals from also adding Derek Anderson. Urban: "I can see a scenario where the Cards bring in both Whitehurst and Anderson with Matt Leinart — especially if they aren’t thrilled with the aside-from-Sam-Bradford QBs in this draft. Anderson would almost certainly come in on a short-term deal in that regard. Now, you still have to convince the free agents that it’s a place to be despite other guys who are trying hard to find a place to play. Leinart, Anderson and Whitehurst are all desperately trying to get and stay on the field."

Also from Urban: He wonders whether there might be a medical issue with Foote.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects newly signed backup center Hank Fraley to compete for a starting job at guard for the Rams.

Also from Thomas: a look at how the Rams might upgrade at receiver. Thomas: "The Rams are in a tough spot when it comes to upgrading at wide receiver. With the limited unrestricted free agent pool due to the uncapped year, there was very little available. Nate Burleson and Antonio Bryant got nice contracts, but they’re not No. 1 receivers or difference makers. Terrell Owens is still out there -- never mind his antics, he’s on the decline and no longer an elite player. Denver’s Brandon Marshall is a restricted free agent, but comes with tons of baggage, and right now the Broncos want a first-round draft pick as compensation. As far as the draft, there are a lot of good receivers, but don’t seem to be many great ones. Finding one that can be a clear upgrade is the challenge."

Mike Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says former Rams guard Richie Incognito has a visit lined up with the Dolphins.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat passes along LeCharles Bentley's take on Fraley, noting that the Browns acquired Fraley from Philadelphia after Bentley suffered a serious knee injury. Bentley: "He didn’t look the part, and you wondered how this guy could play at a high level. But he came in just before the season and took command. He’s a hard-working guy, a blue-collar guy. He adds value to a team on the field and in the locker room."

Also from Balzer: NFL owners might have no plans to specifically address the Rams' pending sale at the league meetings beginning March 21.

Turf Show Times' VanRam catches up with Rams defensive end Chris Long, who sums up his progress this way: "The big difference was the just the sacks. I was playing the run well most of the season. I had to pick up my pass rushing a little bit, and there were some things I did getting more comfortable with the scheme, adjusting my game a litle bit and just kind of let it fly once I felt comfortbale with the scheme. I'm not the only one who had the burden of learning a new scheme. But once you master that scheme it was just a great scheme. I feel like a lot of guys improved. I was certainly one of those guys, but there's a long way to go. I think the biggest thing is that I was getting to the quarterback more."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' trade with Detroit involving Shaun Hill was contingent on Hill passing a physical and the 49ers receiving David Carr's signed contract. Maiocco: "Carr received the original contract while on vacation in Cabo San Lucas last week. He is expected to deliver the document when he arrives today in the Bay Area for the 49ers' offseason conditioning program, which begins Monday."

Also from Maiocco: a chat transcript with thoughts on left guard David Baas, among others. Maiocco: "I don't think anyone with the 49ers is sold on David Baas as a long-term answer. And they don't want to give him any kind of lucrative extension. Therefore, they are not averse to having a veteran guard to play a couple years before finding a new guy to plug in there."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee suggests the Hill trade might have come together when executives for the Lions and 49ers met at Oklahoma State's recent pro day.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News quotes a USC marketing expert as saying 49ers fans should understand recent price hikes on some tickets. Said the expert: "The reality is that some of these fans have had premier seats on the cheap for a long time. That's a very cynical way to say it. But can a fan really be mad that they've had their seats under market value for a number of years?"

Mason Kelly of the Seattle Times says former Seahawks coach Jim Mora plans to help out at Bellevue High School in the Seattle area. Says Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff: "Jim will be involved. I don't know in what capacity yet. It's great. He's an outstanding guy in whatever capacity we get him, even if it's only for spring ball or summer. It's great to have him around. He's a great resource for us."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com wonders why the Whitehurst is drawing interest from the Seahawks, among other teams. Johns: "Having never seen Whitehurst throw a pass in the NFL regular season, that's going to be hard for anyone to judge. But it's worth noting that Whitehurst hasn't been able to beat out seven-year NFL backup Volek for the No. 2 job in San Diego, so how he's suddenly become a hot property as a restricted free agent seems a bit curious. Keep it in perspective, though. The debate is whether Whitehurst would be a better addition than a third-round draft pick this April, when the possible mid-round candidates will include the likes of Tony Pike of Cincinnati, Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan or Jonathan Crompton of Tennessee."

Nancy Dooling of the Great Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin says former Seahawks and Rams linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski was charged for his role in a large brawl at a casino in Connecticut. Dooling: "Kacyvenski and four others were involved in a large altercation in the retail area of the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., southeast of Hartford, according to state police. He has a court hearing on April 1 in Norwich, Conn."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams visited with center LeCharles Bentley recently, but the sides did not agree to a contract. The Rams' depth on their offensive line took a hit when Mark Setterstrom and Brandon Gorin went on injured reserve. Center Brett Romberg is recovering from a broken hand. Injuries have prevented Bentley from playing since the 2005 season.

Peter King of SI.com predicts another playoff appearance for Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks. He also touches on the likelihood of Holmgren returning to the NFL as early as 2009, either as a coach or front-office person.

King also quotes 49ers coach Mike Nolan on J.T. O'Sullivan and the other quarterbacks this way: "Thus far, J.T.'s been better than the other two, and there hasn't really been much of a gray area. His play's been better at the position than what we've had at any point in the last three years."

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers says Nolan is denying the part about O'Sullivan's play being "better at the position than what what we've had at any point in the last three years." Nolan says he wasn't singling out O'Sullivan for praise with that remark. Nolan says the level of play at the position is higher than it's been. The original quote praises O'Sullivan at the expense of backup Alex Smith.

Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read compares Smith's numbers against those of other struggling quarterbacks with at least 400 attempts over the last three seasons. Brown also tries to make sense of Nolan's latest comments, then thinks better of it.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers running back Frank Gore, who felt a "black cloud" hung over the 49ers last season.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has not named Kurt Warner the starter. ESPN's Chris Mortensen said Warner was "expected to" be named the starter. Reading through the quotes from Whisenhunt, the coach denied that he had made a decision. He did not deny what the decision was expected to be.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Matt Leinart is proceeding as the Cardinals' starter, and that Whisenhunt has told Leinart the team has made no decision. Leinart on his struggles against the Raiders: "If it was mental, where I was completely lost and completely unprepared, then it would be something where I need to figure out what's going on. But that's not the case. You just move on; that's in the past."

Mailbag: Assessing young receivers

August, 5, 2008
8/05/08
4:40
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt from Seattle writes: Sando, after hitting up the Rams camp who looks to step into the big hole Isaac Bruce leaves behind? Also I heard Logan Payne broke a rib during the scrimmage do you know his time table? thanks

Mike Sando: Drew Bennett probably fills the spot on the Rams' depth chart, but I don't see anyone immediately filling the void Bruce leaves. Al Saunders did address the receivers a bit in an interview I posted this morning.

As for broken ribs, they hurt for a long time and that's just the way it goes (easy for me to say). None of the young receivers in Seattle's camp can afford to miss an extended period. Now is the time to hit stride. That's what Ben Obomanu is doing.


Mark from Rochester, N.Y., writes: You have given us lots of first- and third-person accounts of how amazing Josh Morgan has been in the 49ers' training camp. You also go on the record as repeatedly telling your readers not to read too much into it. Is Morgan making these plays as a result of his great physical ability, or is he performing well because he has grasped the Mike Martz offense and is making all the right mental decisions? I think there is a huge difference between the two. The former is not unlike a scouting combine star, where the latter is good reason to get 49ers fans excited that could boom or bust either way about a possible draft-day steal like Marques Colston. Players' mental abilities are what separate NFL-quality backups from NFL-quality starters.

Mike Sando: That is a good question. The descriptions I've heard have dealt mostly with big plays, and that would suggest the physical part. According to Mike Martz, Morgan still makes some mistakes, but he is making progress. 

You are right about not reading too much into what rookie receivers do early in camp. In this case, the 49ers haven't been shy about praising him, and I want to pass that along. It's a little unusual because teams know rookies often fail to sustain fast starts. The 49ers sense otherwise with Morgan. They think they've found an impact player.


Colin from Seattle writes: Mike- I know LeCharles Bentley was released b/c he wanted a place to start but what do you think about him going to the seahawks with there recent injuries/retirement at center?

Mike Sando: Just a thought, but the Seahawks seem to have enough injured offensive linemen already. Putting Bentley and Floyd Womack on the same team might not be a good idea. Seriously, I haven't heard anything about Bentley and Seattle to this point. I think the Seahawks -- and a lot of teams -- would have interest in a healthy Bentley. But is he healthy?


Jim from Ellensburg, Wash., writes: Thanks for all the coverage, Mike. Us out in the unknown West really appreciate all of the well-covered updates that we go without during the year. I'm curious about the Seahawks this year. Every other post I read about them seems to be about the defense getting the jump on the offense in some way. I'm wondering, should I be this concerned about the offense, or that much more excited about the defense?

Mike Sando: You should be cautiously optimistic about an offense that could become more versatile given personnel changes at running back and tight end. You should be concerned about depth on the offensive line now that Chris Gray isn't there as a security blanket. You should be excited about the defense but also hopeful that Patrick Kerney can squeeze another mostly injury-free season from his 31-year-old body.


Michael from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., writes: First off I would like to say how great a job you are doing with your coverage of the NFC west. I'm stuck on the couch after surgery and I look forward to it daily. My question is in regard to the knee injury suffered by "big play babs." He plays an important role in the seahawks secondary and we would hate to have anything serious happen to him. what's the word?

Mike Sando: Thank you, sir. We are still awaiting word on MRI results for both players. Coach Mike Holmgren did not sound particularly concerned about those injuries. I was not out at practice today, but I'll check.


Jonathan from Seattle writes: Hey Mike, do you think Seattle will sign John Lynch? I think he would be a great addition to improve a shaky secondary.

Mike Sando: Lynch has a history with Seahawks president Tim Ruskell, but remember, Lynch is leaving Denver because he wants a shot at more playing time. Seattle appears pretty set at the position, despite your concerns.

I would also wonder about Lynch's neck situation. Here is what I wrote in 2004 about the Seahawks' interest in Lynch at that time: "The Seahawks considered former Tampa Bay starter John Lynch for the job, but concerns about a lingering neck injury complicated negotiations. Lynch subsequently signed with the Denver Broncos."

Lynch might have overplayed his hand here. He left the Broncos because he wanted more playing time. That's OK, but is there another team willing to let him play as much as the Broncos had planned? I'm not so sure.


Williambryan from Vancouver, Wash., writes: I noticed you have Eric Wicks listed as a linebacker on your roster analysis. Wasn't he signed as an undrafted safety out of WV? Has he been playing as a linebacker?

Mike Sando: I had him listed as a safety when they signed him, but the Seahawks are listing him as a linebacker on the roster I picked up from them Monday. That's what I used in putting together this roster analysis. It's an upset if he earns a roster spot.


DCHaines from Oshkosh, Wis., writes: Brett Favre will always be a Packer in my heart. This has become a power struggle with Ted Thompson flexing his might. If they trade Farve,I will no longer be a Packer fan. Let's do what is best for the team by keeping Favre! When Rogers starts losing games blame Thompson! Let the best man play. Rogers will be the future but not yet. There best chance this season is with Bret unless they just don't care. I hate to say it but if Brett goes to Minnesota I will be rooting for Favre and the Vikings!!!!!!

Mike Sando: The NFC North has apparently traded the Packers to the NFC West for unspecified mailbag considerations.

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