NFC West: Lucia Rodriguez

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic checks in with Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner. He also questions the Cardinals' organizational structure. Somers: "The Cardinals don't have a strong general manager. Rod Graves is friendly, pliable, sincere and a great ambassador for Bidwill interests. He came to the desert as a $100,000 scout, hiked his annual salary to around $1.5 million, and I celebrate his good fortune. But he's not a team builder, and his ascension represents the primary flaw in the organization's design. Consequently, Whisenhunt has been stretched thin at times, forced to get involved in areas that shift his focus from his primary obligation: leading men who have the talent to win football games." Whisenhunt does seem to feel a need to get involved in areas ideally left to others, including contract negotiations. His involvement in Anquan Boldin's situation personalized the dispute in a manner that was not productive.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals to hire a defensive coordinator by the end of the week.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says players felt empty watching Super Bowl festivities from afar.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Marshall Faulk felt some anxiety as the Hall of Fame announcement approach. Thomas: "It was the kind of nervousness and anxiety that he hadn't felt since his playing days. Then his game-day instincts took over and he calmed. And then he heard his name. From the Desire Projects in New Orleans to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Faulk's football journey was complete as he became the first Ram from their 'Greatest Show on Turf'' days to be elected to the Hall."

Also from Thomas: Former Rams defensive tackle Ryan Pickett was happy to be back in the Super Bowl. Thomas: "Following his rookie season, when he was a backup, Pickett started the next four seasons for the Rams at defensive tackle and played well. He was a very active player for the position, averaging 96 tackles a season from 2002 through 2005. But in one of several personnel blunders by the Rams during those days, the team made next to no effort to re-sign Pickett when his original contract expired after the '05 season. They spent the next several years looking for replacements."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts on the Rams' owners, past and present.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com sends Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller to the 49ers with the seventh overall choice in his first mock draft of the year. Under this scenario, quarterback Blaine Gabbert lands in Arizona with the fifth overall choice. Maiocco has receiver Julio Jones going to the Rams at No. 14 and quarterback Ryan Mallett going to the Seahawks at No. 25. These projections make sense from a need standpoint.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers, like the Rams, are installing a new offensive system, but they're worse off than St. Louis because they don't have their starting quarterback. Barrows: "Which helps explain why Harbaugh has been so rosy and complimentary of Alex Smith in recent weeks. The quarterback who gives the 49ers the best chance to hit the ground running after a turbulence-filled offseason is Smith. He's familiar with all the offensive players and is good friends with many of them. He lives just minutes from the team's facility. And he's played in a West Coast system before -- in 2005 when Packers coach Mike McCarthy was the offensive coordinator."

Also from Barrows: a Jim Harbaugh profile. Barrows: "Look at Harbaugh's résumé and you'll find an odd overlap. From 1993-2001 he was both an NFL quarterback and an assistant coach at Western Kentucky. When the school's football program ran out of money and was in danger of being dropped, Harbaugh became certified as a college coach and spent the NFL offseasons recruiting -– gratis –- for his father."

Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times says Seahawks assistant coach Rocky Seto apparently is not leaving the team to coach at UCLA. Foster: "Seto, as assistant coach with the Seattle Seahawks, was offered and accepted the job Tuesday night, but the offer was rescinded the following day, according to the person close to the negotiations. ... According to people in the program who are not authorized to talk about the search, (Rick) Neuheisel approached then Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was not interested, and interviewed former Florida defensive co-coordinators Teryl Austin and Chuck Heater. Fangio is now with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, Austin became an assistant with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and Heater was hired as Temple’s defensive coordinator."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers could slash payroll by targeting their secondary. Nate Clements is getting closer to the heavily backloaded part of his contract. Barrows on safety Michael Lewis: "Lewis' status this year largely depends on Taylor Mays' progress. My guess is that Lewis begins the season as the safety starter and that Mays gradually takes over as the year goes on (provided that Lewis remains healthy)."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea says the 49ers are working toward a contract agreement with Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis. Maiocco: "But can the 49ers, among the lower-revenue teams in the NFL, afford to pay Davis so soon after (Patrick) Willis was awarded a five-year, $50 million extension? It’s a legitimate question for an organization that is campaigning for a new stadium that would provide a huge increase in revenue streams." The 49ers have shown creativity in how they structure deals. If they really want to sign Davis, they can get it done.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider revisits some of the 49ers' disappointing first-round picks over the years. Jim Druckenmiller makes the list.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry, who fizzled out after a strong start to the 2009 season. O'Neil: "There has been a lot of speculation that Curry might play the hybrid linebacker/end role that has been referred to as 'the elephant' but is actually called 'the Leo' in Seattle's defensive scheme. That's not Curry's role now, though. He is playing strongside -- or SAM -- linebacker, but expect him to have a heavy dose of pass-rushing responsibilities."

Also from O'Neil: Signing Chester Pitts would add depth to Seattle's offensive line.

Jason LaCanfora of NFL.com says the draft-day energy Pete Carroll and John Schneider brought to Seattle was palpable. LaCanfora: "I could have sworn Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was going to hoist himself on the shoulders of general manager John Schneider and begin galloping around the war room like Angus Young jamming above the head of Bon Scott at an AC/DC concert."

John Morgan of Field Gulls sizes up the Seahawks' defensive line. In watching minicamp, I wondered if the new staff would find a place for Craig Terrill, who has put together a six-year run in Seattle as a sixth-round pick.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts on the Cardinals following their post-draft camp. He also says coach Ken Whisenhunt left open the door for the team signing another veteran quarterback to a team that already has Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson. Whisenhunt: "We've got two rookies who are vying for the third position and we feel good about Derek and Matt. I don't think we would ever not look at a player if we felt like he could help us win games, but at this point in the season, with what we have on the roster, I'm very encouraged by what we saw from Matt and Derek. But I am realistic about the rookie being the third quarterback and the progress he's going to have to make to fill that role."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with former Steelers teammates Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, who are reunited in Arizona. Urban: "For the third time, Porter and Haggans are teammates. They met playing together at Colorado State University. They were each drafted -- a year apart -- by the Pittsburgh Steelers, spending seven seasons together. And now, after Porter signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals in March, the two 33-year-olds have been reunited in Arizona."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch raises questions about the recent report suggesting Stan Kroenke's plan to buy the Rams might involve Kroenke's wife taking over the team. Thomas: "On April 12, Kroenke exercised a right of first refusal to match Shahid Khan's purchase agreement with the Rams. Kroenke has to match Khan's agreement. It is believed Kroenke would not be allowed to match and then put together a group to represent the match. It also is believed that he would not be allowed to match Khan's offer and then say -- essentially -- that it's really his wife who is matching. Some league sources feel that if Kroenke's wife, Ann, were an option, Kroenke would've proposed this to Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez nearly two years ago, or several months after the death of their mother, Georgia Frontiere. That's when it became clear that the team could be up for sale."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the latest reported Kroenke proposal is one of several options being floated as Kroenke tries to comply with NFL rules on cross-ownership. Miklasz: "Why didn’t Ann Kroenke simply bid for the Rams at the time the Rosenblooms had their 60 percent share on the market? This would have been easier than (A) having Stan Kroenke match Khan and (B) Kroenke having to work around the cross-ownership guidelines. (Likely answer: the Kroenkes didn’t want to get in a bidding battle with Khan that would drive the price up; they probably preferred to wait, let Khan make a reasonable bid, then match. I’m only guessing here.)"

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams were pleased with Duke rookie quarterback Thaddeus Lewis at their post-draft camp. Coats: "Sam Bradford and veteran A.J. Feeley -- not necessarily in that order at this point -- appear to be in place as the Rams' top two quarterbacks. After the release last week of Mike Reilly, who spent the last month of the 2009 season with the team, the only other QBs on the roster are Lewis and Keith Null. Because of injuries to Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, Null, a sixth-round draftee last year, started the last four games of his rookie season. He's probably in line for the No. 3 job — but could face a challenge from Lewis."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News Democrat wonders how Kroenke's wife could exercise Kroenke's option to purchase full ownership of the Rams.

The Big Question: Kroenke's motives

April, 20, 2010
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» NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Does Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke have the team's best interests in mind?

[+] EnlargeStan Kroenke
Garrett W. Ellwood/MLS/Getty ImagesRams minority owner Stan Kroenke's interests have been called into question.
A subscription-required report Monday in the Sports Business Journal suggested Kroenke was more interested in leveraging his 40 percent stake in the Rams than taking over full ownership of the team.

Reporter Daniel Kaplan cited sources saying Kroenke told Rams bidder Shahid Khan he would decline to exercise his option to purchase full ownership of the team in exchange for a "mid-to-high eight-figure fee." Kroenke would have remained onboard as 40 percent owner in such a scenario. Khan declined, Kaplan reported, and Kroenke then exercised his option to trump the bid from Khan.

The report seemed to run counter to what a source told Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that Kroenke "fully intends to work with the NFL to find a way for Kroenke to become the team’s 100 percent owner."

The reporting from Kaplan and Miklasz isn't necessarily conflicting. The businessman in Kroenke could have simply been exploring his options before committing to buying full ownership of the team. That's his right and arguably his duty as a businessman.

This wasn't the first time Kaplan had reported Rams-related ownership news running counter to conventional wisdom. Kaplan previously cited sources saying the NFL had concerns about debt levels associated with Khan's bid to buy out 60 percent owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez.

That news and the conventional wisdom -- that Khan' financial footing appeared sound -- weren't necessarily at odds, either. The NFL could have had specific concerns. Khan could have been on solid footing overall.

My take? We're operating without enough information to fully assess the balance between Kroenke's interests and the extent to which those interests benefit the Rams.

Don Elliman, described by The New York Times as chief operating officer for the state of Colorado and former president of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, has suggested Kroenke isn't much for minority ownership. He wants full control. Elliman put it this way for a Times profile on Kroenke: "There was once a great line by one of George Steinbrenner’s partners that there’s nothing so limited as being a limited partner. A lot of people get into sports and wake up later and realize, 'I'm along for the ride; I'm beholden to the other guy.' That’s not Stan's nature."

It's not much to go on.

The timing of this ownership uncertainty is undoubtedly inconvenient for the Rams as they approach the 2010 NFL draft holding the top overall choice and hoping to win over fans. But the business of changing ownership is bigger than the business of the draft. Assurances from Kroenke would certainly help. The absence of those assurances naturally leads to skepticism, which is warranted, but if this process has taught us anything, it's that we shouldn't assume too much too soon.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been out front on many Rams-related ownership stories, including the first report about Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez seeking to sell the team.

When news broke that minority owner Stan Kroenke wanted to buy full ownership, a move that trumped a bid from Shahid Khan, Miklasz accounted for various possibilities.

"One theory making the rounds is that Kroenke is pulling the power play as a ploy to get Khan to offer him more money for the 40 percent share," Miklasz wrote nearly a week ago. "But I talked to enough people in the know Monday night who insist that this is no game -- and that Kroenke genuinely wants to gain 100 percent control of the Rams and he believes there is a way to get it done with the NFL."

Daniel Kaplan's subsequent report for Sports Business Journal suggests it might be a ploy after all. The report, hidden behind a pay wall, would explain how Kroenke could make his ownership bid without worrying about cross-ownership rules that could affect his ownership of the NBA and NHL teams in Denver.

The involved parties have kept their public comments to a minimum. Uncertainty surrounding the Rams makes it tougher for the organization to credibly connect with St. Louis. That makes it tougher to sell tickets.

Update: More from Miklasz.

Kroenke bids to buy rest of Rams

April, 12, 2010
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Shahid Khan's bid to buy 60 percent of the Rams was on shakier ground than anyone might have realized.

The assumption had been that Khan would need approval from three-fourths of NFL majority owners to buy out the 60 percent stake held by Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez. Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke short-circuited those efforts by exercising his option to purchase that 60 percent. Kroenke already owns the remaining 40 percent, so he would own the Rams in full if successful in his bid.

That would leave Khan on the outside.

Kroenke already owns the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche in full. NFL rules limiting cross-ownership could prohibit Kroenke from taking over the Rams in full, or so it was thought. Can Kroenke get the NFL to bend the rules for him? Does the secretive billionaire have something else planned?

The bottom line for Rams fans: Kroenke, a Missouri native, would likely keep the team in St. Louis, at least for now.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune takes an in-depth look at Seahawks coach Pete Carroll through the eyes of policemen and others outside the NFL. Boling: "Carroll used his position and visibility to create a nonprofit organization, A Better L.A., that helped involve corporate and monied entities. It brought together government and law-enforcement agencies, and helped support and fund the critical liaisons with the community. He began showing up in the neighborhoods in the middle of the night for face-to-face talks with gang members. And the most important thing … he didn’t make a splash and run. He committed."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' courtship of Brandon Marshall could take time.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along a quote from a Bengals beat reporter shooting down Cincinnati's alleged interest in Marshall as a smokescreen. Agreed.

Also from O'Neil: a look at players who have visited, are scheduled to visit or are reportedly scheduled to visit the Seahawks. Marshall, Dwan Edwards, Tyler Brayton, Ben Watson, Ben Hamilton, Chris Baker, Mike Bell and William James make the list.

John Morgan of Field Gulls says the Seahawks should play it cool on the Marshall front in an effort to drive down the price. That is exactly what will happen, in my view.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams could complete a deal with free-agent defensive tackle Fred Robbins by Monday, according to Robbins' agent.

Also from Thomas: Former Rams cornerback Jonathan Wade is scheduled to visit the Lions.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' methodical approach to free agency is a tough sell for a skeptical fan base. Miklasz: "The Rams are stuck in a strange and unenviable spot right now. The franchise doesn't have an owner. Oh, Chip Rosenbloom and sister Lucia Rodriguez technically maintain ownership, but they're on the way out after having sold majority control to Shahid Khan. But Khan still must gain league approval before taking over and the process might take two months or more. So the team is in transition, in between bosses. And it's awkward."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat quotes Rams general manager Billy Devaney on Marc Bulger, Richie Incognito and Matt Ware. The Rams have no plans to sign Incognito or Ware, contrary to rumors. Devaney on Bulger: "I don't care what anybody says [about Bulger]. This is a helluva kid. He’s a pro’s pro and understands everything. We told him as soon as there’s clarity and we have a feel for how this will play out, he’ll be the first person to know. It could be anything, and he understands that. Our position right now is that he’s still a member of the Rams and if that ever changes we’ll be up front with Marc."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill is "considering his options" after the team signed David Carr. Those options are limited because the 49ers control his rights.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says Alex Smith has lost every quarterback competition in which he has participated since joining the 49ers. What does that mean now that Carr is on board? Kawakami: "I would also guess that Scot McCloughan, Mike Singletary and Jimmy Raye are looking to add a little spice to the QB spot in training camp, with Carr getting a shot to unseat Alex Smith if possible. (Carr might not have come here unless he thought he had a real shot at the No. 1 spot.) But remember, Smith isn’t too good in summer-camp battles."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, initially critical of the team's interest in Carr, tweeted nice things about the quarterback once Carr signed. Damage control.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic recaps Anquan Boldin's career with the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald: "I'm going to miss him. Understatement of the day. Big part of what we were able to accomplish here, a dear friend, but I'm happy for him and his family."

Also from Somers: a look at a wild few days for the Cardinals, with thoughts on the contract clauses that have given the team trouble recently. Somers: "Owner Bill Bidwill was against voidable clauses, a commonly used contract element throughout the NFL. Bidwill has since dropped his objections to voidable years, and the trade for (Kerry) Rhodes brought some fans in off the ledge. But the Cardinals could face the same problem next year. Quarterback Matt Leinart, now the starter, was drafted a year after (Antrel) Rolle. Leinart's salary is due to increase nearly $5 million in 2010, to $7.36 million, and he's due a $5.5 million roster bonus. The Cardinals will have to make a decision about his future early in 2011."

More from Somers: Joey Porter and Larry Foote would be interesting additions if Arizona decided to sign either linebacker. Both played with current Cardinals linebacker Clark Haggans in Pittsburgh.

Quick thoughts on Rams ownership

February, 11, 2010
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The Rams' potential sale to an Illinois businessman brings these thoughts to mind:


  • The team would probably stay in St. Louis.
  • Finding a way to keep the team in St. Louis would stand as the lasting legacies for majority owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, trumping their on-field legacies (specifically, presiding over an era that has seen the team slide into oblivion).
  • The new owner, auto parts magnate Shahid Khan, is a Rams fan. As such, he surely has his own strong opinions about the team. What that means for the current Rams leadership remains unclear, but fans don't always take big-picture views on things. Sometimes they're eager to make changes. I don't know much about Khan or how he runs his businesses, but he probably wasn't a fan of auto parts before entering into that line of work. Being a Rams fan could affect how he proceeds if approved as an owner.
  • Three-fourths of NFL owners would have to approve the deal, and that might not be a slam dunk. As Howard Balzer points out, "Khan and his wife Ann were investigated for allegedly sheltering hundreds of millions of dollars from income tax." Rosenbloom and Rodriguez are presumably aware of these potential issues and confident those issues could be overcome. In fact, Bernie Miklasz suggests those issues aren't a big deal.
  • This is great news for St. Louis Rams fans. The franchise would have had a hard time connecting with fans if a new owner were simply looking at his watch, anxious to move the team elsewhere.

As noted Wednesday, I'm taking Thursday and Friday off. Starting now. I've got a mailbag scheduled for Friday.

Around the NFC West: Seahawks' offense

February, 10, 2010
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Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says new Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates wants balance. O'Neil also provides a chart showing gains in rushing yards for Alex Gibbs' teams.

Also from O'Neil: Bates talks about drafting running backs after the first round. Bates: "I think Denver has proven that they've gotten a lot of great running backs late in the rounds. A lot of people say you've got to go to the first round and pick up that running back. I think if the offensive line, the tight end and the running backs all work together, all believe in the system, all know who they're reading and believe in 4 yards, 4 yards, 4 yards, they can be successful."

More from O'Neil: Matt Hasselbeck says he has no idea whether Walter Jones is serious about retiring.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com checks in with draft analyst Rob Rang, who says the Seahawks might be less apt to select an offensive lineman early now that Gibbs is coaching their line. I agree, although Gibbs' Texans and Broncos did use first-round picks for offensive linemen in the last seven years, taking George Foster (Denver) and Duane Brown (Houston).

Also from Johns: Bates says he thinks Hasselbeck can be "special" in the Seahawks' new offense. Bates: "We're very fortunate walking into an organization with Matt Hasselbeck being the leader. He's been to the Super Bowl, he's been in every situation. There's going to be some learning, but he's been part of the West Coast offense terminology-wise and formations, so it's all going to come back to him. It's going to be fun to see how good he can be in this offense because I think he's going to be special."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks will more fully commit to zone blocking schemes. Bates: "From Day 1, were going to be practicing outside/inside zone. And when you believe in something like that and you’re committed to it, you’re going to make it work eventually. Players have to understand this is what we are, and this is who we’re going to be."

Also from Williams: Bates patterns himself after Jon Gruden when it comes to putting in long hours. Bates: "He let me get into the door, and once I got my foot in the door, he just taught me how to grind. I was up really early in the morning and working late at night learning every play known to man in football. It was special. The one thing I take from Jon is passion. You’ve got to have the passion. It’s just too hard of a job if you’re not in love with it. And he loved it. It was a fun three years."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic looks at players the Cardinals might consider in the draft. McManaman on TCU pass-rusher Jerry Hughes: "They need a pass-rusher and Hughes was one of the best in the nation. He destroys backfields and would be a natural fit at outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. He has good cover skills, too. What I like about him is his natural strength and ability to dominate would-be blockers. Like many of these prospects, I can see Hughes going higher in the draft, so he might not be around when the Cardinals make their first selection. But if he's there, he's a big-time steal at 26."

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic sizes up the football scene in Arizona, passing along this tidbit from former Cardinals offensive lineman Conrad Dobler: "Bill Bidwill knows more about the game than anybody else I know. In fact, I remember when I retired. I sent each owner a letter saying, 'Thank you for the opportunity to play in the NFL for 10 years, yada, yada, yada.' He sent it back with a big red stamp that said (bull).' "

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com doesn't think Julius Peppers would be a good fit for the Cardinals' scheme. Urban: "The biggest obstacle I see for Peppers is the idea he could suddenly become an effective linebacker after playing his whole career -- college and pro -- with his hand down. There are few defensive linemen as athletic as the 6-foot-7, 285-pounder, and he made it clear last year he thought he could make such a transition. But Peppers is also 30, and while he isn’t exactly an old dog, it is a new trick."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Steven Jackson's accuser, Supriya Harris, is "very disappointed" authorities will not be filing charges against the Rams' running back. Thomas: "Harris, 29, whose allegations became public Jan. 28, had accused Jackson of pushing her repeatedly and throwing her against a door when she was nine months pregnant with the couple's son, Kingston. Harris said the incident occurred on March 8, 2009 at Jackson's Las Vegas home. Jackson denied the allegations earlier and said in a statement on his website that he would address the issue 'thoroughly through the appropriate avenues, but not through the media.'"

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring his thoughts on efforts by Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez to sell the Rams. Thomas: "Obviously, I'm not an expert on estate law. But I believe Chip and Lucia currently are only paying interest on the estate taxes. I think it's about $1 million per yer. But in about 3 years, they have to start paying principal on the estate taxes, which is about $17 million a year. When it reaches that amount, it basically eliminates the per year profit made by the team (now that they're in the bottom fourth of the league in profitability). Although Chip and Lucia live comfortable lives, they are not independently wealthy -- to the point where they can absorb breaking even on the Rams. Thus the pressure to sell the team. I know the family did take some measures to limit the impact of the estate taxes, so it could've been worse."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the damage to Jackson has been done. Burwell: "Modern fame takes no prisoners. Contemporary celebrity is a lovely and intoxicating game just as long as you are inside the velvet ropes lapping in all the goodies. But there is a backlash to this game, and it ain't pretty. Associate with the wrong crowd, spend too much time with people who have less to lose than you do, make just one fateful step in the wrong direction, and the repercussions won't be pretty and they can last a lifetime."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects Tony Pashos and Arnaz Battle to draw interest if they hit the market as free agents. Barrows: "Battle was a starter from 2005-2007, but his reception totals have dropped in recent seasons and was seen more as a special teams player than a receiver in 2009. The 49ers plan to go into the 2010 with a receiving corps of Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Brandon Jones and Jason Hill. They could add a receiver in the draft who has return skills. Battle turns 30 on the 22nd, but there should be some teams that like his toughness and blocking ability. If I had to bet, I'd say he winds up in Baltimore."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sizes up the 49ers at tight end. Maiocco: "A lot of people viewed 2009 as Davis' breakout season. He was named as a starter on the NFC Pro Bowl team after catching 78 passes for 965 yards and 13 TDs. You want to know the major difference? The 49ers actually threw the ball to him -- a lot. Remember, this is a guy who caught 52 passes and four touchdowns in his second season. The next year, he remained into block about 50 percent of the time as Mike Martz needed the extra man in protection to allow so many seven-step drops."

Rams salute Warner on retirement

January, 29, 2010
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Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom released the following statement following Kurt Warner's retirement announcement:

Warner
Warner

"Kurt Warner epitomizes the finest qualities that can be attributed to any athlete. He is a gentleman, competitor and, most of all, a winner whose achievements and contributions go far beyond the field of play. Kurt is one of the most compelling success stories in the history of sports. His well chronicled journey included two NFL MVP awards, a Super Bowl Championship and countless honors for his philanthropy. In a time when many shun the label of role model, Kurt embraced it and exemplified it. He is a man of our time and for our time. We all learned great lessons from Kurt's humility, dignity and grace. We will forever be thankful for the success he brought us and the unparalleled generosity he has shown the St. Louis community and beyond. On behalf of my sister, Lucia, our partner, Stan Kroenke, and the entire Rams organization, I want to wish Kurt, Brenda and their beautiful family the very best as they move ahead with their lives. We are honored and privileged to have Kurt as a treasured member of the Rams' alumni family."


Warner took time during his announcement news conference to thank the Packers, Rams and Cardinals for giving him a chance.

Around the NFC West: Carroll in charge

January, 21, 2010
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Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says there's no mistaking who's in charge of the Seahawks. It's new coach Pete Carroll, who appeared alongside CEO Tod Leiweke and general manager John Schneider at the news conference to introduce Schneider. Boling: "Leiweke was standing between them, so we may assume that Carroll didn’t actually have his hand up the back of Schneider’s jacket so that he could somehow operate controls to make his lips move."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says former Seahawks running back Sherman Smith could be returning to the organization as running backs coach. That would leave receivers coach as the most significant opening on the staff.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com takes a look at Carroll's first Seahawks coaching staff, offering mini-bios for known hires.

Also from Farnsworth: Carroll and Schneider hit it off right away. Leiweke: "I would say most compelling for me is the amazing energy between the man to my right and the man to my left. They connected. They saw eye-to-eye. They had a similar philosophy on how we’re going to do this. It was just fantastic to witness that, because that’s really, ultimately what we wanted to create."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Schneider was short on details when pressed for information on how the Seahawks might proceed in upgrading their roster.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times looks at the budding relationship between Carroll and Schneider. Brewer: "There's nothing like a good man crush to emphasize how much the Seahawks have changed in the past two weeks. PC and The Schneid didn't finish each other's sentences Wednesday, but they did expound on each other's thoughts. Forget the past. Feel the love. Embrace the unity. Of course, buried beneath the hype of this epic partnership was the unveiling of the Seahawks' worst-kept secret — Carroll runs the show. The franchise finally admitted it. For all the talk of collaboration, the Seahawks will be molded in Carroll's image."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Carroll and Schneider cannot work "shoulder to shoulder" if Carroll has the ultimate authority. Someone has to make the call. Carroll made it clear he would be the guy. Everything about Schneider's past says he'll have no trouble working alongside Carroll or most head coaches.

John Morgan of Field Gulls sizes up UCLA's Brian Price as a potential Seahawks draft choice in 2010. Morgan: "There's plenty of talent behind (Ndamukong) Suh and (Gerald) McCoy, enough that a patient front office could wait and pick someone like Geno Atkins, Earl Mitchell or Lamarr Houston and still get value, but between Suh and that final tier is a group of defensive tackles of great talent and ability. And no tackle looks half as good as Price."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic begins a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' roster with a look at the offensive line. On Levi Brown: "The expectations are high for Brown, the fifth overall pick in 2007. He hasn't lived up to that draft status. He was inconsistent in pass blocking, but coaches feel like that was a matter of bad technique rather than lack of athleticism. It was interesting that Ken Whisenhunt challenged Brown after Brown was named a Pro Bowl alternate. The Cardinals want, and need, more from him. But people in the know tell me he was the team's most consistent offensive lineman in 2009, and coaches were especially pleased with the way he improved over the final month of the season."

Also from Somers: Adrian Wilson, Larry Fitzgerald and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have withdrawn from the Pro Bowl.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams face key questions as the team's leadership gathers in Los Angeles. He poses this one to general manager Billy Devaney: "There's a concern that you're taking an overly conservative approach in building a roster. Your previous two No. 1 draft picks -- defensive end Chris Long and offensive tackle Jason Smith -- are reflective of that. Do you have it in you to make bold and daring decisions? Are you willing to take intelligent gambles? Or is this all about doing the safest thing in order to cover yourself and protect your job?"

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat provides an overview for the Rams' meetings. Balzer: "At one point, there were indications that potential buyers might be trying to low-ball (Chip) Rosenbloom and (Lucia) Rodriguez. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t an immediate urgency for them to sell the team, and there has always been the feeling that the family would like to continue the legacy begun by their parents, Carroll Rosenbloom and Georgia Frontiere, and keep the team. That might be a longshot, but not impossible if a new agreement results in what the owners hope eventually will be a decreased percentage of the revenue going to the players."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' Justin Smith would be headed to the Pro Bowl if the Vikings advanced to the Super Bowl. Frank Gore has already been promoted. Gore: "To be in the Pro Bowl, it means a lot. I felt that missing some games this season, and to still be able to make a special game like this is a great opportunity. All I can say is that it's a blessing."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat takes a closer look at the 49ers' defensive backs. Shawntae Spencer, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown appear to form the core. Maiocco: "But there are some questions about all of the others, including veteran performers Nate Clements and Michael Lewis. Clements was demoted from the lineup for the Nov. 1 game against the Colts. Then, he sustained a broken shoulder blade that ended his season. His scheduled salary for 2010 is a whopping $6 million. Lewis has been among the 49ers' leading tacklers in each of his three seasons with the club. But three concussions last season in short period of time is a reason for concern."

Around the NFC West: Rams' sale update

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
8:45
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Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams majority owner Chip Rosenbloom and sister Lucia Rodriguez are weighing three offers to buy the team. Thomas: "All three offers, described as "acceptable" by the sources, are comparable to what the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise recently sold for -- which was in the range of total franchise value of $720 million to $800 million. ... The pressure to sell the team comes from estate taxes resulting from the death of [Georgia] Frontiere. By 2014, Rosenbloom and Rodriguez must start paying on the principal of those estate taxes rather than the interest, and that increased payment would severely cut into the team's profits."

Also from Thomas: The Rams have signed defensive tackle Chris Bradwell.

More from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring thoughts on Donovan McNabb's potential availability via trade. Thomas: "If you trade for McNabb, you're getting him for just one year. His contract expires following the 2010. He's scheduled to make $5 million in base salary, actually a pretty modest amount. But he is due a $6.5 million roster bonus in May. So obviously, a trade would have to take place before then. Anyway, I wonder if McNabb would even want to come here to a 1-15 team with one of the league's worst offenses. He might resist such a trade or threaten to retire."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com quotes CEO Tod Leiweke this way on what he wants from the team's front office: "Can collaboration work? It does all the time, in all sorts of environments. In fact, it’s how I lead. This is the model that makes sense to us -- to get guys to work together, to share opinions. And the coach’s opinion is going to matter in who we pick (in the draft). But ultimately, that’s the general manager’s job: To go out and find those guys. And how can you not ask Pete Carroll what he thinks about the draft? That’s exactly what we want here."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times calls John Schneider a surprise choice as the Seahawks' new general manager. O'Neil: "Schneider doesn't have 20 years of front-office experience like Floyd Reese, the other finalist who many around the league considered the favorite to get the job. Schneider, 38, doesn't have a Super Bowl ring like Marc Ross of the Giants or Omar Khan of the Steelers, who were also interviewed. Schneider didn't even have his own Wikipedia page at the time of his hiring. But what Schneider does possess is a sterling reputation for draft acumen, and after spending the past seven seasons in Green Bay, he's well-schooled in the Packers' approach to steering clear of the league's free-agent spending frenzy."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at factors surrounding Kurt Warner's decision on retirement. Urban: "There are his teammates, of course, and any obligation he might feel to them. That would never trump his family, but if you think Larry Fitzgerald is just sitting idly by and not letting Warner know constantly how much he wants Warner to return, that’s just being naïve. There is little question the Cards still have a team that can win the NFC West and conceivably contend for a Super Bowl. It’d be hard to walk away from that -- especially when Warner knows he’s a key piece to such an equation."

Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders ranks the 49ers' Andy Lee as the NFL's best punter in 2009, with the Cardinals' Ben Graham third. The methodology is interesting. One thing I'd like to see: more specific values assigned to punts downed inside the 20. That was one area where I thought Graham in particular excelled.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee does not expect the Saints' Reggie Bush to become available to the 49ers as a return specialist. Barrows: "The Saints definitely could -- and probably will -- ask Bush to restructure his contract. But Bush could command enough interest around the league, especially in a cap-less season, that he could safely decline the Saints' request. For the 49ers, a more likely veteran target would be Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs, who is unhappy with his contract and whose team would be more interested than the Saints in accruing extra draft picks." Advice to the 49ers: Draft a returner who doubles as a third receiver or nickel cornerback.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' Frank Gore and Justin Smith could land spots in the Pro Bowl if the Vikings advanced to the Super Bowl. Scheduling the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl should give quite a few Pro Bowl alternates a chance to qualify as Pro Bowl players.

Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' fate in 2010 rests more on Warner's decision than anything the 49ers might do.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation looks at how the 49ers' receivers performed in 2009. Michael Crabtree was consistent, if not spectacular.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart worked out with the Patriots' Tom Brady at UCLA this offseason. I'm sure this was simply a case of Brady wanting to pick Leinart's brain. Ha. Ha. Ha. Seriously, though, Brady helped Leinart with fundamentals such as footwork and his release. Brady is one of the most fundamentally sound quarterbacks in terms of how he stands, where he holds the ball, etc. Good move by Leinart.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals are raving about new quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. This was an important hire for coach Ken Whisenhunt after the Cardinals lost offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Miller appears to have instant credibility with Kurt Warner and the other quarterbacks.

More from Somers: Look for Steve Breaston to remain the Cardinals' punt returner.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at how the team's linemen approach non-contact practices. The work can become monotonous.

Revenge of the Birds' Bezekira wonders why Bertrand Berry isn't attending the Cardinals' voluntary camp.

Larry Fitzgerald [via Twitter] says he spent Wednesday night watching TV at his house with Cardinals rookie running back Chris Wells. Wells is hanging out with the right guy.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams fans shouldn't worry too much about the team leaving St. Louis. Burwell: "Regardless of whether the majority ownership of the Rams is eventually purchased by local buyers or strangers from a thousand miles away, the odds are still fairly strong that St. Louis will remain the Rams' home. No matter who ultimately ends up buying this franchise from Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, they will find a dramatically different economic landscape in place since the wild and woolly 1980s, when NFL franchise free agency was at its peak."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch solicits feedback from Dan Dierdorf about the Rams' future in St. Louis. Dierdorf thinks the Rams would have had much better luck finding a local buyer eight or nine months ago. Dierdorf: "I think that gentlemen in St Louis who might have been players in it -- given the economy -- are more interested in running their own businesses ... and the interest in owning an NFL franchise has been put on the back burner. It's hard to criticize anyone who is taking that stance." 

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams linebacker Dominic Douglas.

Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com reiterates why he thinks the Rams might be unlikely to leave St. Louis. Los Angeles appears to be the only logical destination, but the city has struggled to bring back the NFL. Klutsarits: "The NFL tried everything in their power to get a team there a few years ago but had to give the expansion team to Houston because L.A. can't get their act together. One of two things will happen in the LA market. They will build their stadium and the Chargers, Raiders or Jaguars will make the move or they will never get it done. I am still betting on them never getting it done and even if they do it, won't be with the Rams." 

Denis C. Theriault of the San Jose Mercury News details the Santa Clara City Council's decision to approve the 49ers' financing plan for a new stadium near team headquarters. The approval sets up a public vote on the matter. This is a significant victory for the 49ers and team president Jed York, although much work remains. 

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers have had no substantive talks about sharing a stadium with the Raiders. Barrows: "There hasn't been a Super Bowl in Northern California since Joe Montana outdueled Dan Marino in Palo Alto in January 1985. But that will change if the new stadium is built in Santa Clara, York said."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune summarizes Ken Lucas' recent interview with KJR radio host Mitch Levy. Lucas: "Some people feel like I'm old now age-wise. But for me, my motivation is to show everybody that I'm not going to let a young guy outwork me, period. I feel like I have a lot of football left in me. I feel like my best is yet to come. So with that being said, I'm only getting better with time. And I feel like I'm faster, quicker, and much wiser than what I used to be when I first went to Carolina." 

Also from Williams: He thinks the Seahawks will finish among the NFL's top 10 teams in rushing yardage if Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett stay healthy. There's no question that coordinator Greg Knapp's teams have fared well running the ball. I just wonder if the Seahawks might pass more than expected given their personnel.

John Morgan of Field Gulls revisits Jon Ryan's season as the Seahawks' punter in 2008.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

As if rebuilding weren't hard enough, now the Rams will attempt to do it while wondering what might happen under new ownership. Is the potential sale of a franchise a big distraction? No big deal?

"I told the guys that every team in this league probably has some kind of what we call a distraction," coach Steve Spagnuolo told reporters. "The challenge with every team in this league when those pop up anywhere as a team is to just keep the blinders on, stay focused on what it is we're doing and not worry about the things we can't control. I think our guys do a good job of that." 

Meanwhile, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has provided a transcript of the three-paragraph letter owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez sent to employees.

Paragraph two: "The operations of the club will not be affected and as long as we own the team we remain committed to keeping the Rams a vital member of the St. Louis community. Should a buyer emerge during these proceedings, we would strongly be in favor of someone with ties to St. Louis."

Miklasz's teammate, Jim Thomas, details how the Rams have changed their stance on actively seeking a buyer for the team.

Thomas: "The fact that the Rams now seem more willing to listen to potential buyers from outside the area has triggered a sense of 'here we go again' with respect to pro football in St. Louis. Beginning with the departure of the football Cardinals following the 1987 season, St. Louis went through a long gridiron angst that included a failed expansion bid in the early '90s and the luring of the Rams from Los Angeles in 1995."

For the Rams, ownership's decision to seek a buyer could wind up less distracting than incessant questions about the subject. Much depends on whether the Rams find a buyer, which buyer they find and how quickly the process goes. Playing in a smaller media market could shield the Rams from the media mayhem that might engulf the team in, say, New York.

Perhaps Spagnuolo can use the tumult and inevitable speculation to create an us-against-the-world mentality among players.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Estate-tax realities made the Rams' eventual sale seem likely at some point after longtime owner Georgia Frontiere passed in January 2008. No matter. This sale and potential move, like all others involving pro sports teams, fuels cynicism among fans.

Regular NFC West blog contributor Kurt had this to say about the Rams' situation now that Los Angeles-based owner Chip Rosenbloom [and sister Lucia Rodriguez] are looking to sell:

Not that I've been waiting about 15 years for this day, but after reading about the Rams being up for sale, I am still convinced that everything is on the up and up, and the native St. Louisans who invented & sold meaningless PSLs to their neighbors at $500 each would dearly love to keep the Rams here, out of hometown loyalty, sympathy for the fans, and the general good of InBev. Surely Ms. Rodriguez has no friends in the Southwestern U.S. who'd want to buy the team and move them to L.A., Los Angeles, or the City of Angels, to name a few. 

Kurt, who sent his message via e-mail, apparently isn't acting on advice to "do his part" to keep the Rams through continued loyalty at the ticket office.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Blues chairman Dave Checketts is a contender to help keep the Rams in St. Louis. Wrote Checketts in an e-mail to the Post-Dispatch: "We have the ability to get this done and we have communicated this to the Rams. We approached this with the Rams months ago and have since that time put together a partnership of both concerned St. Louisans and outside capital. Last week, we communicated to Chip Rosenbloom in no uncertain terms, that he now has a clear St. Louis buyer. We are that buyer. We have reason to believe the NFL would approve our group as we have carefully explored their ownership requirements."

Earlier from Miklasz: Minority Rams owner Stan Kroenke offers the best hope for the team remaining in St. Louis. Miklasz: "He has the right of first refusal and can match any offer made to [Chip] Rosenbloom for that 60 percent [stake owned by Rosenbloom and sister Lucia Rodriguez]." Miklasz says the St. Louis community has five or six years to prevent a move. What happens if an outsider purchases the team with clear intent to relocate? Staying becomes untenable at that point, no?

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says keeping the Rams could depend on whether the St. Louis economy can recover.

VanRam of Turf Show Times asks whether the Rams' potential sale could become a distraction for players and coaches. Absolutely it could.

Taylor Price of 49ers.com checks in with new 49ers cornerback Dre Bly. Competition between Bly and Tarell Brown for the starting job will apparently be waged on friendly terms. Brown: "It's a wonderful feeling having a veteran come out here. He's a Pro Bowl-caliber player and it's great to have the opportunity to learn from him and watch him work."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider takes issue with the 49ers' decision to let Isaac Bruce wear No. 80 during practice. Lynch: "Bruce said last year he wears it because it makes him feel comfortable and because he can spot himself more readily on film. Lame excuses both, and it's bad form the 49ers allow Bruce to wear Rice's number anywhere but in the privacy of Bruce's own home. What about tradition, about legacy, about preserving a uniform number for the best receiver to ever play the game?" On the other hand, Rice didn't have much trouble borrowing Steve Largent's No. 80 during his lone season with the Seahawks.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle quotes Bly as expressing supreme confidence in his abilities. Bly: "It's always been easy for me. I'm not trying to be arrogant. I've been consistently making plays. I haven't lost much quickness. I ain't no 4.3 guy [in the 40-yard dash], but I have football speed. My instincts make up for it. Everything is converted to football speed, and I have football speed."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Bly worked with the starters in practice Monday, but so did Brown. Nate Clements wasn't feeling well.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News updates Ronnie Lott's charitable interests.

Also from Brown: Bly listed among his career highlights the time in 1999 when Bruce first spoke to him. They were teammates with the Rams. Bruce made Bly wait two months.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation sizes up the 49ers' situation in the return game. Not much clarity at this point.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals were relieved when Larry Fitzgerald avoided injury during an awkward practice fall. This might be a good time to stop writing about how the Cardinals avoided key injuries last season and how such things tend to even out. It doesn't take a Cardinals fan to appreciate what Fitzgerald brings to the game. Also, only Anquan Boldin, Darnell Dockett and Bertrand Berry have stayed away from practice.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals aren't yet sure what position Boldin will take in negotiations now that Tom Condon has taken over as the receiver's agent.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks fullback Owen Schmitt is appearing in an acclaimed documentary about a small-town football agent and three prospects. Did Leonard Weaver have that kind of range?

Also from Williams: Answers to a few Seahawks-related questions and a picture of his 110-pound black Russian terrier. 

John Morgan of Field Gulls revisits Lofa Tatupu's difficult 2008 season. Morgan: "This is the Tatupu scouts warned us about and it's likely the Tatupu we'll see again if his wheels get busted out. He lost enough quickness that he could no longer cut downhill and towards the ball carrier. Attempting tackles from the side or rear, Tatupu failed to wrap and was cut away from or dropped. It led to a lot of missed tackles, a lot of broken tackles and some tackles where that extra few yards gained turned a stop into a good gain." No question, Tatupu needs better health in 2009. He also played through a thumb injury that required surgery.

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