NFC West: Marcus Fitzgerald
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers will eventually need a wide receiver with the skills Michael Crabtree appears to possess. Jenkins: "Since the 1970 merger, only one other team, the 1972 Dolphins, ever won the Super Bowl with the league's top ground game. Singletary would have loved coaching that team, with co-1,000-yard rushers Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, but it was the presence of wide receiver Paul Warfield that made those Dolphins unstoppable."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat has this to say about the 49ers' tampering charges against the Jets regarding Crabtree: "The 49ers believe they have a strong case against the New York Jets, a source said. After all, they know from first-hand knowledge the kind of evidence that is likely to sway NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who ruled against the 49ers in a tampering case. Goodell determined the 49ers had improper communications with the agent for Chicago Bears' Lance Briggs around the time of the 2007 trade deadline."
Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post offers new thoughts on the Crabtree situation. Brandt: "Why, one would reasonably ask, would a player turn down guaranteed money in the $17-million range and an APY (average per year) of over $4 million to roll the dice on an uncertain future? The most likely answer is that another team has intimated in subtle (or not-so-subtle) terms that if Crabtree takes that alternative, he will not regret it financially."
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle previews the Week 3 matchup between Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis. Peterson points to his 2007 game against the 49ers as the worst of his career. Peterson: "That's a game that sticks in my mind. It's the worst game of my career. I don't take it lightly. I give praise to San Francisco's defense. They have some good guys. They play football like football should be played on the defensive side of the ball. I felt like I was being attacked by bees in that game."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says playing the 49ers is a big deal for Peterson after the 49ers held him to 3 yards on 14 carries during a 2007 game between the teams.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers stopped Peterson for a loss or no gain on eight of his 14 carries.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have had 32 return specialists since the 2000 season. Danny Amendola is No. 33. The Rams have allowed 11 kickoff-return touchdowns and scored only one of their own since Tony Horne's last return for the team in 2000.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams rookie James Laurinaitis has 24 tackles through two games and keeps working to get better. Laurinaitis: "I like to watch the not-so-good plays and look for things I can improve. I've been that way my whole life. It didn't matter if it was at Ohio State or at Wayzata High School (in Plymouth, Minn.). Every game, I always went up to my coach and said, 'All right, what do I need to improve? What do I need to understand better?' "
Also from Coats: Center Jason Brown impressed the Rams by returning to practice three days after suffering a sprained knee. Also, the Rams' captains for Week 3 are Adam Goldberg (offense), James Butler (defense) and Chris Chamberlain (special teams).
Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says Amendola caught a deep pass from Marc Bulger early in practice.
Turf Show Times' VanRam sees 'signs of life' from the Rams' offensive line.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' defense could be better prepared for Peyton Manning after working against Kurt Warner in practice. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis: "If there was a camp to be in this year to prepare for Peyton, it would have been ours."
Also from Somers: Larry Fitzgerald's father wasn't happy with Marcus Fitzgerald's comments about Kurt Warner, but quarterback and receiver seemed to be unfazed.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 previews the Colts-Cardinals matchup by looking at which team has the edge in various categories. On the tight ends: "This one was easy. The Cardinals may have the worst tight end corps in the league, while Dallas Clark is number one in total receiving yards after two weeks. See the Monday night football game this week."
Jim Moore of seattlepi.com makes the case for Justin Forsett as the Seahawks' starting running back. Forsett generally plays in the Seahawks' three-receiver package with one tight end.
John Morgan of Field Gulls answers Seahawks-related questions for ESPNChicago.com as the Bears prepare to visit Qwest Field. Morgan: "Seneca Wallace may never be a starting quarterback, but he is a very good backup. Mike Holmgren attempted to mold Wallace into a pocket passer, and though he's not, the training has done him good. He is more comfortable in the pocket and has developed some ability to read the defense."
Matt Pitman of 710ESPN Seattle links to audio from conversations with Wallace and Deion Branch. Branch said he was ready to play in Week 2, but coach Jim Mora decided to hold him out another week.
Dave Wyman of 710ESPN Seattle takes a closer look at Matt Hasselbeck's options on the play when the quarterback scrambled and suffered a broken rib. Wyman: "So my point is that Matt's scramble created a very difficult situation for the San Francisco defense and it was instrumental in the ease of that [subsequent] touchdown."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times revisits comments from Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, who suggested Seattle invested an "exorbitant amount" in receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Angelo in March: "Houshmandzadeh is a fine receiver. Would we have entertained him? Yes, but we wanted to see what his marketplace was. In this case, we felt like it was an exorbitant amount of money. Remember, he was a No. 2 in Cincinnati. That's not to say that what Seattle did wasn't right for them; their situation is different in my mind than ours. They had an inordinate amount of injuries with receivers and they felt like they needed to get somebody that was established and healthy."
Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune quotes Houshmandzadeh this way: "Man, the Bears ain't holler at me. Jerry Angelo probably didn't even think I could play. So I'm going to show him Sunday.''
Percy Allen of the Seattle Times says Seahawks coach Jim Mora is projecting optimism amid injuries.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Matt Hasselbeck could play Sunday even if he doesn't practice during the week.
Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks cornerback Kelly Jennings, who is back in the starting lineup.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Larry Fitzgerald's brother referred to Kurt Warner as an old man while lamenting the lack of passes thrown to Larry through two games. The comments, since deleted from Marcus Fitzgerald's Twitter account, struck me as insignificant.
Players' families can be as passionate as any fan, except it's personal. Fitzgerald was frustrated Sunday. Warner said he knew Fitzgerald was frustrated. I'm sure Josh Morgan and Isaac Bruce and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and most receivers, NFC West or otherwise, think the ball should come their way more frequently. Their brothers simply haven't tweeted about it.
Warner shrugged off the comments earlier in the week. Fitzgerald took his turn Wednesday.
"I kind of chuckled about it because everybody in here knows me and Kurt’s relationship and that is never going to be effected by anything outlandish like that," Fitzgerald said. "Anybody that knows me and Kurt knows that is my closest friend on the team. He has always been there for me and I am always going to be there for him, long after I can't run and catch anymore and long after he can't throw anymore. I am still going to be his friend, he is still going to be my friend and that is the way our relationship is always going to be."
The situation has produced a positive outcome. Marcus Fitzgerald is apparently going to work at Warner's next camp. "He is going to be taking out the garbage and whatever else Kurt needs," Fitzgerald said, adding that he was "disappointed" in his brother's comments.
But is he frustrated? "I am OK, honestly. I am really not frustrated. It is early in the season, we are only in Week 3 and I am going to get my opportunities. I know that and I just have to make sure mentally and physically that I am prepared when those opportunities come, and play the way I am able to play."
Kurt Warner seemed to be having fun with Mike Jurecki and Dan Bickley on XTRA910 in Phoenix when he addressed Week 1 struggles and Larry Fitzgerald's apparent frustration after finishing with four catches for 34 yards in Week 2. Full audio here.
Warner was at his self-deprecating best when asked about critics writing him off as too old following the Cardinals' defeat to the 49ers in the opener.
Warner: "Well, I'm old. What are going to do about it? I am what I am. Everybody has to come up with an excuse for a bad performance. I've come to realize in this business that lots of people are very fickle. It's, 'What have you done for me lately?' And so just a few months ago, we were sitting in the Super Bowl for the first time ever for the Arizona Cardinals and then my first game back, I'm already too old to play this game. It all depends on how you go out and perform. ...
"Does that mean I can't play? I don't think so. I think everybody around our facility sees it every day that I can still pull the trigger and I can still throw the ball. Every once in a while in this business you don't play to your standards and everybody else's, and unfortunately, that happened in Week 1."
Warner also embraced criticisms of the Cardinals as an inconsistent team that got hot late last season and cannot be trusted from week to week.
Warner: "I even look at our football team and I look at last year and, yeah, we got all the way to the Super Bowl and made a great run down the stretch, but throughout the course of the season, we were a very inconsistent football team. We were we were up one week and down the next. We never put it together week in and week out. And i think that is what it takes to earn the respect of anybody in this league. And we haven't done that. We had a great run and we played great down the stretch and we're not giving any of that back because we earned all that. But the key for us and the key especially with this organization and where we have been is, people want to see us do it consistently, week in and week out. And you already see at the beginning of this year, we haven't done that."
That's about a disarmingly as Warner could have put it. He was also direct in responding to Fitzgerald's frustrations, which came out through younger brother Marcus Fitzgerald's Twitter account (messages were subsequently deleted). Warner said he knew on the sideline during the game that Fitzgerald was frustrated. He was sensitive to the complaints but also said his job was to make the right decisions within the offense. He said Fitzgerald's production would come as long as Warner kept doing his job.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic passes along a tweet from Larry Fitzgerald's brother suggesting the Arizona receiver isn't happy with his role. Marcus Fitzgerald also referred to Warner as an old man. Nothing a couple touchdown passes can't solve.
Bob McManamon of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is appealing to Fitzgerald's improved leadership skills during a slow start for the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
Also from McManamon: redemption for the Cardinals' offensive line.
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' running game is gaining momentum early in the season. Boivin: "No one is calling Wells the next Walter Payton, but he has shown some much-needed home-run promise. Even in limited play, he has had runs of at least 15 yards in each of the Cardinals games. He's the ideal guy to have in the lineup when the team takes a lead into the fourth quarter. Too bad he couldn't be that Sunday. After fumbling twice -- giving him the dubious honor of sharing the NFL fumble lead -- he lost coach Ken Whisenhunt's confidence, and with good reason. Whisenhunt has a 17-0 record when his team wins the turnover battle. Seventeen-and-oh. They are 1-15 when they lose it. That's significant."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com breaks down the Cardinals' field-goal block against the Jaguars in Week 2. Gabe Watson was the mastermind.
Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle stands up for 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill. Knapp: "How can 9-3 not buy Hill more respect? Drew Brees is currently the quarterback equivalent of Tiger Woods at the 2000 U.S. Open, so far ahead of the field that his competitors can only laugh. Yet he is 7-5 over his past 12 games. Donovan McNabb is 8-3-1 in his past 12 regular-season starts. Philip Rivers is 6-6." Agreed.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat provides a video analysis of the 49ers' performance in Week 2.
Also from Maiocco: Mike Singletary hopes the 49ers never need Hill to carry the offense. Singletary: "I believe what he's doing right now has been good enough the first two games. Going forward, and I've said before, we're going to have to run the ball and Shaun Hill makes some plays here and there, and as he gets more comfortable, we can open it up a bit. That's what's going to have to start happening. And I believe he can do that."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' willingness to file tampering charges against the Jets suggests general manager Scot McCloughan is showing some of the toughness and resolve that have marked Singletary's run as head coach. Cohn: "McCloughan is doing the same thing in the front office, taking his cue from the team on the field. He’s ordered Crabtree to sit in the corner and ponder the meaning of his life, and he’s told the Jets not so fast. The wimp fights back."
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News provides an overview to the tampering case and some good quotes from Jets coach Rex Ryan, who called the charges "ridiculous" and said he wished the Jets could play the 49ers on the field.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News wonders if the 49ers need Michael Crabtree. Kawakami: "You have to read between the lines and pick up the vibe of the room, but there's a definite sense of distance cropping up in Singletary's words about Crabtree. He's unsigned, apparently insisting on at least $7 million more in guarantees than the 49ers are willing to pay him. And all the recent activity tells us that the 49ers are bracing themselves for life after Crabtree, without ever actually having Crabtree."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Seahawks rookie Aaron Curry needs to find a more effective tempo to avoid being too aggressive.
Also from Johns: Matt Hasselbeck says he is "absolutely hoping" to play against the Bears in Week 3.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Hasselbeck as saying he has "definitely felt worse" on days after games.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com also checks in with Hasselbeck and coach Jim Mora. Mora: "Every time Matt gets hit, everyone thinks, 'Oh no, his back.' But I knew right away it wasn’t his back. I thought it was his head, the way that he came over as he walked off the field, and then just kind of crumbled. I thought, 'Oh, it’s his head.' But as soon as (the trainers) laid him down, you could see that he was lucid. It was just that he was in a lot of pain and he was struggling to catch his breath."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Chris Spencer, Walter Jones and Deion Branch are expected to practice for the Seahawks when the team returns to the field Wednesday.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams quarterback Marc Bulger has shown good toughness through two games. Coats: "As he dressed in the locker room Sunday at FedEx Field, a large, ugly welt across his back was noticeable. So were knots on both arms. The bruise on Bulger’s back was the result of a vicious shot he took after he scrambled for a 3-yard gain late in the first half. Bulger slid, which means he’d given himself up and shouldn’t be hit. But Redskins end Andre Carter drilled him anyway, and then 350-pound tackle Albert Haynesworth piled on. No flag was thrown, but either or both players should’ve been called for a personal foul."
Also from Coats: The Rams are on pace to finish the 2009 season with only eight sacks, not good for a team that has invested heavily in the defensive line. Coats: "Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 10 times — six in Sunday's loss to Cincinnati. And the Packers might be without veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, who is nursing an ankle injury, when they visit the Edward Jones Dome."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the Rams' injury situation heading into Week 3. Expect Adam Goldberg to start at right tackle Sunday.
Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks whether the Rams are headed for an 0-5 start. Thomas and other staffers provide answers. Bernie Miklasz: "It’s up to the lines. The Rams offensive line has too many breakdowns that kill drives and scoring chances. The defensive line has one sack in two games and is doing nothing to disrupt the QB. As long as the Rams continue to get slapped around up front, the losing will continue. They need better game management from the coaches. And someone -- anyone -- has to step up and make some plays. There is a critical shortage of playmakers on this team."
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams aren't sugar-coating their latest defeat.
Randy Karraker of 101ESPN St. Louis offers video analysis from the Rams' defeat at Washington.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Rob Petitti, Tim McGarigle, Marc Magro and Gary Stills -- all members of the Rams last season -- found potential employers through the UFL draft Wednesday.
The Orlando franchise, led by former Rams coach Jim Haslett, selected Petitti and McGarigle. New York drafted Magro. Las Vegas drafted Stills and former Cardinals and 49ers linebacker Brandon Moore, plus former Rams safety Adam Archuleta.
New York also drafted former Seahawks and Cardinals safety Oliver Celestin. The UFL features as-yet-unnamed franchises in New York, Las Vegas, Orlando and San Francisco. Dennis Green is coaching the San Francisco franchise, which selected Marcus Fitzgerald, brother of Larry.
UFL statement: Each franchise selected 24 players and now owns the rights to those players if they choose to play in the United Football League. The UFL has already begun contacting the players listed below and expects to announce signings over the next few weeks. This list may be subject to change based on further player evaluations or additional player availability.