NFC West: Mark Herzlich

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks rookie Mark LeGree worked manual labor during the lockout to help make ends meet. O'Neil: "LeGree did what he had done between his junior and senior seasons in college: He got a job working for a general contractor in Boone, N.C. He put up awnings and spread gravel and mulch. He knocked down a rock wall and built another one."

Also from O'Neil: He has a hard time believing the Seahawks have moved on from Matt Hasselbeck. O'Neil: "It's hard for me to believe that Seattle will not offer Hasselbeck the chance to re-sign. Now, it's possible the Seahawks won't increase their offer for Hasselbeck to re-sign, but that's something very different from stating Seattle won't even make a final offer to Hasselbeck. That would truly be a remarkable turn of events considering this offseason began with coach Pete Carroll's statement he considered Hasselbeck the team's starting quarterback and that re-signing him was the top priority. That was January. A lot of time has passed since then, and the two sides failed to reach an agreement in March. Seattle must prepare for the possibility Hasselbeck won't be back. After all, he's not under contract and he's going to be the top free-agent quarterback available. He very well may not be back. It's just hard for me to believe the door has been closed."

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com touches on several free agents from NFC West teams, suggesting where they would and would not fit in 2011. He likes Sidney Rice's prospects in St. Louis, but has this to say about Hasselbeck possibly returning to Seattle: "Hasselbeck has repeatedly stated his desire to return to Seattle, but the team is poised to transition at the position. The Seahawks paid a hefty sum to acquire Charlie Whitehurst a season ago, and they need to see if he has the goods to become a franchise quarterback. Also, the team's reluctance to get a deal done prior to the lockout suggests the front office isn't completely sold on Hasselbeck as their starter in 2011. Without a strong commitment from the team to remain on board, Hasselbeck would be better served to look for greener pastures."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits Jack Patera's final season coaching the team (1982). The strike made this a strange season. Patera was fishing during the strike when he received word of his firing. Patera later said he expected to coach the team for years to come. He never coached again. Patera: "Who in the hell would get a hold of me with a truck parked in the woods on the river? They had to come about 16 miles and up the road another four or five, and at the time I thought, you know, there’s something wrong with my family, or my child, or whatever."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at the role Larry Fitzgerald will play in the Cardinals' coming quarterback acquisition. He points to Kevin Kolb as the leading candidate. Somers: "The Cardinals must be concerned about what impact signing a veteran such as Hasselbeck or the Ravens' Marc Bulger would have on their effort to re-sign Fitzgerald this fall. Will Fitzgerald be as anxious to sign another multi-year contract if the guy throwing him the ball has only a couple of years left, at most? The Cardinals have asked themselves that question. Their answer is one reason they will pursue Kolb." Adding Kolb would make the Cardinals more intriguing heading into the season. How well would he fit their offense? Would he succeed right away? Would he make the Cardinals more competitive right away? Would he justify whatever price Kolb would command for the Eagles?

Also from Somers: He has a hard time seeing how Arizona could open training camp at Northern Arizona University before Aug. 1 or Aug. 2.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers thoughts on what 46-man rosters could mean for the 49ers on game days. The expansion by one roster spot wipes out previous rules making it tougher for teams to use third-string quarterbacks. Maiocco: "Alex Smith is the clear favorite to win the starting job. I thought all along that Colin Kaepernick would be active as the No. 2 quarterback. That way, he could be used in specialty packages throughout a game to utilize his unique running and throwing skills. Veteran David Carr is the only other quarterback on the 49ers' roster, but his roster spot is not a sure thing. The 49ers could still add a veteran quarterback through free agency or a trade. They might also sign an undrafted rookie. If the 49ers go with another veteran quarterback on the roster, which seems likely, the 49ers might believe a player with experience would be in a better position than Kaepernick to play for long stretches." That thinking could come into play more strongly if Smith became unavailable early in the season. The team would have to think hard about turning over the job to Kaepernick for most of the season. Coach Jim Harbaugh has said the position will be competitive. I wouldn't rule out Kaepernick exceeding expectations in practice or exhibition games, based on his athletic ability.

Ray Ratto of CSNBayArea.com raises questions about the 49ers and Raiders possibly sharing a new stadium. Ratto: "For one, where does the stadium go? The 49ers would want it in Santa Clara, where they keep saying they are prepared to start construction. The Raiders would want it closer to Oakland, if not Oakland proper. Reason: The team that has to leave its fan base becomes a de facto tenant of the other, no matter how you draw up the partnership. In fact, the side that gave in would surely want monetary compensation for moving away from its fan base, and negotiation increases the possibility of impasse, rather than the other way around. For two, the NFL would have to solidly commit to the Bay Area as the next place for a league stadium loan, and there is no sense that the league is prepared to do that."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Boston College's Mark Herzlich could be a consideration for the 49ers as an undrafted free agent.

Also from Barrows: Justin Smith isn't worried about going through the offseason without the 49ers' defensive playbook. Players without much NFL experience are more vulnerable. Smith is right about team changing up game plans from week to week during the season, but younger players will need help with technique and broader concepts. They'll need to learn their coaches' language.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' rookies face challenges.

The San Francisco Chronicle has this to say about 49ers linebacker Takeo Spikes: "Spikes has the full confidence of 49ers players as their union representative, and he keeps in touch with them through a steady stream of e-mails. He's also a free agent, and once this lockout is over, he might not be their teammate anymore. Spikes played well last year and said Friday he'd like to return, but with young players such as NaVorro Bowman and Scott McKillop behind him, he probably will not be a high priority for the 49ers when players can be signed."

Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers five 49ers storylines for training camp, including this one about the quarterbacks: "Can Alex Smith beat out rookie Colin Kaepernick for the starting quarterback job? Smith has never won a quarterback competition in his professional career -- he lost out to Shaun Hill in 2009 and J.T. O’Sullivan in 2008. Will Alex Smith actually win for once this August? Will he look better than mediocre in the process?"

Also from Cohn: A look at sure bets for the 49ers and an opinion suggesting Spikes is likely to re-sign.

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis offers thoughts on free agency and says the 49ers' Aubrayo Franklin could appeal to teams running 4-3 schemes, not just 3-4 schemes. Softli: "This big man takes up a ton of space on the interior. His size, athletic ability and production to consistently command a double team and create plays inside make him a force to be dealt with and a valuable commodity. While several 3-4 teams will be fighting over his services, don't be surprised if a 4-3 defensive team doesn't snap him up; he is athletic enough to play in a 3-technique and beat up offensive guards on the pass rush, and moves well laterally vs. the run to flatten down the line of scrimmage with production."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with agents for the Rams and other players regarding what awaits in free agency following the lockout. Thomas: "This year, teams won't necessarily be able to 'ice' lesser free agents for a couple of months, waiting for the price to go down. If they do, the player won't be ready to play at the start of the regular season. On the other hand, agents won't be able to shop players as much as usual. With such a highly condensed time frame this year, if an agent says "give me a day to decide on your offer, he may not find the offer there in a day or two. The team may have gone on to the next guy on their list."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams need to target a receiver in free agency to help out quarterback Sam Bradford. Miklasz: "If you need more convincing, all you have to do is go back to the final game of the 2010 regular season, when the Rams could have won the NFC West with a victory in Seattle. The Seahawks won by 10. The Rams scored six points and were held to 184 yards. The receivers couldn't get open. Jackson was often smothered. Bradford had nowhere to go with the football. It was an abysmal, futile performance. Do not forget that game. Get Sam some help."

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