NFC West: Matt Leianrt

Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt offered thoughts, insights and clarifications regarding his handling of quarterback Matt Leinart during an appearance Tuesday on the Scott Van Pelt Show .

Leinart
I'll pass along some highlights and offer some thoughts:
On Leinart's feeling that he needed an explanation following his benching: It was communicated with Matt last Thursday and explained that we were going to start Derek [Anderson] in Chicago, as well as the reasons behind it. I can understand if he didn’t like the explanation or if he disagreed with it. However, I am comfortable in the way it was communicated and the way we communicate to all our players in general. There were a number of other positions where we made changes. … It's really not singling one person out. It’s about trying to find the best team for us as we go into the regular season a week and a half from now.

On Leinart in general: Matt has made a great deal of progress and there is no question in my mind that he can play quarterback in this league. Once again, that is the toughest position, in my opinion, to play in this league and there is a lot that goes with it besides just statistics. It’s more about how you handle the team, how you handle situations. There is a certain quality that you have to have in that position and that is all part of the evaluation process. And I think, more importantly, is how your team responds to that player and how you handle that role. I’m not talking about Matt. I’m just saying I feel like he has made great progress in that area, but, for whatever reason, we have not performed the way we have needed to perform as an offense. We have not made the progress that we as a coaching staff felt that we needed to do. So it’s not so much about that person as it is about trying to find the right combination. Once again, I believe Matt can play. I’m not saying that at all. I am just trying to find the best match for our football team.

On possibly releasing Leinart: That’s not something we have discussed. I can tell you that. We are going to look at our quarterback position. We have two rookies that are fighting for a position on our football team as well [Max Hall and John Skelton]. We have put a lot of time and effort in with Matt in trying to help him improve as a quarterback and fit into what we do well. I would say that would be something that would take a lot of time and thought before we made any kind of decision like that.

Whisenhunt said Anderson will start in the final exhibition game Thursday night. He said Anderson is getting more snaps because the team needs to find out more about him. Whisenhunt said he put the team on notice following the exhibition opener that jobs were on the line, and that there wasn't enough progress in the second exhibition game.

Leinart's reaction to Whisenhunt's moves is understandable. He's frustrated after putting in the time and effort he felt was necessary to keep the starting job, and it's not like Anderson has lit up the practice field or opposing defenses. It's also possible the Cardinals will view Leinart's response as whining and unbecoming of a starting quarterback -- in effect, more evidence Leinart isn't suited for the role. Leinart still might be the best available option for the Cardinals heading into the season. Whisenhunt will be watching closely to see how the team responds to both quarterbacks.

Around the NFC West: Against T.O.

July, 26, 2010
7/26/10
8:01
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Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the Rams would be making a mistake and going against their word if they signed Terrell Owens. Miklasz: "Given Owens' damaging habit of publicly insulting and maligning his quarterbacks at virtually every stop of his career, I can't believe they'd put a known shark into the same locker room and huddle with the No. 1 overall draft pick, Sam Bradford." It makes me again question how serious the Rams might be about Owens and whether Owens is more serious about trying to build a market for his services beyond St. Louis.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams general manager Billy Devaney continues to pursue options at wide receiver, including Owens. Thomas: "Although Devaney repeatedly has expressed confidence in the Rams' young and unproven wide receiver corps, the team is considering other options, including the possibility of bringing in former University of Missouri standout Danario Alexander for a visit and a physical."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes in a Cardinals preview that Arizona coaches thought Anquan Boldin had "lost a step" before being traded to Baltimore. He also says coaches think Brandon Keith will become an "excellent" player at right tackle. Somers: "Boldin is gone, but (Steve) Breaston is more than capable. In fact, the Cardinals are more explosive with Breaston than Boldin. Coaches believed Boldin had lost a step. Breaston runs great routes and he breaks tackles."

Also from Somers: Cardinals general manager Rod Graves is "optimistic" about the team's unsigned draft choices having contracts when training camp opens.

More from Somers: How should the Cardinals value fourth-round choice O'Brien Schofield. My answer: as a fourth-round draft choice, independent of pre-existing injuries.

More still from Somers: Five questions on the Cardinals this season. Matt Leinart tops the list.

One more from Somers: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt says he thinks Early Doucet and Greg Toler could benefit lots from the team's offseason program.

Tom Friend of ESPN.com says former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck signed with the Giants after also visiting with the Cardinals. Friend: "The Cardinals were Bulluck fans, too, and convinced the linebacker to fly to Phoenix for a workout on July 21. Bulluck hit it off with head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who also dangled his starting middle linebacker job. The Cardinals had earlier lost inside linebacker Karlos Dansby to free agency and had a definite need. But Bulluck slept on it, mulled over the decision for a day and a half and chose the Giants." The Cardinals had nothing to lose from bringing in Bulluck for a visit, even if Bulluck was predisposed to choose the Giants.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says he thinks the Cardinals will extend Darnell Dockett's contract, and Dockett sounds as though he's optimistic. How could Arizona let him get away? Unlike former teammates Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby, Dockett existing contract hasn't ballooned beyond his realistic value.

Also from Urban: an in-depth look at Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson. How in-depth? Nearly 2,500 words in-depth. Urban: "His lifetime with the Cardinals and decision to forgo free agency not once but twice was rooted in his Carolina days. Wilson wants to see his name in the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor, and he wants to wear no other uniform than the one he already does. Professionally, personally, he wants to be a man the next 17-year-old in High Point can emulate. Wilson burns to leave a legacy that will endure."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers running back Frank Gore should be more discerning the next time he holds a party at his home. Maiocco: "Gore hosted a birthday pool party in May at his Miami house that reportedly caught the attention of the NCAA because of the invite list. Gore told SportsBusiness Journal he could not confirm whether some top college football players attended the party because he could not keep track of everyone who walked through his door that night."

49ers scout Todd Brunner says he likes to visit smaller schools early in the season, revisiting select ones later in the year if a follow-up seems necessary. He visits the major schools twice every year no matter what.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers "could stumble and bumble and still win that weak division." Kawakami: "Last year at this time, quarterback Alex Smith was a bit of an afterthought -- oh, he's still around? -- behind incumbent starter Shaun Hill. This year, for the first time since 2007, Smith goes into camp as the unquestioned No. 1 QB, and for the first time ever, he goes into a second consecutive season with the same offensive system."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the linebackers are the 49ers' strength and the main reason opponents have a hard time running the ball. Lynch: "Every year it seems, the 49ers domination defensively creeps up on increasingly better opponents. Last year, they dominated against the playoff-bound Cardinals and the 7-9 Bears. They allowed Peyton Manning only 18 points at Oil Can Boyd Stadium, but then struggled against other good offensive teams- Green Bay (30 points), Houston (24), Tennessee (34), Atlanta (45), Philadelphia (27), Minnesota (27)."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com quotes coach Pete Carroll this way on Lofa Tatupu: "Lofa is as good and as effective as a player as anyone we ever coached at SC in those nine years -- the most savvy. Lofa helps players around him play well. He can give them all the calls and adjustments that make them play at their best. … I see him being one of our leaders. That familiarity has already given us a great start in how we’ve been received by the team."

Also from Farnsworth: a mailbag entry in which he says defensive tackle Brandon Mebane's versatility is a strength. Farnsworth: "While he lacks elite explosiveness as a pass rusher from the three-technique spot, and is not as stout as you’d like at nose tackle, Mebane fills each role well enough to really help the defense in the rotation used at tackle. After producing 5.5 sacks in 2008, Mebane was moved to the three-technique spot on a fulltime basis last season. But his sack total dipped to 1.5. So, obviously, Carroll wants to see more from Mebane as a pass-rusher."

More from Farnsworth: Seahawks all-time sack leader Jacob Green remembers former teammate Louis Bullard, who died of cancer in April.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Leroy Hill's domestic-abuse trial is scheduled to begin Thursday.

John Morgan of Field Gulls offers highlights and lowlights from Jordan Babineaux's 2009 season as the Seahawks' starting free safety. Morgan: "Jordan Babineaux is an acceptable free safety but only if he is the worst player in your starting secondary." Earl Thomas is the new free safety, of course, and veteran strong safety Lawyer Milloy said he returned because his former coach in New England, Carroll, said playing time awaited him.

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