NFC West: Mike Reinfeldt

Ted Ginn Jr. impressed at San Francisco 49ers training camp when I visited there in 2010.

The speedy receiver suffered an injury in Week 1 that year. He caught only 12 passes all season.

Ginn will start opposite Michael Crabtree in the 49ers' exhibition opener against Minnesota on Friday night. He has, by all accounts, enjoyed a strong camp. But with six receiving touchdowns in five NFL seasons, it's tough to project a significant role for him. He has three starts over the past two seasons, all in 2011.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along Jim Harbaugh's thoughts on Ginn: "Ted's had a great camp -- really pleased with Ted. He's catching the ball, he's blocking, he's playing all the positions -- the X, the Z, the slot. He's doing it all. He's running good, getting in and out of his cuts."

Also from Maiocco: a look at the fastest 49ers.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Cory Nelms, Demarcus Dobbs and other players appeal to the 49ers for their versatility.

Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News provides details on a settlement over $30 million in disputed stadium financing money. Rosenberg: "The agreement lets the Santa Clara Unified School District balance its budget -- avoiding teacher layoffs -- by taking in more than $7 million over the next three years from the pot of property tax money previously earmarked for the stadium. ... The 49ers, meanwhile, will get whatever redevelopment property tax money is left over, meaning it will take about a half-decade to get the $30 million it was promised, instead of only a few years like it had planned. City of Santa Clara voters had originally approved a $40 million down payment on the stadium in 2010, and $10 million was paid before the funding spat began."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle sees a new attitude from linebacker Ahmad Brooks.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com explains the unlikely connection between Cardinals running back Ryan Williams and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. Football isn't the only link. Williams' father, serving a life sentence in prison, serves as another.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at concerns for the Cardinals coming out of their first exhibition game of the season. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton: "Here's what the biggest concern was for me. With what I call our starters, our first and second groups, that's where the most of errors were. Were they too hyped up? Well, I hope not, they were veterans playing in a preseason game."

Also from Somers: a chat transcript in which he says Adam Snyder didn't play so poorly against the Saints.

More from Somers: five things to watch in the Cardinals' second exhibition game, this one against Kansas City.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com focuses on the team's depth after Seattle practiced without three starters Thursday.

Also from Farnsworth: a look at Matt Hasselbeck's return to Seattle as the Titans' quarterback. Farnsworth: "The Titans' front office includes senior executive vice president Mike Reinfeldt, general manager Ruston Webster, VP of player personnel Lake Dawson and scout Tim Ruskell. And Jerry Gray is the defensive coordinator. All were with the Seahawks before joining the Titans. Then there’s Jake Locker, the former University of Washington QB who is from Ferndale." Noted: Ruskell to the Titans? Guess I missed that one while on vacation in July. Gray's departure from Seattle to Tennessee was a bit unusual. He left the Seahawks to take a job at the University of Texas, only to accept the Titans' offer a month later. Gray replaced Chuck Cecil, now with St. Louis.

Tim Ryan of Sirius NFL Radio says via 710ESPN Seattle that Earl Thomas spends more time as a "box" safety than people might realize. Ryan: "The dynamic ability of Earl Thomas, who everyone thinks is a free safety on the back end; he's in the box shooting his gun more than Kam Chancellor is."

Bill Swartz of 710ESPN Seattle saw good things from Terrell Owens at Seahawks camp.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sizes up the Rams' receivers. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer downplays the importance of a No. 1 wideout. Schottenheimer: "I've been other places where you have a so-called No. 1 receiver and it's easy to double that guy. We're looking for a bunch of weapons. They're hard to find. We put 'em in different spots all over the field. That way, we can take advantage of matchups." Noted: Not buying this one. Having a dominant receiver could only help the Rams or any team, all else being equal. Attracting double coverage would leave fewer defenders to cover the remaining receivers.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers post-practice notes, including one about Barry Richardson continuing to work ahead of Jason Smith at right tackle.
It's homecoming week in the NFC West.

The Tennessee Titans' Matt Hasselbeck, Steve Hutchinson, Mike Reinfeldt, Ruston Webster and other former Seattle Seahawks will be returning to the Northwest for an exhibition opener at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night.

In San Francisco, meanwhile, former 49ers coach Mike Singletary will return to Candlestick Park with the Minnesota Vikings for an exhibition opener Friday night.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News caught up with Singletary by phone and found him to be gracious. Singletary: "No. 1, I'll always be indebted to the 49ers. They gave me an opportunity when they could have chosen many others in their organization. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to get a first-hand look at an organization that really wants to win."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Colin Kaepernick remains the No. 2 quarterback despite some inconsistent play. Maiocco: "Veteran Josh Johnson has not closed the gap with some inconsistent play of his own. Johnson threw an interception to Chris Culliver. Alex Smith also threw an interception, as Perrish Cox picked off a ball intended for Randy Moss."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers are listing "Randy Moss or Mario Manningham or Ted Ginn" as the starting receiver opposite Michael Crabtree. Noted: Moss coming off the bench? That's a tough sell if Moss remains on the roster.

More from Maiocco: 49ers safety Cory Nelms watched his girlfriend, Olympian T'erea Brown, post a personal-best time of 54.21 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh singled out Kendall Hunter and Ahmad Brooks for having strong camps to this point.

Seahawks.com has a photo showing Terrell Owens working out for the team.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com asks Eugene Robinson why Cortez Kennedy wasn't enshrined in the Hall of Fame a few years earlier. Robinson: "If Tez had played in New York or Dallas, oh my goodness. They would have changed the rules. Tez would have been in the Hall before his career was over. He was that good. He was that dominating."

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times thinks the Seahawks are taking a big risk by adding Owens. Brewer: "On a team that already must monitor Marshawn Lynch, Kellen Winslow Jr. and Braylon Edwards (if he makes the team) for various reasons, this is both a dangerous acquisition and a fascinating experiment."

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle thinks signing Owens is a smart move for Seattle on various levels, including this one: "The signing of Owens clearly shows this receiving group needs help. Ricardo Lockette has a tight hamstring and tighter hands. Kris Durham has lacked separation and suddenness and got banged up once again in Sunday's scrimmage. Sidney Rice will see very little contact on his surgically repaired shoulders all preseason. Baldwin has a tweaked hamstring. Golden Tate is not a legitimate outside receiver down-in and down-out." Noted: Huard also points to the minimum salary Owens will be earning. Money defines where a player stands in an organization. Owens and the 49ers' Moss are scheduled to earn relatively low salaries. That's important in giving the team leverage.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic revisits the Cardinals' preseason opener against New Orleans, offering notes on offense and defense. Somers: "Inside linebacker Paris Lenon suffered an ankle injury near the end of the first possession. After the game, he said he was fine. His replacement, Stewart Bradley, played well, batting down a pass near the goal line and registering a sack."

Also from Somers: finding his bearings in Missouri, where the Cardinals are practicing this week.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals saw good things from Bradley, who must have been having fun to go with the dance he revealed following a sack Sunday night. Bradley: "I've been messing around in camp with the dorkiest dance I could think of, and I came up with that. Guys were like, 'There is no way you will do that, but if you do, it would be awesome.' I said, 'Hey, if I get a sack or a big play, I’m going to put it out there.' "

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are getting healthier, particularly in the secondary. Thomas: "Jeff Fisher's approach when it comes to ailing players seems to be a proactive one, at least as much as possible. After 16 full seasons in the NFL as a head coach, he knows the Lombardi Trophy isn't awarded in August. He's trying to have a healthy team on the field for the regular season, starting with the Sept. 9 opener in Detroit. If that means holding a player out of practice now for an extra day or two, so be it."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams receiver Danario Alexander, who his continually battling to get healthy. Alexander: "Too many knee injuries, too many operations, too many major and minor aches and pains and way too many frustrating rehab stints repeatedly have hit the pause button on a career that once seemed destined for greatness, but now is on the verge of an unhappy ending."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers Rams notes, including one on rookie receiver Brian Quick getting some reps with the first-team offense.

Erica Sherman of stlouisrams.com says backup quarterback Kellen Clemens' knowledge of Brian Schottenheimer's offense effectively gives the team another assistant coach.
Lots of little things to cover while waiting for Peyton Manning to choose his next employer:
  • The market for Matt Flynn appears flat ... unless the Miami Dolphins are willing to drive up the price for him. ESPN's Adam Schefter expects that to happen, suggesting that the Dolphins realize they're probably not going to land Manning. Flynn is visiting the Seattle Seahawks and now has a visit lined up for Miami. If he gets starting money, expect it to be from the Dolphins.
  • Carolina guard Travelle Wharton, Philadelphia receiver Steve Smith, Green Bay center Scott Wells, New York Giants receiver Mario Manningham and Detroit quarteback Shaun Hill were among the free agents visiting with the Rams on Thursday, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
  • The Rams are only getting started. By my accounting, they had a league-low 48 players on their roster Thursday, counting restricted free agents and franchise players. They are the youngest team in the NFL at present, but that will change as they fill out their roster with a mix of veterans and draft choices. Seattle is threatening the Rams to field the NFL's youngest roster after releasing veteran guard Robert Gallery and not signing 34-year-old Steve Hutchinson.
  • The Rams and Seahawks appear to be primary suitors for former Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Jason Jones. St. Louis should have the advantage with Jones' former coach in Tennessee, Jeff Fisher, now in St. Louis. The Rams could also offer more playing time, at least as their roster sets up presently.
  • Manningham, who spent Thursday visiting San Francisco, was a natural candidate for the 49ers. The team needs a receiver. Manningham is one of the better free agents out there. He also went to Michigan, which never hurts as long as Jim Harbaugh is coaching the 49ers. The first veteran free-agent wideout the 49ers signed during the Harbaugh era also played there. Braylon Edwards was a Michigan man, as was his father. Edwards and Randy Moss are the only veteran free-agent receivers to sign with San Francisco under Harbaugh.
  • The receivers with whom San Francisco has visited -- Manningham, Brandon Lloyd and Chaz Schilens -- fit different molds. That makes it tough to say for sure what the 49ers are looking for specifically. The team appears to be in no rush. Manningham left without a deal, no surprise.
  • Whether Ted Ginn Jr. leaves in free agency could affect the 49ers' thinking, too. Schilens might fill some of the void left when Josh Morgan, another wideout with good size, left for Washington. Lloyd could make more sense as a downfield threat if Ginn isn't in the 49ers' plans. Manningham has good quickness. Like Lloyd, he's slighter than Morgan or Schilens.
  • It's looking like the Arizona Cardinals will bring back tackle Levi Brown, Kent Somers reports. That is good for the Cardinals, who need tackles, but not necessarily bad news for opposing pass-rushers, either.
  • Hutchinson's deal with Tennessee is expected to pay him a $6.5 million guarantee. There's some history behind that number. Titans executive Mike Reinfeldt was with the Seahawks when the team lost Hutchinson to Minnesota in 2006. Back then, the Seahawks used the transition tag for Hutchinson, setting his one-year value at $6.391 million. Seattle was offering a $6.5 million average on a long-term deal at the time. Reinfeldt wound up getting Hutchinson for the $6.5 million price, albeit six years later and multiple time zones away. That won't do the Seahawks any good.
  • The Cardinals have less than 24 hours before a decision on a $7 million bonus to Kevin Kolb comes due. If Manning doesn't make a decision by then, will he at least tip off the Cardinals if he's leaning toward Denver or Tennessee? That would help, but sometimes the teams themselves are the last ones to know when they're out of the running.

Enjoy your Thursday. I'm sure we're not finished for the day.

Update: Manningham is also visiting the Rams.

On Rams' GM search targeting rivals

February, 6, 2012
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News that the St. Louis Rams are considering San Francisco's Tom Gamble and, earlier, Arizona's Steve Keim as general manager candidates makes sense from at least one perspective.

Both men would give new coach Jeff Fisher direct, inside knowledge of teams the Rams must beat to become competitive again. St. Louis went 0-6 in the NFC West this past season. Fisher was not in the NFL last season. He was previously in the AFC South. He'll have a full offseason to study the Rams' division rivals, but Gamble and Keim would bring institutional knowledge an NFC West outsider would not.

The 49ers have focused on re-signing their own players and avoiding big free-agent purchases in recent seasons. Gamble would presumably bring to St. Louis the same mindset -- one Fisher was familiar with while working with GM Mike Reinfeldt in Tennessee.

Minnesota's George Paton is also among those under consideration, having received a second interview. From Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Paton is highly regarded within the Vikings organization, and his responsibilities are expected to expand should he stay in Minnesota. Paton played a large role in the trade for defensive end Jared Allen in 2008."

Finding a GM with the personality and people skills to work well with Fisher stands as a leading consideration for the Rams.

What Titans' moves mean for Rams

January, 18, 2012
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The likelihood of the St. Louis Rams hiring Ruston Webster or Lake Dawson from the Tennessee Titans diminished Wednesday.

The Titans promoted Webster to general manager and Dawson to vice president of player personnel. Those moves suggest both men are likely to stay with the organization.

Under NFL rules, the Titans could deny other teams permission to speak with "high-level club employees" (presidents, GMs and persons with equivalent responsibilities and authority). The Rams could conceivably come after Dawson, but I would take the Titans' moves to suggest all parties plan to move forward under terms outlined in the announcement.

Tennessee also promoted Mike Reinfeldt from GM to senior executive vice president/chief operating officer. These moves come off as a concerted effort to keep the Titans' management team together.

Dawson interviewed with the Rams for their GM opening. Webster was also considered a candidate. Both worked with new Rams coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee.
Paul Kuharsky's take on former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher should help better inform St. Louis Rams fans.

The most interesting part, to me, centers around possible candidates for general manager if Fisher became the Rams' next head coach.

Kuharsky mentions two names, both familiar to NFC West followers:
  • Ruston Webster: Webster is the Titans' vice president of player personnel under former Seahawks executive Mike Reinfeldt. While with Seattle, Webster seemed to get along well with everyone on both sides of the Tim Ruskell-Mike Holmgren. The fact that he arrived in Seattle with Ruskell and left to join Reinfeldt's staff attests to that (Reinfeldt was Holmgren's top confidant in Seattle). Webster would work well with Fisher.
  • Randy Mueller: Mueller has been a senior executive with the San Diego Chargers since 2008. He predated Holmgren in Seattle and worked well with Holmgren before leaving to serve as general manager in New Orleans. Kuharsky mentions Mueller because the Titans tried to interview Mueller during the process that culminated with Reinfeldt's hiring. Rams fans might know that Mueller was instrumental in bringing Jim Haslett to New Orleans as Saints coach.

Webster would be an obvious candidate because he has worked with Fisher recently. Kuharsky also mentioned Fishers' relationships with Bill Polian and Rich McKay from their days together on the NFL's competition committee. McKay hasn't worked directly in personnel recently. He and Webster were together in Tampa Bay previously.

Fisher also worked in Tennessee with current Titans vice president of football operations Lake Dawson. Dawson, the team's former pro personnel director, worked with Reinfeldt and Webster in Seattle.

Strange sights from Edward Jones Dome

August, 20, 2011
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ST. LOUIS -- The view from high above the field at the Edward Jones Dome can be disorienting enough without sights such as this one: Matt Hasselbeck, dressed in Tennessee Titans powder blue cap and game pants, chatting with one of his longtime former Seattle Seahawks coaches, Nolan Cromwell, now of the St. Louis Rams.

Several other Seahawks alumni -- Mike Reinfeldt, Ruston Webster and Lake Dawson among them -- will be settling into their press box seats when their current team, the Titans, kick off against the Rams in a couple hours.

These sorts of pregame meetings are standard fare in the NFL. Players and coaches switch teams regularly. In fact, as I look down on the field again, Hasselbeck is reconnecting with another former Seattle teammate, Rams kicker Josh Brown.

Hasselbeck's departure from the Seahawks this offseason represented the final significant break from the Mike Holmgren era in Seattle. Seeing Hasselbeck in person wearing Titans gear provided visual confirmation.

The Rams won't mind seeing Hasselbeck leave the division. He won eight consecutive starts against them from 2005 to 2009.

The Seattle Seahawks weren't willing to give Matt Hasselbeck contract security beyond the 2011 season.

Were the Tennessee Titans?

Contract details were not immediately available, but ESPN's Adam Schefter has the news: Hasselbeck has agreed to terms with the Titans, reuniting him with former Seahawks executive Mike Reinfeldt, among other ex-Seattle employees now working in prominent roles in Tennessee.

Hasselbeck wanted to re-sign with Seattle. He had an opportunity to do so before the lockout, but he was looking for a level of security the Seahawks weren't willing to offer. I'll be surprised if Reinfeldt and the Titans offered such security after using a 2011 first-round draft choice for quarterback Jake Locker.

Hasselbeck projects as a solid mentor for Locker. He'll put in the work and handle himself in a way that serves the Titans well following a tumultuous run with Vince Young. At some point this season or next, Locker will presumably get his chance to start.

Hindsight being 20-20, it's clear now that Hasselbeck would have been best served taking the Seahawks' offer in March. He could have kept his family in Seattle and had a better shot at starting for the next two seasons since the Seahawks have not moved aggressively to secure a franchise quarterback.

Earlier: What Seattle is thinking
Vince Young's ugly divorce from the Tennessee Titans drew disapproving reviews and will scare off some potential suitors.

Should the Seattle Seahawks consider him?

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Kim Klement/US PresswireWould Vince Young fit in with what the Seahawks are trying to do?
I asked the question Friday, drawing a wide range of well-considered responses. Let's consider a sampling of them here, augmented with my own thoughts.

"Absolutely not!" Anointed102969 wrote. "Look at our roster on offense? Russell Okung, Max Unger, John Moffitt, James Carpenter and Golden Tate could all be starters next season. Those are five guys on offense with less than one year of NFL experience. Vince Young quit on his team. He walked out on his coaches during a film-review session. Cops had to look for him. You want this kind of head case leading a bunch of young bucks on offense? No thanks!"

The Seahawks, without even considering whether Young would fit their offense, will likely eliminate Young from serious consideration for these reasons alone. General manager John Schneider said the team avoided drafting Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, among other players with off-field question marks, because the Seattle locker room was not yet strong enough to assimilate such players. Of course, Smith would have cost the team a first-round draft choice. Young would not require such an investment.

"I am a Seahawks fan that has been stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., for the last seven years," Jeroli1 wrote. "I have seen Young play, including going to a preseason game when he was a rookie. This kid has raw talant. The problem is his mouth. If Pete Carroll can put a gag on him and keep him from pouting, Young could be just what Seattle needs. With the addition of two young offensive linemen and a quarterback that can flat out run, they could be scary again."

Young's mix of athleticism and arm strength might have fit the Seahawks' passing game better last season, when coordinator Jeremy Bates was running a Mike Shanahan-style offense. The team is expected to place more value on accuracy and timing under new coordinator Darrell Bevell, although Carroll has sometimes downplayed the changes.

The bigger question is really whether Young's baggage would be tolerable at his position, under these circumstances. Taking chances on non-quarterbacks is easier. The stakes are lower. Teams generally carry only three quarterbacks on their rosters. Young would be at least one-third of the equation at the position. Other players look to quarterbacks for leadership. Quarterbacks must lead by example with their work habits, how they interact with others in the organization and how they project themselves publicly. Young has failed on some of those levels.

"Between Carroll and line coach Tom Cable, there should be plenty of 'tough love' to keep his head straight," akmac61 wrote.

Let's say Young played well in 2011. Then what? Could a rebuilding team seriously consider making a more significant commitment? I have serious doubts.

"Hey naysayers, there's no risk!" iamdugan wrote. "No loss of draft picks, no real investments -- no harm, no foul. Either Pete Carroll helps Young reach his potential and we get an absolute stud horse superstar, or he flops and probably gets cut faster then LenDale White. Also, I know we all have high hopes for the two latest rookie additions to our offensive line, but what if they don't pan out? What if we're crippled by injuries again? Wouldn't having a QB with Young's athleticism and mobility be a huge plus?"

The White experiment applies on a couple levels.

One, the Seahawks gave White a look even though they had to know exactly what they were getting into. Carroll had coached White at USC. Schneider, vice president of pro personnel Will Lewis and others in the Seattle organization have strong ties to Tennessee general manager Mike Reinfeldt and numerous others in the Titans organization. Those ties would have enhanced the Seahawks' feel for the situation.

Two, the Seahawks proved with White that they would act preemptively if they felt as though a player weren't holding up his end. They could, at least in theory, take a similar approach with Young, provided they could sign him to a deal without significant guarantees.

"A team should only consider Young if they have a veteran in place who is able and willing to shepherd him into the team's offense and culture," ptech wrote. "Young is talented, but juvenile and fragile and he will require the right mix of both tough-love and unfettered support. By all reports, he's a huge headache and his return to the league would need to happen in a perfect place. I'm not sure Seattle is that place."
OK, so the St. Louis Rams do not have a true No. 1 wide receiver.

What about Randy Moss? Glad I asked.

Moss played for the Rams' new offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, when both were with the New England Patriots. The Rams thought about claiming Moss off waivers last season, a move I thought would have carried more upside than risk.

Moss' value has only diminished since then. But with McDaniels in St. Louis, there's a connection that did not exist previously. It's tough working up much momentum making the case for or against Moss at this stage. He caught 28 passes for three teams last season and turned 34 in February. His contract ran through 2010. Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said Tennessee plans to move forward with younger players at the position.

My sense is that the Rams are likewise headed in a different direction with younger players, and Moss' upside wouldn't be large enough to entice them at this point. But until the team's receiving situation gains clearer definition at the top, the Rams have to keep an open mind. Moss has ties to McDaniels. Plaxico Burress has ties to coach Steve Spagnuolo. It's conceivable Sidney Rice could become a free agent.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. discussed Moss during his Football Today podcast Monday. He passed along these thoughts to me separately:
"Moss is a very tough evaluation for me. He really is/was just a one-trick pony: deep threat. Outside the numbers. Bombs away. But it is/was a tremendous trick! And he might be the best who ever lived at that trick. But if he can't get deep any more, he isn't real useful. I don't think we know the answer to that, though, based off his terrible stints in Minnesota and then Tennessee. I tend to guess he no longer can do that, or the Patriots and then the Vikings would not have given up on him so easily.

"As for adding him to that Rams' locker room, you are closer to that situation than I am, but it seems to me that it wouldn't be such a hot idea. Does Moss make the Rams a Super Bowl contender this season? I don't think so."

To my knowledge, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo hasn't fielded a question about Moss since answering one during the scouting combine back in February, shortly after McDaniels' hiring.

"We haven't really gotten into it that deeply on receivers," Spagnuolo told reporters then. "It's really more about the scheme and focusing on our offensive staff and what we are going to do. I don't know that we are that deep into that. We have to kind of see where it goes. Certainly, him (McDaniels) having first-hand knowledge of a player, any player, is going to be helpful. And anybody that has been in his system becomes a little more attractive."
Matt Hasselbeck Jason O. Watson/US PresswireMatt Hasselbeck threw for 3,001 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Seahawks last season.
Matt Hasselbeck became a trending topic during the 2011 NFL draft without saying a word.

The longtime Seattle Seahawks quarterback continues to keep a low profile. He hasn't granted interviews since speaking with his hometown newspaper a couple of weeks before the draft. The things he said then -- that he wants to return to the team and he understands why there was no deal before the lockout -- were the opposite of inflammatory.

With a lockout in place, there shouldn't be much buzz.

Strong words from ESPN analyst and former Hasselbeck teammate Trent Dilfer changed the dynamics. Dilfer flatly told draft viewers that Hasselbeck would not return to Seattle in 2011.

It was time to reassess. Did Dilfer have inside information based on his association with Hasselbeck? The two shared NFL meeting rooms years ago. They share the same agent, still.

Or, was Dilfer merely stating his opinion based on any number of factors, including the idea that another team -- say, Tennessee or Washington -- could target Hasselbeck?

My money is on the latter, but lingering perceptions can easily masquerade as reality.

I've held back in analyzing the situation because I wanted to do some digging first. Perhaps there had been some sort of behind-the-scenes development that would hasten Hasselbeck's departure once the free-agent signing period opened down the line.

If anything, the opposite appears to be true.

First, the Seahawks did nothing during the draft to diminish Hasselbeck's value to them. They did not select a quarterback in the early rounds. In fact, the team has yet to draft a quarterback in any round since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider took over the team in early 2010.

Second, the Seahawks' new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, reached out to Hasselbeck and reiterated the team's interest in him during the brief window when teams were allowed contact with players over the weekend. Bevell seems to be about as by-the-book as they come. I highly doubt he'd reach out in that manner if it were all a lie.

Third, some of the prime landing spots for Hasselbeck outside Seattle appear less prime now. Minnesota used the 12th overall choice for Christian Ponder. San Francisco drafted Colin Kaepernick and laid the groundwork for re-signing Alex Smith. Arizona could still be an option, though I don't think Hasselbeck fits the Cardinals' downfield passing game very well.

But Dilfer could still be right.

[+] EnlargeWhitehurst, Carroll, Hasselbeck
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesCoach Pete Carroll will have a decision to make at quarterback between Charlie Whitehurst, left, Matt Hasselbeck, right, or another NFL veteran.
Tennessee drafted Jake Locker eighth overall and might still be drawn to Hasselbeck as a mentor; Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt and multiple members of his front office worked for the Seahawks during Hasselbeck's prime years.

The Seahawks could head in another direction as well. They could make a play for Kevin Kolb or another quarterback with more years remaining than Hasselbeck has left at age 35.

Hasselbeck's run in Seattle could end after 10 seasons for a variety of plausible reasons. It's just that there seems to be nothing new boiling beneath the surface.

A few things to consider when seeking clarity for a muddled situation:

  • The lockout works both ways. The longer the lockout runs, the more convenient Hasselbeck becomes for the Seahawks in 2011. He's familiar with the passing game Bevell is bringing to Seattle. I also think the lockout could affect Hasselbeck's return negatively. Long-term strategic thinking can harden during extended periods without coach-player interaction. The Seahawks' long-range plans do not include Hasselbeck. Everyone understands that. Perhaps making the break now becomes easier if the lockout keeps the relationship on hold for too long. Schneider hasn't hidden his desire to make the Seahawks younger.
  • Whitehurst is a factor. The Seahawks have taken considerable criticism for their move to acquire quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Initial reports suggested the San Diego Chargers took advantage of the Seahawks during negotiations. Subsequent reports have focused on the price Seattle paid for a quarterback who remains a nonfactor. When Seattle failed to draft a quarterback over the weekend, Carroll pointed to the 2011 third-round choice that was part of the Whitehurst deal as evidence the team had addressed the position. Carroll also praised Whitehurst to a degree he had not done when Hasselbeck was entrenched as the starter. These are the sorts of things teams say when laying the groundwork for change. If Hasselbeck did eventually leave, at least Carroll's praise for Whitehurst would already be part of the public record.
  • Drama complicates matters. Dilfer's comments created only the latest buzz. Earlier this offseason, ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck stood up for his brother and made pointed comments during a Seattle radio interview. Tim Hasselbeck took shots at Marc Bulger and Carson Palmer, dismissing both as viable alternatives to Matt Hasselbeck. Strong comments from people with ties to Hasselbeck can leave the impression Hasselbeck is at least tacitly signing off on them, even if he is not. The effect can be corrosive with a lockout preventing direct communication. Could it affect whether the Seahawks come back with an offer as strong as the one they made previously?

Re-signing Hasselbeck makes sense on a few levels. Hasselbeck knows Bevell's offense. The Seahawks are recommitting to the ground game and remaking their offensive line, which would benefit Hasselbeck. Carroll and Hasselbeck got along well last season. Seattle remains in rebuilding mode, making it tougher to justify trading significant 2012 draft capital for an unproven quarterback such as Kolb.

There are also reasons to consider moving on. Carroll wants to emphasize the running game. Schneider was with Green Bay when the team turned away from Brett Favre without apology.

"I think Kolb gets you two more wins than Hasselbeck does next year," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "He has more playmaking ability. Maybe there are more misreads, but the arrow is going up on Kolb and clearly we have seen the best of Hasselbeck. But if you sign Hasselbeck, the plan has to be, 'We need to get a quarterback in the next draft unless Whitehurst unexpectedly lights it up.'"
Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean says the Tennessee Titans could have interest in Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck this offseason. Wyatt: "I have no doubt Matt Hasselbeck is one name on the Titans’ radar. The long-time Seahawks quarterback, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, has ties to a Titans front office that includes GM Mike Reinfeldt, VP of Player Personnel Ruston Webster and Director of Pro Scouting Lake Dawson." Quarterback drama continues to dominate the NFC West outside St. Louis. It's tough to envision Hasselbeck moving to Nashville for the final couple seasons of his career, but we should expect to hear more about potential suitors as long as Hasselbeck doesn't have a deal with Seattle.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com explains why John Carlson earned a spot on the team's 35th anniversary team despite playing only three seasons. Farnsworth: "He already has posted the club single-season records for a tight end in receptions (55 in 2008), receiving yards (627 in ’08) and touchdown catches (seven in 2009). Even more telling, his three-season totals in each category (137 for 1,519 and 13) are just off the career marks that belong to Christian Fauria (166 catches in 10 seasons), Itula Mili (1,743 yards in seven seasons) and Jerramy Stevens (15 TDs in five seasons)."

Brian McIntyre of Mac's Football Blog provides updated salary information for Seattle's Chris Clemons, Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas and Russell Okung.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Arizona Cardinals are dropping ticket prices without raising prices for other seats. Somers: "About 3,700 seats will decrease in price, including 2,300 that went down from $40 to $25. ... An additional 1,400 tickets were reduced by $5 (from $60 to $55)." The Cardinals' 5-11 record last season and the NFL's labor issues will make it tougher for the team to continue its sellout streak.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com sits down with team president Michael Bidwill for details on the ticket changes and more.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com expects San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin to have considerable options once he hits the free-agent market. Backup Ricky Jean-Francois might not be the projected starter if Franklin does depart. Maiocco: "Line coach Jim Tomsula is the only holdover from last year's defensive coaching staff, so he would have a lot of input. But, based on the film of the 49ers' game against the Packers last season when Franklin left the lineup, I'm sure the 49ers would not feel comfortable with Jean Francois as the primary nose tackle. The Packers repeatedly moved Jean Francois off the ball during a 17-play game-clinching drive. Jean Francois later said he made errors with his technique, as his stance was too wide."

Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com says the St. Louis Rams have something significant going for them heading into a potential lockout. They play in the NFC West. Klutsarits: "The Rams' schedule is more difficult in 2011 and you have a rookie quarterback that needs to make bigger strides in the upcoming season, but everyone else has problems too. The best scenario would be for this to be resolved in the next few days and everyone can begin the 2011 season for real, but even if it doesn’t happen it is not the end of the world from a football perspective. What saved the Rams in 2010 will save the Rams in 2011. The mediocrity of the NFC West is the Rams' lifeboat during this current work stoppage. They don’t have to jump the Green Bay Packers or the New Orleans Saints they just need to be better than the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers."
Ruston Webster's departure from the Seahawks to the Titans makes sense for all parties even though Webster fit well with Seattle's new front office.

Webster and Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt worked together in Seattle for the 2006 season. Lake Dawson, who heads up the Titans' pro personnel department, was also with Seattle at that time. Reinfeldt did not hire a director of player personnel in Tennessee upon taking the GM job there.

"I wanted the right person to fill that role and wanted to see how the organization would function in the various departments before making this hire," Reinfeldt said Friday in a Titans news release. "I have a great deal of respect for Ruston as a football guy and as a person. He will focus on the college draft, but will assist in the other areas of the personnel department as well."

Webster was well-liked in Seattle and his low-keyed, personable style was appreciated when the organization was navigating through a tumultuous few months after Tim Ruskell resigned as president and general manager. The move to Tennessee should suit Webster, who grew up in Mississippi and has worked primarily in the southeast.

With Webster leaving, the Seahawks promoted western region college scouting director Scott Fitterer to college scouting director, with area scout Eric Stokes, a former Seahawks safety, becoming assistant director of college scouting. Both have been with the Seahawks through most or all of the 2000s.

The personnel flow chart in Seattle now begins with coach Pete Carroll and continues with general manager John Schneider, vice president of football operations Will Lewis, Fitterer and pro personnel director Tag Ribary. Trent Kirchner serves as the assistant pro director, with Stokes handling similar duties on the college side.
Reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Florida caught up with Packers general manager Ted Thompson and asked him about possibly adding outgoing 49ers GM Scot McCloughan at some point.

Green Bay would be one logical destination for McCloughan given his strong ties to Thompson. The two worked together in Green Bay and Seattle.

McCloughan has said he lost sight of family during his tenure with the 49ers, an indication he might want to take some personal time.

The Packers are one of several logical landing spots. McCloughan has also worked closely with Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt, Browns president Mike Holmgren, Seahawks GM John Schneider and former Packers GM Ron Wolf, who lives in Florida and has a close association with Dolphins executive vice president Bill Parcells.

McCloughan hasn't formally left the 49ers, of course, but his situation could gain some clarity when team president Jed York takes calls from reporters during a conference call scheduled for Monday at 8 p.m. ET.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Saints' first media session of Super Bowl week has been pushed back nearly 2 hours from the originally scheduled time.

Rainy weather led the Saints to seek an indoor practice facility. Instead of working out at the University of Miami on Monday afternoon, as previously scheduled, the Saints relocated to the Dolphins' indoor facility. New Orleans will have to practice elsewhere once the Colts arrive because this is where Indianapolis scheduled its practices all week.

It's seemingly possible, then, that the Colts could be the only team able to escape rains this week. We'll learn more from Saints coach Sean Payton, who is scheduled to address reporters at 5:30 p.m. ET. Update: Payton indicated the league had made a plan that could allow both teams use of indoor facilities.

[+] EnlargeJulius Peppers
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonNFC West fans wonder if Peppers will end up in the division.
In the meantime, I've dipped into the NFC West mailbag, where a common theme has dominated recent submissions.

Jericho from Tacoma, Wash., writes: Hey Sando, the possibility of a Julius Peppers signing for the Seahawks has just entered my mind. With Paul Allen's money bags, the current abysmal pass rush, and the lack of a CBA for the 2010-2011 season, this makes too much sense to not happen. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: That is the sort of move a team makes to compensate for poor drafting. On the one hand, general manager John Schneider comes from a personnel tree featuring Ted Thompson, Mike Reinfeldt and others who believe in building through the draft and avoiding the big-money deals in free agency. Schneider and new coach Pete Carroll also want to go young. On the other hand, Schneider described himself as more aggressive than Thompson. Schneider also comes from Green Bay, where his first mentor, Ron Wolf, made a bold move for another dominant defensive end, landing Reggie White in one of the most significant moves in NFL history.


Kyle from Tempe, Ariz., writes: It seems pretty evident that 49ers general manager Scot Mcloughan wants to build through the draft. That being said, there could be some serious value in grabbing a guy like Julius Peppers in free agency. I hope they re-sign Aubrayo Franklin, but if they don't, isn't grabbing a solid DE a necessity this offseason?

Mike Sando: Franklin plays the nose and the 49ers can always use their franchise tag on him if need be. They will keep him one way or another. Adding Pepppers would help, but you're right about the 49ers viewing themselves as having grown to a point where they do not have to overpay for need, particularly on defense.


Ryan from Phoenix writes: Hey Mike, tell me what you think of this off-season headline: "Cardinals sign Julius Peppers to boost pass rush." As a life long Cardinals fan, I think it would be pretty sweet to see this happen now that it seems likely he's gonna hit the open market.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals probably are not going to pay some of their own players much. It's tough to envision them making the type of play needed to land Peppers. Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett are much cheaper, no matter how much it pains Dockett to read this sentence.


Josh from Los Angeles writes: Hey Mike, have you heard anything out of the Rams concerning who they might draft? I know it's kind of early, but any clue as to which way they may be leaning? I personally think they should go with Ndamukong Suh because he is the best defensive tackle prospect since Warren Sapp, but that's me. What are your thoughts and which way do you think they will go?

Mike Sando: I'll be speaking with Billy Devaney and Steve Spagnuolo later in the week. They will not tip their hand this early, most likely, but I tend to think they could be inclined to select Suh as a needed cornerstone up front on defense. The team addressed its offensive line last offseason. The defensive line needs to be a priority now, even though last year's first-rounder, Chris Long, showed significant improvement in 2009. Suh would make a lot of sense for a Spagnuolo-coached team, I think.

Then I could see the Rams trying to find a somewhat reasonably priced veteran quarterback to help get them through the season. That would be based on the idea that there doesn't seem to be an obvious No. 1-type quarterback available this year.

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