NFC West: Muhammad Ali
- On Sherman: Anyone familiar with "First Take" has, from time to time, probably wanted to grab co-host Skip Bayless by the shoulders and shake him. That reaction is inherent to the debate format. Bayless knows how to push buttons. Sherman naturally wanted to set straight Bayless for suggesting the Seattle Seahawks cornerback wasn't nearly as good as Darrelle Revis. The facts Sherman brought to the discussion were sufficient for him to score a knockout. There was no need for him to keep landing shots after the bell, no matter how good it must have felt. He came off as mean-spirited, a departure from his usual playful form. Something about Bayless set him off. Sherman demanding that Bayless address him as "All-Pro Stanford graduate" reminded me of the former Cassius Clay angrily pummeling Ernie Terrell while demanding Terrell call him by his new name, Muhammad Ali. The point was valid, but after a while, it was uncomfortable to watch.
- On Jackson: The St. Louis Rams' running back made it clear through his comments to SiriusXM Radio that he's moving on from the team. Jackson pointed to disagreement over what his role would have been had he stayed in St. Louis. The Rams saw this coming last offseason. They were the ones who willingly gave Jackson the ability to void the final year of his contract. That move cleared the way for Jackson to leave the team gracefully. It spared the Rams from releasing their career rushing leader and the most respected player in their locker room. It's an upset if Jackson returns to the team because both sides appear ready to move on. On the other hand, what is Jackson going to find in the marketplace other than a reduced role?
Immediately I wondered to myself whether Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll would counter with a Will Ferrell reference. He did so Monday. The context suggests the reference was merely coincidental, but still, it's good to have NFC West coaches competing for status in every arena, including the entertainment industry.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Carroll mentioned hearing from Ferrell regarding the crushing block Seahawks receiver Golden Tate delivered against Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee in Week 2. Carroll: "Not to drop a name, but I did get an email from Will Ferrell last night saying, 'What a hit!' He said, 'Tell me about Golden Tate.' He was all jacked up about it, so I think that reached a lot of people." Noted: The block will likely reach the NFL commissioner's office, too. A fine seems likely, in my view, because Tate lowered his head to deliver a blindside block on a defenseless player.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com has Carroll's thoughts on the strength of the NFC West. Carroll: "I think it’s a very aggressive division. Our style, San Francisco's style, the way the Cardinals are playing defense. I don't know much about the Rams; haven’t seen them much, yet. But what else is Jeff (Fisher, the Rams’ first-year coach) going to do? He’s going to bring it. So, it’s shaping up to be a really cool division. And I think people are going to look at it a lot differently than they have, say a couple years ago."
Also from Farnsworth: what worked well and what needs work following a 27-7 victory over Dallas.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times asks and answers Seahawks-related questions. O'Neil: "The Seahawks didn't score a first-half touchdown until Week 4 last season, and after two games, their offense still hasn't found the end zone in the first two quarters. While Seattle led 13-7 at halftime against Dallas, its only touchdown was scored on special teams. The slow starts are as true for Seattle's pass rush as well as both of the Seahawks' sacks so far this season occurred in the second half."
Danny Kelly of Field Gulls looks at how the Seahawks have expanded their use of personnel groupings featuring three tight ends. Noted: The Seahawks have run 12 snaps with three tight ends this season, the third-highest total in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They have averaged a league-high 6.1 yards per play on these snaps (1.8 per rush on four carries, 8.3 per pass on eight attempts).
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic adds detail and perspective to what Ryan Williams experienced after nearly fumbling away the Cardinals' hard-fought victory over the New England Patriots. Team president Michael Bidwill on Williams, who returned from a torn patella suffered a year ago: "He means the world to us. Those of us who were around the training facility saw how hard he rehabbed during those 12 months."
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals aren't celebrating their victory over the Patriots. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "I think they were excited about the win, but you know it wasn't like we just won the Super Bowl or something like that. I think they were proud of what they had done, the significance of winning a game in New England. I think it sunk in a little bit after the game, but it seemed like they put it behind them and we're moving on."
Also from McManaman: a Todd Heap injury update
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at the Cardinals' inability to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says there's no doubt the Rams have enjoyed their victory over Washington. Safety Quintin Mikell: "It's just a great feeling, especially after what happened last year. It's something that I can't describe. Everybody's excited. All the work that we put in through camp and during the week, it just comes out right now."
Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says a torn MCL will sideline Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold for at least a month.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the 2011 Rams never would have won a game like the one St. Louis won Sunday.
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com previews Austin Pettis' return to the Rams' active roster.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com looks at offensive options for the 49ers once Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon Jacobs return from injuries.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along a classic Jim Harbaugh quote regarding what messages the coach wanted players to take from a couple Muhammad Ali anecdotes. Harbaugh: "We don't break it down, Barney-style, at the end of a story. We don't try to tell people what we think the message is or what it should be. We just put it there, and they relate to it in the ways they relate to it."
Also from Barrows: Joe Staley, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis were among the 49ers players standing out against Detroit. Barrows: "Staley got into the second level of the Lions defense all game long and he was one of several linemen with big blocks on Frank Gore's standing up one-yard touchdown run."
Ailene Voison of the Sacramento Bee looks at Crabtree's development.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Steve Spagnuolo is anxious for the Rams' to open their first minicamp under his leadership. They'll get going at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. Spagnuolo: "I was telling somebody the other day that when you finally get to this point, you finally feel like this is what you got hired to do. We're coaches, that's what we do, that's what we enjoy so now we get a chance to get out there and do exactly what we enjoy doing."
Adam Caplan of ScoutNFLNetwork.com says the Seahawks and Rams are among the teams expected to meet with Utah pass rusher Paul Kruger before the draft.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's report about Gus Frerotte's expected deal with the Rams drew a couple of wisecracks in the comments section. The first: "Great, when will Jamie Martin report for camp?" The second: "Re-sign Jeff Smoker too." Not bad, but in reality, who were the Rams supposed to sign as a reasonably priced backup?
Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune says the Bears want to make Orlando Pace their starting left tackle. He also says the Bears' interest in former Panthers and Seahawks cornerback Ken Lucas is only "lukewarm" at this point. Don't be surprised if Lucas re-signs with Seattle.
Sonja Haller of the Arizona Republic provides details from Kurt Warner's appearance at Muhammad Ali's annual charity event. Ali's wife, Lonnie, honored Warner with a sports leadership award. Lonnie Ali on Warner: "If there ever was an athlete that I think epitomizes everything that this man sitting next to me [Ali] is, he's sitting right there."
Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune says Phoenix, New Orleans and Miami have submitted bids to land the 2013 Super Bowl. Owners plan to make a decision during their May meetings.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals invited a limited number of college prospects to their headquarters before the draft. The team didn't value such visits when Dennis Green was the head coach and it's tough to argue with some of the results. Ohio State running back Chris Wells is expected to visit soon.
Also from Somers: Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and general manager Rod Graves attended USC's pro day. Coach Ken Whisenhunt and owner Bill Bidwill did not.
CBSSports.com quotes Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin as saying he wants to re-sign with the Cardinals. Boldin: "Hopefully, something gets done. We'll see what happens. At this point I'm leaving it up to everyone else and just trying to enjoy life."
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with draft analyst Rob Rang for a look at how the Seahawks might approach the draft. Rang says he would be surprised if the Seahawks passed on Aaron Curry if given a chance to draft the Wake Forest linebacker. Rang on Michael Crabtree: "He's a spectacular talent. I really think he's an Anquan Boldin type of player. He doesn't have that elite speed, but you know, for me the fact that he wasn't able to run for scouts matters very little. Even the [foot] surgery matters very little, because Jonathan Stewart had the same surgery and he was every bit the player his rookie season that I thought he would be. Michael Crabtree will be as well."
Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts looks at the Seahawks' offensive linemen and tight ends heading toward the draft. The team did not draft an offensive lineman in 2008. Expect that to change this year.
Aaron Weinberg of nextseasonsports.com looks at the six players Seattle has drafted among the top five overall picks. Steve Niehaus, Kenny Easley, Curt Warner, Cortez Kennedy, Rick Mirer and Shawn Springs were the players chosen.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee lists USC's Mark Sanchez among the college prospects expected to visit with the 49ers before the draft. Barrows: "The 49ers are wise to show interest. In Sanchez does fall to 10 on April 25, there will be plenty of teams clamoring to grab him, creating an opportunity to trade down. Who knows, maybe the Broncos will still be stuck with unhappy Jay Cutler on draft day and will be willing to make a deal."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thinks the 49ers might have their best group of receivers since Terrell Owens departed. Lynch: "After a rocky start to the offseason, the 49ers have seemingly recovered. In the last week, they've signed a possible replacement to the departing Jonas Jennings at right tackle in Marvel Smith and now have an assurance [Isaac] Bruce will come back."