NFC West: Pete Kendall

Lately, it's tough following the NFL labor dispute without hearing from players linked to current NFC West franchises.

Receiver Sean Morey, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals and briefly the Seattle Seahawks, is on the attack after the league proposed new safety-related rules.

"At the end of the day, why should we be negotiating for our own health and safety? It's unfortunate," Morey said. "We've had to provide every solution to their problem."

Retired guard Pete Kendall, who began his NFL career with Seattle and later played for the Arizona Cardinals, recently spent three weeks in Washington, D.C., as part of the NFL Players Association contingent.

Veteran kicker Jay Feely, player rep for the Cardinals, has provided one of the strongest and most prominent public voices for players throughout negotiations.

Meanwhile, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Takeo Spikes fears the worst for veteran players. He emerged Friday as a widely quoted figure from the ongoing players' meetings in Marco Island, Fla.

Friday morning, current Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy re-tweeted former Seahawks fullback Heath Evans' accusation that commissioner Roger Goodell's recent letter to players was an attempt to divide and conquer them.

Veteran guard Chester Pitts, who spent last season with Seattle and is without a contract for 2011, has fired off some of the angriest sounding missives. Most recently, he took offense to the letter from Goodell.

"I've told my guys to take the letter and set it on fire," Pitts said. "We're not that stupid."

Seldom does incendiary rhetoric call for the actual setting of fires.

The players will be fascinating to follow as this lockout continues. More than ever, they have the ability to speak out as individuals and without the media or NFL public-relations apparatus to serve as filters. That is liberating, but also potentially dangerous for players as they seek to promote a reasonable, unified message to the public.

Their empowerment, as championed by NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith, has brought a new level of emotion to the process, with sometimes regrettable results. I'm expecting more of the same as the NFL presses forward with its strategy of painting players as the ones unwilling to negotiate.

On parting with T.J. Houshmandzadeh

September, 3, 2010
9/03/10
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A year ago, the Seattle Seahawks might never have guessed that T.J. Houshmandzadeh would prove more expendable than Deion Branch.

Houshmandzadeh
Houshmandzadeh
Houshmandzadeh's expected departure from the Seahawks after one 79-catch season shows -- again -- that the Seahawks are serious about pruning their roster and rebulding with their own players.

Houshmandzadeh does not fit into the team's long-term plans. Neither did cornerback Josh Wilson. And because the Seahawks are anxious to try out fresh talent at those players' positions, they're pushing Houshmandzadeh and Wilson out the door ahead of schedule.

Those who have followed the Seahawks for years will recall former coach Mike Holmgren parting with Ahman Green, Sam Adams, Phillip Daniels, Joey Galloway, Pete Kendall and others during the early stages of his Seattle tenure. The team didn't necessarily have adequate replacements lined up, but Holmgren had in some cases decided to move on anyway (he regretted losing Daniels).

New Seattle bosses Pete Carroll and John Schneider didn't inherit players as talented as the ones Holmgren pushed out, but Houshmandzadeh was the Seahawks' most proven receiver, and Wilson had been a playmaker. A team's new leaders can sometimes be so eager to reshape a roster that they're willing to make short-term personnel sacrifices. In this case, Carroll and Schneider might not think they're sacrificing anything at all. They simply inherited a team that had only nine victories to show for its past two seasons.

Houshmandzadeh's departure clears the way for Mike Williams to build upon what has the potential to become an all-time great career revival. Pushing out Houshmandzadeh also removes from the locker room a strong personality -- one unafraid to complain about his role. Williams, Golden Tate and Deon Butler in particular have shown promise this summer. The Seahawks also tried to acquire Brandon Marshall and they've looked into Vincent Jackson, so there's a chance the team isn't finished reshaping that position.

The Seahawks will lose their most proven receiver and a player whose on-field rapport with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck appeared markedly better than when they first started working together. But they'll be one step closer to fulfilling their long-term vision, and that is the priority.

Danny O'Neil's item about the Seahawks not drafting a first-round tackle since 2000 sent me back through past Seattle drafts for a closer look at the offensive linemen.

The centers, guards and tackles Seattle drafted from 1994 through 1998 -- the Randy Mueller and Dennis Erickson years -- have combined to start 818 regular-season games. Three of the five long-time starters from that era left Seattle relatively quickly, opening spots on the line for future Seahawks draft choices. But the 15 offensive linemen Seattle has drafted since 1999 have combined to start only 460 regular-season games, 132 by Steve Hutchinson.

What to make of this disparity? A few things:

  • Quite a few of the players drafted more recently aren't finished. They'll rack up lots more starts. Hutchinson, Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Max Unger and possibly Steve Vallos could combine for hundreds of starts over the next five seasons.
  • Four of the five primary starters drafted from 1994 to 1998 -- Kevin Mawae, Pete Kendall, Walter Jones and Todd Weiner -- were selected among the top 47 overall choices (27.5 on average). The five most promising active linemen from the more recent group -- Hutchinson, Locklear, Spencer, Sims and Unger -- were drafted 61st overall on average.
  • Chris McIntosh, the 22nd player chosen in 2000, suffered a debilitating neck stinger early in his career. His early retirement was a freak occurrence costing the 1999-present group quite a few starts. McIntosh wasn't necessarily impressive early in his career, but it's reasonable to think he would have started for years and improved.
  • It's important for Seattle to find another long-term starting tackle in this draft. Seattle holds the sixth overall choice, a slot once used to find Walter Jones. It's unrealistic to think Seattle could find a tackle of Jones' caliber with the sixth pick this year, but it's reasonable to expect any tackle taken that early to start a lot of games.

The charts rank these two groups of Seattle draft choices by most games started.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The NFLPA's annual Super Bowl news conference doubled as reunion for players with ties to current NFC West teams.

Eight of the 15 current and former players on the stage spent all or part of their careers with the Rams, Seahawks, Cardinals or 49ers. Each is actively representing the NFLPA as the league and its players head toward an uncapped year and possible lockout.

"More than anything, what I feel my role can be is educating some of these younger players," former 49ers and Seahawks running back Ricky Watters said. "I was able to do a good job of keeping my money. I have a good life and a great family. When I talk to a lot of the younger guys, they look at me as kind of the tough guy, the rebel guy, but I want them to know I was always tough and all that, but at the same time, intelligence is the whole thing."

Watters thinks too many players are living beyond their means without knowing it. As the NFL and the NFLPA head toward a possible lockout, Watters said it's important for the union to make sure players are prepared for what awaits if the league shuts down.

A quick look at the eight players and the current NFC West teams for which they play or played:

  • Walt Harris, CB (49ers). Rehabbing from knee surgery and hoping to re-sign with the 49ers or play for another team.
  • Watters, RB (49ers, Seahawks). Retired and living in Orlando with his wife and their 8-year-old son.
  • Kevin Carter, DE (Rams). Retired.
  • Ernie Conwell, TE (Rams). Retired and living in Tennessee.
  • Kevin Mawae, C (Seahawks). Titans starter.
  • Pete Kendall, G (Seahawks, Cardinals). Retired unless a team calls and requests his services.
  • Leonard Weaver, FB (Seahawks). Eagles starter.
  • Dwayne White, OL (Rams). Retired.

Former players Barry Sanders, Nolan Harrison, Ki-Jana Carter, Mike McBath, Ben Utt and Mark Bruener joined current Texans guard Chester Pitts among the 15 players.

Around the NFC West: Bridges could start

December, 11, 2009
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Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Jeremy Bridges could start at left tackle for the Cardinals even though longtime starter Mike Gandy was back at practice Thursday. Gandy is in the final year of his contract.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Russ Grimm has made a big difference as the Cardinals' offensive line coach. Bickley: "He inherited a mess left by former coach Dennis Green, who cut Pete Kendall on his way to training camp; drafted Alex Stepanovich and Nick Leckey; hired a former player as offensive-line coach (Everett Lindsay), even though he had no coaching experience; and insisted on playing Leonard Davis out of position. Grimm immediately simplified the scheme and instilled a sense of loyalty and toughness. Prior to the win against the Vikings, the starting unit had played in 27 consecutive regular-season games, and that doesn't happen by accident. After rushing for 100 or more yards just once in the first seven games, the Cardinals have surpassed that benchmark four times -- all of them victories -- in the past five games."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals-49ers matchup highlights the importance of a franchise quarterback.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' decisions to rest Anquan Boldin, Kurt Warner and Gandy have paid off.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says quarterback Matt Hasselbeck ran pass routes and caught the ball from receiver Deion Branch after practice. Hasselbeck: "It gives the receivers a different [perspective], you know, realize what helps them and doesn’t help them. Definitely for quarterbacks it gives you a [perspective] when you’re running full speed where you really appreciate the ball and where you really wouldn’t appreciate the ball."

Jose Miguel Romero of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are bracing for Texans receiver Andre Johnson.

Also from Romero: Hasselbeck says he's feeling much better physically.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Deon Butler's clutch reception from Hasselbeck against the 49ers reflected a developing rapport between receiver and quarterback. Hasselbeck: "Deon and I tried earlier this year and missed each other a little bit," Hasselbeck said. "I go back to the first third down we had against Arizona at home, we had an opportunity to score. There were other times we had opportunities and we just were off a little bit, so it felt good to hit that one. Obviously it was a critical one and hopefully we can keep going that way."

Matt Pitman of 710ESPN Seattle offers audio links to interviews with Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and cornerback Marcus Trufant.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers highs and lows for the Rams over the last decade. Torry Holt emerges as the team's top player during that time. A game against the Broncos in 2000 qualified as the best season opener. Thomas: "The Gateway City hadn’t played host to Monday Night Football for 14 seasons, or since Bill Bidwill and the Big Red called St. Louis home. But with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on hand, the defending Super Bowl-champion Rams won a 41-36 track meet over Denver. The Rams scored three TDs of 72 yards or longer. One of them, an 80-yard catch and run by Az-Zahir Hakim, became a signature play of the Greatest Show on Turf. Hakim received an escort down the sidelines by Torry Holt, with the two laughing and joking with each other along the way. It looked like so much fun."

Also from Thomas: Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller and Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant stand out as players the Rams might need to consider drafting.

More from Thomas: Rams fullback Mike Karney is eager to get back on the field after recovering from a neck injury. Of his injury: "I've put my neck and head in way tougher hits. But it goes to show that it can happen to anybody. The specialist told me it was like lightning striking. My head and neck were at the wrong angle hitting the defender ... and it just caught me." Karney sought advice from former NFL fullback Lorenzo Neal.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Rams punter Donnie Jones is enjoying another strong season.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the Cardinals are expecting plenty of Frank Gore on Monday night even though the 49ers have all but phased out the running back in recent weeks. Barrows: "It's almost as if teams, especially division teams, aren't quite believing what they're seeing with the 49ers' new, pass-first attack. For the last three seasons, Gore has been the only offensive player who demanded respect from defenses. It doesn't appear that Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan and Delanie Walker have earned it yet."

Also from Barrows: The Cardinals could have a more balanced offense than the 49ers have shown recently. Mike Singletary: "They're really trying to focus more on a balanced attack. They're not there yet, but they're trying to focus more on a balanced attack. Both of those running backs are running hard. They're running downhill and they're doing a good job being physical, finishing their runs. I think that's where they are right now as an offense."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat says the 49ers have attempted passes on 73.6 percent of their plays over the last two weeks. Maiocco: "(Coordinator Jimmy) Raye said during the exhibition season that he wanted the 49ers to run the ball 60 percent of the time. But against Jacksonville and Seattle -- games in which the 49ers never trailed by more than a touchdown -- the 49ers turned into a shotgun, passing attack."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with ESPN's Ron Jaworski for an update on Smith's progress. Jaworski: "Some of those throws have a knee-lock, and it's kind of driving that shoulder up in the air. So you lose a little bit of your velocity. But he has gotten better. It's not as consistent and as noticeable as it was a couple of years ago."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers guard Adam Snyder uses about 27,000 feet of athletic tape over the course of a year. Snyder: "That's crazy. That's an interesting way of looking at it. It makes me feel bad using all that tape, but I need it. It keeps my joints intact for the most part. I haven't had many injuries in my hands. ... I have to do it for safety, to keep my wrists and fingers safe. Once you lose those as a lineman, you're in trouble. That's how I make my money, using my hands."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

A trick question to test your divisional knowledge on a May Saturday: Which veteran head coach has led teams in three of the four current NFC West cities?

Hint: He's a current head coach.

(Read full post)

Locker rooms a world unto themselves

September, 4, 2008
9/04/08
2:31
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bill Coats of Around the Horns offers a glimpse of life inside the Rams' locker room today. Players were talking politics, and safety Corey Chavous read aloud a Newsweek story about Iraq as teammates gathered around. I've never seen anything like that in an NFL locker room.

A glimpse inside Seattle's new digs Wednesday showed how extra space can allow for personal freedoms. The locker room covers 6,700 square feet. At one end, defensive tackle and part-time musician Craig Terrill dressed not far from a portable stereo blaring Lynyrd Skynyrd. Hip-hop beats percolated from other reaches of the locker room.

If anyone was reading Newsweek, I didn't notice. Guard Pete Kendall, now with the Redskins, used to sit at his locker completing crossword puzzles with a king-sized dip hanging from his lower lip. I once saw players fall out laughing after a defensive player mistook hair spray for antiperspirant, then wondered why his pits felt funny.

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