NFC West: Roger Goodell

Aldon Smith avoided charges for allegedly making a fake bomb threat at LAX in April.

However, he must learn from the incident. The San Francisco 49ers’ star linebacker has to realize that he has to do the right thing every day and his actions are going to be closely watched.

Smith put himself in this situation by having several off-field issues since entering the NFL three years ago.

In truth, even if misdemeanor charges were filed in Los Angeles, Smith would still have much bigger issues to contend with. But at least they are being addressed, and he does have a chance to soon get a clean slate. He will be sentenced July 25 for pleading no contest to three felony gun charges. He could face jail time. The NFL could also suspend him, as well.

However, those issues occurred before Smith took steps last September to get his life in order. He voluntarily entered a substance abuse treatment center and missed five games. The team was supportive and positive about Smith when he rejoined the team in late October and into the offseason. In October in London, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the fact Smith was seeking treatment could help him avoid or get a lesser suspension.

The landscape changed with the incident at LAX. The 49ers immediately put out a release stating they were “disappointed.” The team seriously considered not giving Smith his 2015 option despite it being a no-brainer business decision. Privately, people within the team and the league were furious that Smith was in the news again for negative reasons.

As part of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office’s decision not to file charges, they will have a hearing later this month with Smith. The goal of the hearing will be to teach Smith to avoid such situations in the future.

That is the ultimate lesson here: Smith has to avoid putting himself in bad situations.

The 49ers want him to succeed off the field, and they continue to support him. But if another situation arises, that might no longer be the case. As this review closes, Smith must make sure it’s the final bad situation he is involved in.
Vernon Davis put on his reporter’s hat Friday when he asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a question during his annual news conference.

The San Francisco 49ers tight end hit a hot-button topic when he asked about why former players don’t receive health insurance for life from the NFL. Here is the exchange:

Davis: "Roger, we play one of America’s most dangerous and most lucrative games, but, still, we have to fight for health benefits. We have to jump through [hoops] for it. Why doesn’t the NFL offer free health care for life, especially for those suffering from brain injury?"

Goodell: "Vernon, first off, we had lots of discussions about that in the collective bargaining process. We went back and improved a lot of our health benefits, both for former players and for current players, to the point where I think the health benefits that are provided to current NFL players are the best in the world. And so I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do with the union in approving those benefits.

"We all still have a lot of work to do for former players. The cost of trying to provide health care for every player that’s ever played in the league was discussed with the union. It was determined that these changes were the best changes, and that’s what we negotiated. But we’re all proud of the efforts that we made. We will continue to make more efforts and do a better job, particularly with our former players, in providing them opportunities and to give them the proper health care. And our programs -- as an example, the '88 Plan' for anyone who has dementia or any other kind of neurological disorder -- that’s there for the players and their families for lifetime. So we have programs that are addressing those issues that we have created, or the owners have created, on their own. And we also have several of them that were created with the union."

In other 49ers notes:

• Backup offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore was arrested for public intoxication in his Tennessee hometown last weekend. Kilgore is a candidate to start at center in 2014.

• Quarterback Colin Kaepernick participated in a long interview on ESPN’s Bill Simmons' "B.S. Report."
Gavin Newsom, lieutenant governor of California, personally called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as a character witness for Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch regarding a DUI arrest.

How's that for having friends in high places?

As Mike Silver explains in a piece looking more broadly at the intersection of sports and politics in California, Newsom and NFL agent Doug Hendrickson are friends. Hendrickson's client list includes Lynch, whose case has not yet been resolved.

"For him to take the time out to talk to the commissioner about me is something I will never forget," Lynch said for the Silver piece. "For Gavin to be the second-most powerful person in California and [still] talk to a kid from Oakland and help me learn about business, it tells you what kind of character he has."

The manner in which the NFL has proceeded with Lynch is consistent with how the league handles unresolved DUI cases in the absence of aggravating circumstances. Still, it can't hurt having leading political figures vouching for you.

NFC West links: Is Mike Iupati next man up?

April, 10, 2013
Arizona Cardinals

Count Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson among those players who think commissioner Roger Goodell is "changing the game for the good."

New Cardinals Curtis Taylor and Bryan McCann discuss what it's like as a lesser-known free agent trying to land a job.

St. Louis Rams

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "No, Rodger Saffold isn’t happy about his impending switch to right tackle for the Rams. But those close to Saffold insist he won’t be a malcontent and won’t be a holdout."

Nick Wagoner of the team's website previews the specialists heading into this month's NFL draft.

San Francisco 49ers

Could 49ers left guard Mike Iupati be the next in line for a contract extension?

Several 49ers coaches recently took a tour of the new stadium. “I think it’s real exciting in the sense of seeing it going up and the impact it’ll have on the economy here,” offensive line coach Mike Solari said of the tour. “It’s going to be a beautiful facility.”

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks on Tuesday announced they have signed quarterback Brady Quinn to back up Russell Wilson.

Seattle offensive tackle Breno Giacomini watched his Louisville Cardinals win the national championship Monday night.
The NFL handed down only one fine from 16 personal fouls stemming from NFC West teams' final games using replacement officials.

The low number was telling.

Commissioner Roger Goodell usually metes out fines for such penalties when the league feels as though the flags were thrown for good reason.

In this case, Seattle's Brandon Browner was the only player receiving a fine for Week 4 flags from NFC West teams' games. He'll pay $7,875 for unnecessary roughness committed against Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings. Officials flagged Jennings, too, but they did not fine him.

The chart shows all Week 4 personal fouls against individual NFC West players or their opponents, sorted by team and shaded for your viewing pleasure.

The NFL did levy a $15,750 fine against Philadelphia's Jason Babin for a horse-collar tackle against Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling. Officials did not flag Babin on the play, although the penalty appeared to be blatant.

Inside Slant: Integrity of the game

September, 26, 2012
The NFL and its regular officiating crews were moving closer toward an agreement when Kevin Seifert and I recorded our weekly "Inside Slant" podcast this week.

In it, Kevin references a pertinent quote from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell:
"I have the good fortune of hearing from fans directly throughout the year. The one thing that really struck me from the fans reaction was how important integrity of the game was. They put that as No. 1 on their list. One of the fans articulated it in a very simple fashion: I want to know what I am seeing is real and that there are no outside influences. I think that resonated with people; it certainly did with me."

Goodell spoke those words in March. Recent events have called them into question. Kevin and I discussed the implications, touching upon gambling and some strong words from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers, in part: "The game is being tarnished by an NFL who obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game."

NFL: Block on Rams' Brockers was illegal

September, 6, 2012
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell remains the leading force in player safety with or without replacement officials.

Goodell provided a reminder this week by fining the Baltimore Ravens' Ramon Harewood for the block that sidelined St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers with a high-ankle sprain. The $8,000 fine, reported by Aaron Wilson and pointed out by Jim Thomas, represents 27.8 percent of Harewood's scheduled game check for Week 1, based on a projected $490,000 salary for the 17-week season.

The fine also signifies that the NFL thought officials -- replacement ones in this case -- should have penalized Harewood for the dangerous block delivered during both teams' final exhibition game. Brockers, the Rams' first-round pick and the centerpiece of their efforts to shore up a shaky run defense, could miss a month or so.

The NFL lists $7,875 as its minimum fine for low blocks and chop blocks. The minimum rises to $15,750 for repeat offenders. The NFL reserves the right to increase fines based on severity. Suspensions are also a possibility.

While the $8,000 represents a significant chunk of Harewood's weekly pay, it doesn't reflect the damage inflicted upon Brockers and the Rams. Injuries have left the Rams unusually thin at defensive tackle, undermining in the short term their efforts to stabilize the defense. High-ankle sprains can linger all season and beyond, as Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has discovered.

HOF12: The experience of a lifetime

August, 4, 2012
CANTON, Ohio -- Sights and sounds from a magical first 30 hours in Canton for festivities relating to the upcoming 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony:

Batting 1.000

[+] EnlargeCortez Kennedy
US PresswireNo doubt, Seattle's Cortez Kennedy was one of the most dominant defensive players of his era.
Cortez Kennedy was the person I hoped to see first Thursday night after unloading bags for check-in at the McKinley Grand Hotel. He was the 2012 enshrinee I'd covered years ago and gotten to know while presenting his case to the other Hall selectors. Having the retired Seattle Seahawks great step out from the hotel's entrance before I could get my bags to the curb foreshadowed good fortune.

A trip to the hotel bar a couple of hours later found the place mostly empty except for a couple of reporters from Minnesota. I sat down with them and soon discovered Hall of Famer John Randle, Kennedy's teammate on the 1990s All-Decade team, seated across the way. Two-for-two and three full days in Canton still to come.

I'm not much of a drinker -- a six-pack lasts a year in our house -- so when tequila shots appeared unexpectedly on our side of the bar, visions of "Frank the Tank" from Old School came to mind.

My hesitance must have been easy to spot. Randle rose from his chair and looked my way.

"Hey, you in?"

Enjoying the ride(s)

Trip 1 to the elevator produces a five-story ride with Thurman Thomas and his wife, Patti.

Leroy Kelly, Elvin Bethea and Roger Wehrli are along for the ride on a subsequent trip.

By then, my wife, Kim, and our two sons, Derek (10) and Cade (7), have arrived via red-eye flight from Seattle to Cleveland. We'd decided to make this a family trip, a mini-vacation for them, upon learning months earlier that Kennedy had earned enshrinement.

"We were just in the elevator with Gale Sayers!" Derek announced upon entering our room.

Heading to the Hall

The lobby was packed with Hall of Famers, most wearing their gold jackets, as they assemble for bus rides (police escorts included) to the Hall for a dedication ceremony. Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr. will be there when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Hall officials cut red ribbon for the new Pro Football Research and Preservation Center in Wilson's name.

Another chance meeting with Kennedy produces a lucky break. He graciously invites me to ride along in his car, along with Mark, an off-duty police officer from Las Vegas and Kennedy's friend since 1994.

The weather is already sizzling when we arrive, but it doesn't get much cooler than this: Hall of Fame corner Lem Barney, who averaged five picks per season for 11 years with the Detroit Lions, practically intercepts us as we get out of the car. He shakes Kennedy's hand. Mark and I get handshakes, too. Kennedy follows the red carpet to the special seating area for Hall of Famers.

All in the family

Mark and I wind up sitting next to Patti Thomas, Thurman's wife, in the front row of the general-seating area. Sayers and Joe Greene sit across the rope divider about 6 feet away. She's moved when Wilson, 93 and a World War II veteran, delivers a speech marked by self-deprecating humor after initially needing assistance to stand.

The Hall experience can be as much for the families as for the enshrinees themselves.

"I'm his wife and I'm blown away," Patti Thomas said. "These guys that you grow up watching ... my brothers come. They are huge sports fans. They're like kids in a candy shop. They've met 'em all and they're still like that, over and over again. Ninety-five percent of the guys are very outgoing. It's been an amazing thing. What a huge blessing."

Ray Nitschke Luncheon

From the Hall, it's off to the annual initiation luncheon, a chance for the new class to socialize with existing Hall of Famers in a private setting. Goodell is there, as are Hall officials, Class of 2012 presenters and some selection committee members. There are no wives or family members. And when lunch is served, enshrinees head into their own private room. No one else is allowed inside.

A microphone gets passed around, but the current class only listens. What happens beyond that, no one can say for certain.

"Thurman has so much fun when we come," Patti Thomas said. "He tells me his favorite thing of all is the Ray Nitschke Luncheon because it's only Hall of Famers, just the guys in there. And he said that is the coolest event because 'it's just us.' Nobody else is allowed to come in there and he loves it."

A Butler and a dentist

Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Jack Butler waited 50 years for enshrinement, a record. His son and presenter, John, would give a guy the shirt off his back. John Butler did just that Friday. When one of the Hall of Famers showed up with the wrong shirt -- all were supposed to wear official blue Hall polos -- the younger Butler gave up his.

While the Hall of Famers were enjoying their privacy and camaraderie at the Nitschke luncheon, John Butler and Willie Roaf's father, Clifton, a retired dentist, sat down at the table I'd chosen in our less exclusive luncheon room.

What an honor it was for me, a first-time visitor to Canton, and the two other Hall selectors seated at our table.

I'd approached Jack Butler in the hotel lobby earlier in the day, congratulating him on his enshrinement. With Ted Hendricks, James Lofton and several other Hall of Famers gathering nearby, the elder Butler said, "it's starting to have a meaning to it all."

"It's amazing, just incredible," John Butler said. "You think about it in the past, we would look at his numbers, ever since I was a kid, and say, 'Wow, his numbers match up.' But it's not like an expectation he'll get in. When it happens, it's overwhelming."

Gold Jacket Dinner

[+] EnlargeCurtis Martin
Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive/Getty ImagesBeing steady in his career and patient with his rushing attack earned Curtis Martin a Hall of Fame induction.
Kennedy, Roaf, Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman and Curtis Martin received their gold jackets during an emotional ceremony at the local civic center Friday night.

Our family purchased tickets and arrived with a group featuring Greene, Dave Casper, Tom Mack and others.

"Is that the ghost-to-the-post guy?" Cade, our youngest, asked later.

That was him. Of course, Casper accomplished much more for the Oakland Raiders than his famed overhead grab for a 42-yard gain against Baltimore on Christmas Eve 1977. A 7-year-old raised on NFL Films drama might not know that yet.

Dozens of previously enshrined Hall of Famers took their turn walking an aisle through guest tables before greeting the 2012 class on stage. My wife heard our oldest, Derek, gasp when Marshall Faulk's name was called.

The boys craned to see Warren Moon make his entrance.

The video highlight packages are what got me.

Dawson pulling from his center position and flattening the same defender twice on one play. Doleman forcing fumble after fumble with blind-side hits on quarterbacks. Kennedy beating the center and then dragging the guard into the backfield to stop a runner in his tracks. Roaf collapsing one side of the formation with devastating power. Martin setting up his runs with patience and accelerating away from trouble. Butler picking off passes, scoring as a receiver and lighting up opponents (I feared Goodell might fine him retroactively).

There were poignant moments, too. The elder Roaf hugged his son and wouldn't let go. When he finally walked away, leaving his son to sport his new jacket alone on the stage, Clifton Roaf squeezed the bridge of his nose between finger and thumb, as if to stop the tears.

The after party

Once the Gold Jacket Dinner broke, Hall of Famers and their families returned to the hotel for a reception.

My kids headed straight for the ice cream sundae bar, of course.

Not to worry, a nearby bartender offered. Bill Parcells, presenter for Martin, had done the same thing. A weekend such as this one makes all of us feel like kids.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave the only response he could logically provide when reporters asked him Wednesday about using replacement officiating crews during the exhibition season.

There's no heightened risk to players, Goodell said, because safety is "obviously such a focus for us" that replacement crews have been "training on that basis."

Well, of course the NFL is emphasizing safety measures to these replacement officials while retired players file lawsuits seeking damages for their physical troubles. That doesn't mean officials unfamiliar with the speed of the NFL game will handle their responsibilities as well as officials with decades of experience. They could be more likely in the short term to miss calls endangering players.

But players are the most important variables in the safety equation. Officials can talk to them about refraining from dangerous tactics banned by the rulebook. Officials can toss penalty flags after the fact. But if a player launches himself at a defenseless receiver or dives into the legs of a vulnerable quarterback, not even the best, most experienced official can stop it from happening.

The Arizona Cardinals should feel good about the safety environment heading into their exhibition opener against New Orleans on Sunday. The Saints have been under scrutiny all off season for their bounty program. They'll be under scrutiny Sunday.

The Cardinals need their offensive line to protect quarterback Kevin Kolb. They need Kolb to protect himself by getting rid of the football or sidestepping pressure. A correctly administered rulebook probably isn't going to spare Kolb from the hits that threaten quarterbacks.

Longer term, precedent suggests the NFL and its officials will settle their dispute right around Week 1, and this impasse will be forgotten, just like the others.
It's melodramatic to suggest the 2012 NFC West race hinges on Marshawn Lynch's availability to the Seattle Seahawks early in the season.

It's more reasonable to frame Lynch's availability for the Seahawks' opening-week matchup against Arizona as potentially pivotal, at least.

The Cardinals finished one game ahead of the Seahawks in the standings last season, claiming an overtime home victory against Seattle in Week 17. The teams appear evenly matched pending unanswered questions at quarterback. We've invested time this offseason debating whether Seattle or Arizona appears better positioned to challenge San Francisco for the division title this season.

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
AP Photo/Amy SancettaThe Seahawks managed only three points in a loss to the Browns in their only game without Marshawn Lynch last season.
The Seahawks, having built their offense around Lynch, scored only three points in their lone game without him last season.

So, if the NFL does suspend Lynch following the running back's recent DUI arrest, the Seahawks' chances for victory at Arizona in Week 1 would take a significant hit. Fantasy football general managers also have strong interest in the matter, as do the Seahawks' division rivals beyond Arizona.

"Sando, the questions all of us have for you are, 'Will Lynch be suspended if he is not convicted for his DUI? Will he be suspended if convicted of DUI, but no jail time?' " 4949Centennial asked.

I would expect no suspension in the absence of a DUI conviction. Jail time would not be a key variable, in my view.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can fine or suspend Lynch either way. The NFL Players Association might disagree, but that is my interpretation based on precedent. However, a suspension in the absence of a conviction or plea agreement would surprise me quite a bit. Lynch has no previous alcohol-related incidents on his record. He has shown remorse and taken responsibility for his actions through a public statement.

In general, the NFL issues only fines for first-time violators of its alcohol policy.

"If the commissioner finds that there were aggravating circumstances, including but not limited to felonious conduct or serious injury or death of third parties, and/or if the player has had prior drug or alcohol-related misconduct, increased discipline up to and including suspension may be imposed," the policy states. "Discipline for a second or subsequent offense is likely to be a suspension, the duration of which may escalate for repeat offenses."

At worst, Lynch would be a first-time offender of the policy regarding alcohol. However, the NFL's policy on personal conduct says "persons who have had previous violations of law or of this policy may be considered repeat offenders."

Lynch was suspended in 2009 for a weapons violation. That incident could increase the likelihood of a suspension for Lynch in the DUI case, depending upon the outcome. The relatively significant gap in time between the weapons case and the DUI arrest, coupled with Lynch's public statement taking responsibility, would seem to work in Lynch's favor.

Skilled attorneys can often help first-time DUI offenders emerge with something less than a full-fledged conviction. Lynch should be in good position to avoid a suspension, in my view. His biggest worry should rest on whether Goodell wants to make an example of him.
These weren't the statements NFC West teams hoped to make recently:
  • From St. Louis: "The Rams and the NFL office are aware of the situation regarding Robert Quinn. We take such matters very seriously, and we will act accordingly once the legal process plays out."
  • From San Francisco: "The 49ers are aware that Aldon Smith incurred minor injuries during an incident last night. We are in contact with Aldon, and thankful that his injuries were not more serious and that he is recovering comfortably. The 49ers are also in communication with local authorities as they gather information regarding the incident, and will reserve further comment at this time."
  • From Seattle: "We are aware of the situation with Marshawn [Lynch] and still gathering information."

Quinn and Lynch face DUI-related charges. Smith suffered injuries during a party that got out of hand. Their teams responded the way teams tend to respond, by acknowleding the situations without saying much, if anything, about them.

Teams walk a fine line. They usually share the public's frustration over such incidents, but they also hope to minimize the fallout. There's no sense in rushing to judgment, either. Two years ago, the Arizona Cardinals issued a similar statement regarding a player who had been arrested in California. Their restraint was warranted; authorities dropped the charges amid suggestions the player had done nothing wrong.

The situation with Lynch appears most serious among those listed above. Three years ago, while with the Buffalo Bills, Lynch served a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy for personal conduct. Alcohol-related arrests fall under the NFL's policy for substance abuse. The distinction could be helpful in projecting likely punishment for Lynch, arguably Seattle's most important player on offense.

The NFL ultimately did not punish Lynch in 2008 for traffic violations related to a hit-and-run investigation. The league levied a three-game suspension against Lynch for gun-related violations a year later. Those violations fell under the personal conduct policy. The hit-and-run case also would have fallen under personal conduct had Lynch faced charges more serious than traffic violations.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell retains sweeping powers when it comes to player discipline. Lynch's' history of off-field incidents will likely come into play. To what degree remains less clear. On that front, you could say I'm aware of the situation and gathering information.
Good morning. I'm looking forward to renewing acquaintances in the comments section after a couple weeks away.

First, let's throw out a few subjects for conversation.

Brian McIntyre of says Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons saw his 2012 base salary shrink from $4 million to $3 million after skipping a mandatory minicamp last month. McIntyre: "Knowing that his failure to appear for the minicamp would result in a loss of 2012 income, either through forfeiture or fines, can be taken as a sign of how serious Clemons is about receiving a new contract." Noted: I question whether Clemons knew so much salary would be at stake. Not many players sacrifice 25 percent in potential income over a three-day non-contact camp. Clemons can be difficult to read, however. Clemons changed his mind after initially informing coach Pete Carroll that he planned to attend that camp. I'd expect Clemons to report in time for training camp. The Seahawks practice Saturday.

Clare Farnsworth of says assistant coach Brian Schneider is pleased with his special-teams units. Noted: Analysts will measure first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin more by his sack total than anything else, but he could be a player to watch on special teams. We've seen other first-round picks around the division make impact plays in that area. First-round defensive end Robert Quinn was a threat to block punts for the Rams last season. Irvin should have similar capabilities based on his speed.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic points to O'Brien Schofield as the key variable for the Cardinals at linebacker this season. Somers: "If Schofield has a breakout season, the Cardinals linebacking corps is set up for years to come. If he doesn't, they will need Clark Haggans to play like he's 25 instead of 35, or for Quentin Groves to step up."

Darren Urban of lays out 10 questions for the team heading into training camp. Noted: Urban raises all the good ones. The quarterback situation is obviously primary, but health at running back stands out as one to watch. The team needs Beanie Wells to hold up long enough for Ryan Williams to make what the Cardinals hope will be a complete recovery from a torn patella. Urban: "The reality is that the Cards expect both to be ready for the regular season, enough so that the only veteran added in the offseason was Javarris James -– a longshot to make the team at best. LaRod Stephens-Howling and Alfonso Smith are the other two backs who will have a role, but the Cards need Williams and Wells. If they are ready to play, it’s a very nice tandem to have."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch raises five Rams-related questions heading toward camp. Noted: The first three questions directly or indirectly relate to quarterback Sam Bradford. That's appropriate.

Also from Burwell: serious questions about alcohol-related driving arrests involving athletes in St. Louis and elsewhere. Burwell: "This is the very thing that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently warned all 32 teams to be on guard for as their players headed off into the short break between the end of organized offseason workouts in June and the start of training camps at the end of July. Last month, Goodell sent out a league-wide memo specifically warning front offices to reinforce to their players about the dangers of driving while impaired." Noted: This one is worth expanding on separately. More to come.

Matt Maiocco of sees potential parallels between current San Francisco 49ers franchise player Dashon Goldson and former one Aubrayo Franklin. Maiocco: "This could serve as a cautionary tale for all franchise players. Franklin was entering his eighth NFL season when the 49ers tagged him. Goldson is entering his sixth season. Goldson wants to earn the kind of long-term contract that never came for Franklin. ... Goldson must do whatever he believes will give him the best opportunity to have a strong season. Because if he does not have a strong season, he may never get a long-term contract." Noted: The 49ers lack proven alternatives at safety beyond Goldson and Donte Whitner, but they know Goldson will almost certainly report in time for the season. And they know Goldson will have ample incentive to perform in the absence of long-term security. This situation favors the 49ers.

Also from Maiocco: It's no sure thing the 49ers will give a long-term extension to any current players before or during the 2012 season.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News raises five 49ers-related questions heading into camp.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects Joe Looney and Darius Fleming to open 49ers camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle explains why Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz expects the 49ers' win total to plummet in 2012. More on this later in the week.
Gregg Williams, a man not known for mincing words when he was defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, spoke in a very different tone Friday.

[+] EnlargeGregg Williams
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliFormer Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has remained quiet since being suspended indefinitely.
At a charity golf tournament in his hometown of Excelsior Springs, Mo., Williams told Elizabeth Merrill that he will coach again.

Williams has been suspended indefinitely for his role in the Saints’ bounty program. Williams declined comment on the bounty scandal and said the golf event was “all about the kids,’’ who benefit from his charity foundation.

Williams left the Saints for the St. Louis Rams immediately after last season. He previously issued a public apology for his role in the scandal. The fact Williams is staying quiet might seem out of character. But it’s probably the smartest thing Williams can do right now. If he is ever going to have a chance to work in the NFL again, staying quiet and humble is his best approach.

Although NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been stern when handing out punishments in the past, he also has shown a willingness to give people second chances (see Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress). Williams was the only player, coach or administrator that did not appeal his suspension.

There have been many that have said Williams never again should be allowed to coach in the NFL. That might end up being the case.

But Williams is at least making an effort not to anger Goodell, any further and that could score him valuable points in the long run.
The memo NFL commissioner Roger Goodell produced regarding a potential Los Angeles franchise doesn't change anything for the St. Louis Rams in the short term.

That's good for St. Louis fans prone to relocation fears every time the NFL and Los Angeles appear in the same sentence.

"Any franchise interested in relocating there for the 2013 season must apply between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 of that year, and prove it has exhausted all attempts to remain in its current location," the news story reads.

The Rams' lease binds them to St. Louis until at least March 2015 and possibly a decade longer, depending upon the course of ongoing arbitration between the team and the St. Louis stadium authority.

Goodell's memo reflects the NFL's interest to build an "iconic facility" capable of serving two teams. Such a facility could appeal to the Rams and other teams in the future, but not before March 2015 in the Rams' case.

The gap between the New Orleans Saints' savagely stated intentions and their on-field actions provides an opening to question the punishment handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Jonathan Vilma's season-long suspension for helping to establish and fund the program carries particular interest in the NFC West.

"Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Vilma offered a specific bounty -- $10,000 in cash -- to any player who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 divisional playoff game and later pledged the same amount to anyone who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game the following week," the NFL announced in meting out the punishment.

Saints defensive end Bobby McCray did knock Warner from the game for a time with a crushing hit following an interception, but Warner himself feels as though the Saints did not cross a line with their actions that day.

Warner's comments to Burns & Gambo on Arizona Sports 620 made clear his feelings:
"I could have been seriously hurt every time I stepped on that football field. There is no question that players went out to hurt me and knock me out of games many times throughout my career, whether or not there was a $10,000 bounty on me. Again, I look at it and say, 'Did somebody hit me harder in that situation because the bounty was there?' I don't know. I don't believe so. I believe that was a situation [on the McCray hit] that was set up perfectly for any defensive player, and any defensive player would have taken it. And it was a clean hit and it was a bigger man hitting a smaller man who wasn't prepared for it. And i got crushed.

"I would be mad if someone took a shot at me that was outside the rules of engagement to try to hurt me. If i got hurt because of that, then I would be extremely angry and to me that would cross way over that line.

"I believe that there have been defensive linemen in the locker room many a times say, 'Hey, the first one to knock Kurt out of the game, I'm buying dinner or I'm doing this after the game or whatever. I believe that stuff has gone on for years and years and years. And it wasn't the intention of taking a cheap shot. It was the intention of giving their team a benefit from knocking out a good player on the other team. No doubt in my mind, that that has gone on for years.

"There have been games where I felt like, 'They're really just trying to take me out of this game. They're going a little above and beyond.' I didn't feel that in that playoff game against the Saints. I felt it was a good, hard, competitive football game where the hits on me were clean."

While Goodell is punishing the Saints specifically, he's attacking the bounty mind-set in general. Punishing Vilma and the Saints so harshly may or may not be fair to them. The NFL culture is the broader target.

Vilma and the Saints aren't being punished this week for the hits they put on Warner. League officials already reviewed those hits after the game as a matter of course. The punishment attacks the intentions and makes it easier for the NFL to counter in court allegations it hasn't taken player safety seriously enough.

Note: The video above features discussion on the punishment for Vilma and other players. Warner did not participate in that discussion.