NFC West: Ron Rivera

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Leave it to Candlestick Park to reunite the San Francisco 49ers and Terrell Owens.

Owens
The team announced Friday that the enigmatic, controversial retired receiver will be an honorary captain for the 49ers’ game against Carolina on Sunday. Owens will be part of the the top 10 moments in Candlestick Park history. It’s been a season-long celebration during the team’s final season at the stadium. The 49ers are moving 40 miles south to a new stadium in Santa Clara (adjacent to the team’s headquarters) next season.

The team will recognize Owens' last-minute 25-yard touchdown catch from Steve Young in a playoff victory against Green Bay in the 1998 playoffs. The play is remembered as “The Catch II” in 49ers' lore. "The Catch," of course, was a Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark connection to that sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 1982. It kick-started a dynasty for the franchise.

Owens' catch didn’t quite have the lingering affect on the franchise, but it was the zenith of sometimes rocky stint in San Francisco for Owens. He was traded to the Eagles in 2004.

But Sunday, in Owens’ final curtain call at Candlestick, all will be well.

In other 49ers’ notes:

49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh and Carolina coach Ron Rivera were teammates in Chicago from 1987-92. They face each other as head coaches for the first time Sunday.

Three 49ers participated in this poll concerning the mess in Miami.

Here is a 49ers’ perspective on the NFL putting a franchise in London.
Mike McCoy's expected hiring by the San Diego Chargers leaves the Arizona Cardinals ... where?

There is no way to know the answer to that question.

First, we do not know for sure what the Cardinals' plans are for naming a head coach. Second, we do not know whether McCoy will become a better head coach than the person Arizona winds up hiring in the end.

We do know Cardinals president Michael Bidwill announced intentions to interview Andy Reid, only to have Reid accept the Kansas City Chiefs' offer without visiting Arizona. We know reports suggested the Cardinals sought a second interview with McCoy, only to have McCoy cancel that interview after accepting the Chargers' offer.

So, from outside appearances, the Cardinals appear to be struggling in their search for Ken Whisenhunt's replacement. They do have an insurance policy in defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Missing out on Reid and McCoy would hurt more if Horton also appeared likely to land a head coaching job elsewhere. Horton appears more likely to stay, however.

In my view, firing Whisenhunt made sense if the Cardinals were in position to move decisively for a superior candidate. They have not done that to this point. Still, it's tough to render a verdict on the process before the Cardinals have made a hire. And even when they do make a hire, we won't immediately know whether they've made a good one.

Before hiring Whisenhunt in 2007, the Cardinals reportedly conducted second interviews with a group featuring Mike Sherman, Norm Chow, Cam Cameron and Ron Rivera. Whisenhunt was also a candidate to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers at that time.

Horton, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden have interviewed with the Cardinals this offseason. They appear to be the leading candidates.

No coach is going to succeed in Arizona without upgrading the quarterback situation. Whisenhunt proved he could win with a top quarterback. He lost his job because the quarterbacks he helped acquire and develop following Kurt Warner's retirement either could not stay healthy (Kevin Kolb) or struggled (John Skelton, Ryan Lindley) or both (Kolb, to varying degrees).

The other teams seeking head coaches generally have superior quarterback situations. That makes those teams more attractive to coaching candidates. If the Cardinals wind up settling for a lesser candidate, then they would have been better off keeping Whisenhunt, shuffling the offensive staff and making another run at finding the team's next quarterback.

Around the NFC West: Cardinals' relief

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
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The Arizona Cardinals had to like their schedule upon learning the previously 2-14 Carolina Panthers would be visiting University of Phoenix Stadium for the 2011 opener.

As the game drew nearer, however, there was also a realization that all the pressure was on Arizona. The Cardinals had fancied themselves as having been a quarterback away from contending again, and now they had that quarterback. The Panthers had longer-range aspirations after using the first pick in the 2011 draft for a supposedly raw quarterback, Cam Newton.

The pressure on Arizona had to feel very real Sunday when Newton was ripping apart the Cardinals' defense for 422 yards passing, more than a rookie had ever amassed in his NFL debut.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says relief was the prevailing emotion when cornerback Patrick Peterson atoned for problems in coverage with the winning 89-yard punt return for a touchdown. Bickley: "So football season begins with a sigh of relief. The Cardinals survived scattered boos and a jaw-dropping performance from Cam Newton, who embarrassed critics with a performance far exceeding what he did the previous time he was in Glendale, when he led Auburn to the BCS title. Peterson and fellow members of the secondary were scorched for most of the afternoon, culprits on a defense that allowed 477 yards." Noted: Fears over the Cardinals' defensive deficiencies came to life during this game. If there was a positive, it came in the Panthers' modest rushing totals. But with Week 2 opponent Washington having exceeded expectations on offense, the schedule is again appearing tougher than anticipated for Arizona early. Rex Grossman passed for 305 yards and two touchdowns during the Redskins' victory over the New York Giants.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' defensive communication issues appeared to continue in their first regular-season game. Noted: Replays did show safety Kerry Rhodes looking back as if confused or wondering where his help had gone during one long reception. That is never a good sign. Adrian Wilson was also trailing the play.

Also from Somers: This was the sort of game the Cardinals would have lost in 2010.

More from Somers: Kevin Kolb passed for 309 yards and generally played well during his first game with Arizona. Somers: "He did a nice reading coverage, and blitz adjustments resulted in at least two big passing touchdowns. The first, a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jeff King, came on a blitz the Cardinals had scouted well. The Cardinals noted that the Panthers tended to let the tight end go free on that blitz. So King acted like he was staying in to block, then released. The Panthers let him go." Noted: Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the team lost linebacker Jon Beason to injury during that play, and that Beason might have caught King had he not been injured. That was tough to verify in watching the replay. From my view, King appeared to be well in the clear when Beason dropped from the play.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com runs through Peterson's highs and lows.

Sneaking a peek at Week 1 opponents

August, 26, 2011
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The NFL lockout allowed teams to get a jump on familiarization with 2011 regular-season opponents.

The prep work was tougher for teams preparing to face opponents with new coaching staffs. That is why the Seattle Seahawks, scheduled to visit San Francisco in Week 1, have had added interest in the 49ers' preseason games this summer. Those games have provided at least some evidence as to what the 49ers might look like with Jim Harbaugh on the sideline.

"I’ve kept an eye on San Francisco because that’s a new team and all," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters Thursday. "They looked very good last week against the Raiders. I’ve looked at both sides of that game film and they executed very well on offense and on defense."

The 49ers aren't tipping their hand from a strategy standpoint during preseason games. But those games still create a visual for what the 49ers' personnel might look like running basic plays.

A few thoughts on how prepared each NFC West team should be for its Week 1 opponent:
  • Seattle Seahawks: A year ago, the Seahawks were the team with the new coaching staff. They seemed to surprise the 49ers in the regular-season opener at Seattle. There should be fewer surprises when the teams face one another in the 2011 opener even though the 49ers do have a new staff. For one, the 49ers' key personnel is largely the same from last season. Two, Carroll coached against Harbaugh extensively while at the college level. He'll have a better feel than most for the way Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman like to call a game. He'll have a better feel than most for the way Harbaugh might want to use his personnel. The 49ers will surely have some surprises for Seattle, but the Seahawks should be well prepared under the circumstances.
  • San Francisco 49ers: They'll have good feel for what Carroll likes to do defensively given Harbaugh's experience at the college level and limited staff carryover. Both San Francisco line coaches, Mike Solari and Jim Tomsula, were on the 49ers' staff last season. Also, 49ers receivers coach John Morton was on Carroll's staff at USC. Seattle does have a new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, and new offensive line coach, Tom Cable. The 49ers will presumably study Bevell's history in Minnesota and Cable's approach to the running game. There should be no big surprises.
  • Arizona Cardinals: They have to feel good about facing the Carolina Panthers at University of Phoenix Stadium in the opener. Yes, the Panthers have a new head coach in Ron Rivera, but the Cardinals faced Rivera's Chargers last season, so they've prepared for his defensive scheme. San Diego crushed Arizona in that matchup, but that had a lot to do with the personnel each team put on the field that day. Rivera did not get to bring Philip Rivers or Antonio Gates with him. The Panthers will have a good feel for the Cardinals' personnel. Their staff includes former 49ers assistants Ray Brown and Pete Hoener.
  • St. Louis Rams: They would have been better served drawing an opponent less talented than Philadelphia, but if they were going to play the Eagles, they could not have picked a better time (Week 1) or place (at home). The Eagles are working through issues on their offensive line. One of their top threats on offense, Jeremy Maclin, has been ill. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and Eagles coach Andy Reid know each others' schemes and tendencies. They coached together for years. Safety Quintin Mikell signed with the Rams after spending all of his career with Philadelphia. He'll have a great feel for Michael Vick and the Eagles' offense.

Not that any of us are looking forward to the regular season or anything.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Alex Smith is picking up where he left off with Mike McCarthy in 2005. Smith on Jim Harbaugh: "Meeting with him this offseason, I was excited to get coached like that, getting coached hands on and how he was talking about the quarterback position, the offense. No question, you guys can see it out there. We sure get it every day -- the detail coaching on every level, not just in the film room but on the field. It never ends. That's what I wanted. No question it's intense at times and it can be a lot, but that's what I wanted and the way you want it as a player." It's never been easier to write off Smith simply because he's had so many chances to this point. It's also probably true that 2011 represents his best chance at succeeding -- not as a franchise quarterback, but simply as a competent one. Can he throw with touch and accuracy on the shorter throws in Harbaugh's system? Does he have a good enough feel for the game to play effectively when acting instinctively?

Also from Barrows: a look at the most competitive camp battles for the 49ers. On Adam Snyder's battle with Jonathan Goodwin at center: "When the 49ers signed Goodwin, it seemed as if the Snyder experiment would end very quickly. After all, Snyder hadn't played center before in his career while Goodwin was the starting center on the Saints' Super Bowl team. That Snyder has remained the first option at the position shows how much faith the coaching staff has in him there. Goodwin also has been working with the first-team offensive line, but not as much as Snyder. It will be interesting to count the snaps for each in Saturday's game. My guess is that Goodwin ultimately will start at the position, but the 49ers seem in no hurry to move Snyder out of the lineup."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com projects which players have the best shot at sticking on the 49ers' initial 53-man roster. Maiocco: "Seven offensive linemen will suit up on game days, and this group appears pretty solid, regardless of the winner of the center competition."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Patrick Willis cautions against reading too much into how the 49ers have played during preseason.

Also from Inman: a transcript from Willis' interview session.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle handicaps the Snyder-Goodwin battle.

Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat describes Michael Crabtree's routine during the 49ers' media-availability session.

Also from Cohn: music prevails in the 49ers' locker room. Speak up, Vernon Davis.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates Mike Williams' career with the Seahawks. Great quote from Williams, who continually downplays his achievements: ""If there's a getting-tackled-at-the-1 Pro Bowl, I definitely would have been first ballot for that."

Also from O'Neil: thoughts on cornerback Walter Thurmond. O'Neil: "Thurmond is not an exceptionally tall cornerback like 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner or 6-3 rookie Richard Sherman. He is 5-11, but has a large wingspan, and is an explosive athlete. Seattle chose Thurmond in the fourth round of the 2010 as he was coming off a knee injury in which he suffered three torn knee ligaments during his senior season of 2009. Prior to the injury, he was regarded as a second, perhaps even late first-round choice."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says rookie Byron Maxwell had the play of the day for Seattle.

Also from Williams: checking in with new Seahawks linebacker David Vobora, formerly of the Rams. Williams: "Vobora also rolls in an interesting car. Last summer he bought a 1984 Chrysler LeBaron convertible 'Woody' edition off Craig’s List for $1,500. The car’s still in St. Louis, so he has to have it shipped back to Seattle. He said the only accessories he bought for the car was some fuzzy dice and Bob-a-Hula Girl, along with a car tree air freshener decorated in wood paneling."

More from Williams: Free-agent receiver Doug Baldwin continues to impress for Seattle. Baldwin: "One (of) my strengths is my creativity in the slot, being able to be witty and creative matched up against a nickel corner or a (weakside) linebacker, so just being able to be creative in there, getting open and getting separation."

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle checks in with Seahawks fullback Mike Robinson, who covers the team for which he plays.

Also from Mathews: Thurmond expects to play against Denver.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com recaps the practice day for Seattle. Thurmond stood out.

Also from Farnsworth: Maurice Fountain is making the most of his latest NFL opportunity. Farnsworth: "Despite not practicing with the team since January – or any team, for that matter – the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Fountain tackled Vikings running back Lorenzo Booker for a 5-yard loss in the third quarter and then teamed with rookie middle linebacker K.J. Wright to make another tackle in the fourth quarter."

John Boyle of the Everett Herald provides a Seahawks injury update. Boyle: "Linebacker Aaron Curry returned to action after missing Tuesday's practice with a sore knee. Seattle's other two starting linebackers, Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne, remained out for a second straight day, however, also with knee injuries. Carroll didn't meet with the media today, however he did tell 710 ESPN Seattle that Hawthorne has a knee strain, and that Hill's injury is an old issue, but that he should be OK."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says catching up with Adrian Wilson can be an adventure. Somers: "When motivated, Wilson can be a great interview. In bad years, he's been brutally honest about teammates who didn't care enough about the game. In good years, he's been one to pump the brakes on excitement, pointing out that the team hadn't done anything. There have been times in one-on-one interviews when he's opened up about how much his wife and kids mean to him, when he's talked about his changing definition of leadership. And there have been times when he has been begged to talk, when team's media relations people have been asked to intercede and remind him that NFL players are required to be available to reporters at least once a week."

Also from Somers: It's unlikely Max Hall will the see the field again for Arizona.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Hall was never the same after taking a huge hit against New Orleans.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers thoughts on Hall's status and Brodie Croyle's arrival. Croyle should have a decent feel for the Cardinals' first regular-season opponent, Carolina. Panthers coach Ron Rivera was running the Chargers' defense when Croyle was quarterback for the AFC West-rival Chiefs.

Also from Urban: Kevin Kolb looks forward to his first home game as a member of the Cardinals.

More from Urban: Injuries affected Stewart Bradley's career with the Eagles. He's healthier now. Urban: "The Cardinals are counting on that. Bradley got a five-year deal worth up to $30 million for Bradley to come in and solidify the middle of the linebacking corps after the team released Gerald Hayes. Playing behind fellow veteran Paris Lenon for now, Bradley should team with Lenon and Daryl Washington for a three-man rotation."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch visits with Rams quarterbacks Sam Bradford and A.J. Feeley. Feeley: "Sam's a really bright guy and an amazing quarterback; you could see that from day one when he came in here. He's mature beyond his years, he's got all the physical tools, he's got the charisma, he's got the moxie. He's got everything you could possibly want in a quarterback."

Also from Coats: The Rams want to size up their new outside linebackers in game situations.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Bradford wants more consistency from the first-team offense.

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues whether they think the Rams have improved at wide receiver. Thomas: "Well, if you could tell me that the group was healthy – and could stay healthy – it would be an emphatic yes. But who knows if Donnie Avery and Danario Alexander can stay healthy for 16 games – or close to it. Same goes for Mardy Gilyard. Mike-Sims Walker will help, but he’s had only a couple weeks of practice time and still needs to get in sync with Sam Bradford. The rookies, Austin Pettis and Greg Salas, haven’t shown a whole lot. Salas was out with a hamstring injury for a while, but made a couple of nice catches on the fourth-quarter field goal drive against Tennessee." Pettis looked pretty good when I visited Rams camp.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Mike Hoomanawanui, Mikail Baker, Jermelle Cudjo and Fred Robbins will not play in the Rams' next preseason game.

Also from Wagoner: Darian Stewart's push for playing time in the Rams' secondary.

More from Wagoner: Mike Sims-Walker's expectations for the season.

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis appreciates what Bradford offers the Rams.
ESPN.com’s NFL writers rank the top 10 up-and-coming assistant coaches in the league today. Next week: Top players overall.

Seven NFL teams named new head coaches after last season, tapping into a pool that included experienced coordinators and relatively unknown assistants alike. The class of 2011 featured longtime candidates (Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera). It also included a trusted position coach in Mike Munchak (Tennessee Titans) and a couple of relative hotshots in Hue Jackson (Oakland Raiders) and Pat Shurmur (Cleveland Browns).

Who will comprise the NFL's next batch of head-coaching candidates? That was the question ESPN.com hoped to answer in this week's edition of the offseason Power Rankings. We established one ground rule by eliminating any assistant who has already had a permanent head-coaching job. The idea was to develop a list that focused on the "next wave" of coaching candidates.

No less than 24 NFL assistants received at least one vote, a reflection of both the variables involved in head-coaching searches and the relative lack of national name recognition for all but the most highly regarded assistants.

So in that vein, it was no surprise to see four well-known assistants at the top of our list, headed by New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell -- who placed first or second on six of the eight ballots. Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan finished second, followed by New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Arizona offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

Fewell is an ideal candidate in many ways, having spent time as the Buffalo Bills' interim coach in 2009 and leading a substantial turnaround of the Giants' defense last season. Fewell interviewed for four head-coaching jobs last winter, and NFC East blogger Dan Graziano suggested that experience, along with a high profile afforded to coaches in New York, make him "the most likely guy on the list to be a head coach soon."

Just don't bother forwarding his name to AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky, who couldn't find room for Fewell on his 10-man ballot. Kuharsky noted the Giants' poor performance in Week 2 last season against the Indianapolis Colts, during which quarterback Peyton Manning threw three touchdowns and cruised to an easy 38-14 victory.

"Certainly I'm letting one game overinfluence my ballot," Kuharsky muttered. "But Fewell's plan for the Giants against the Colts last season was so bad that I could not help but score him down for it. Was he not familiar with how Peyton Manning and Indianapolis operate?"

We can't cover every coach who received votes in this exercise, but let's hit some of the more interesting names that received attention.

Another Ryan? Deserved or not, Ryan has long been considered a loose cannon. There is little doubt about his schematic prowess, but hiring him would require a confident owner ready to make a leap of faith.

The success of twin brother Rex Ryan with the Jets might have softened the perception of that risk, and collectively we see Rob Ryan on the doorstep of a job.

"Similar to Rex, Rob Ryan is good with X's and O's and has the type of outgoing personality players want to be around," AFC North blogger James Walker said. "I think both are equally important in today's NFL. Both brothers say exactly what's on their mind, and before that scared off a lot of teams. But Rex broke the ice with his success in New York and that could help Rob in the future."

The next generation: Schottenheimer has turned down more opportunities to interview for head-coaching jobs than he has actually submitted to. He has nixed requests from the Miami Dolphins and Bills in recent years, but he did interview for the Jets' job that ultimately went to Ryan. I placed him atop my ballot (he finished No. 3 overall) because I think NFL people have made up their mind that he is the kind of young and innovative assistant who can turn around their franchise. (Think: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.)

Schottenheimer's pedigree doesn't hurt -- he's the son of longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer -- and I'm not sure how closely teams will dissect the specifics of the Jets' offensive performance. Graziano, on the other hand, thinks Schottenheimer is close to coaching his way out of the golden-child image he cultivated and left him off his ballot.

"Having spent a good amount of time around that team the past couple of years, I just feel like defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is the more likely guy to end up a head coach," Graziano said. "Schottenheimer's under a ton of pressure as Ryan defers the offensive responsibilities to him. I feel like, if the offense has a bad year, he could end up in trouble or even out of a job. And given their youth at quarterback and running back and the uncertainty of their receiver situation, a bad year for the Jets' offense is possible.

"Now, he could be a genius, make chicken salad and be the next hot name eight months from now. But I think there's the potential that he may have already peaked as a hot coaching prospect and that he might not be set up to succeed in New York."

The big fella: Four years ago, Grimm thought he would be the next Pittsburgh Steelers coach. He moved to Arizona after the Steelers selected Mike Tomlin instead, and we view his status as a head-coaching candidate with wide disparity.

AFC West blogger Bill Williamson put Grimm atop his ballot, and AFC East blogger Tim Graham had him No. 2. Kuharsky and I left him off.

Williamson thinks Grimm has moved to "the top of the food chain" largely because most of his "hot-name" contemporaries have already gotten jobs. As well, Graham suggested that it will soon be Grimm's turn because he is still well-regarded throughout the league.

Personally, I couldn't get past Grimm's well-publicized gaffe after interviewing with the Chicago Bears, after which he referred to the team owners as the "McClaskey" family. I also agree with NFC West blogger Mike Sando, who ranked Grimm No. 8 and wondered: "Is he still ascending? Grimm seems content coaching the line in Arizona. He has plateaued and doesn't seem to be losing any sleep over it."

Welcome back: Unless you're a college football fan, you might not have heard of Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. He spent six years as the head coach at Arizona State, but has drawn some quiet acclaim for his work with the Jaguars and made a strong impression while interviewing with the Denver Broncos last winter.

"In a setting where he won't have to deal with boosters and can shine for being a smart X's and O's guy with strong coaching DNA," Kuharsky said, "I think he'd do far better. He's smart and will interview quite well. He really impressed John Elway and the Broncos before losing out to John Fox's experience. St. Louis wanted him as coordinator, but Jacksonville wouldn't let him go. He's heading into the final year of his contract. How Blaine Gabbert develops early on will have a big bearing on Koetter's future."

Secret weapon: In two years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have developed quarterback Josh Freeman into one of the better starters in the league. The man largely responsible is offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who navigated a disastrous 2009 preseason -- coach Raheem Morris promoted him in the middle of training camp after firing Jeff Jagodzinski -- and NFL teams often seek out coaches with success developing young quarterbacks.

"I think Olson deserves a ton of credit for developing Freeman so quickly," said NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas. "Freeman threw for 25 touchdowns and six interceptions in his first full season as a starter and carried an incredibly young team to a 10-6 record. I also think people need to look at what Olson did last year with rookie running back LeGarrette Blount and rookie receiver Mike Williams. He helped make them into instant stars."

Super Bowl entitlement: The Green Bay Packers were the only team to place more than one name in the top 10, as would be expected from a championship team. Assistant head coach/inside linebackers Winston Moss is at No. 6, while safeties coach Darren Perry finished No. 10. I also voted for receivers coach Edgar Bennett, who has moved over from running backs coach and is clearly being groomed for bigger things.

I'll detail my ranking of the Packers' assistants, including why I think so highly of Perry, in a future post for NFC North readers. But we'll say this for now: Moss is a strong leader who has drawn interest from the Raiders, while Perry is a disciple of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his coveted 3-4 scheme.

Around the NFC West: Seismic matters

January, 11, 2011
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Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along a Seismograph showing seismic activity associated with fan reaction during Marshawn Lynch's 67-yard touchdown run Saturday. More here.

Also from O'Neil: The Seahawks expect middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu to practice this week after suffering a concussion Saturday.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with Matt Hasselbeck, who says Lance Briggs' absence from Seattle's Week 6 victory at Soldier Field was a big deal. Hasselbeck: "He’s huge. He’s arguably one of the best defensive players in the game. I think he’s a great player. Going into that game, we fully expected him to play. He didn’t play, and that was a big deal. So for us to sit back and say, ‘Oh hey, we beat them at their place. We can do it again,’ that would be a dangerous way to feel. Because Lance Briggs did not play in that game. He is a big, big-time difference-maker and a great football player."

Also from Farnsworth: Hasselbeck "abhorred" missing the Week 17 game against St. Louis.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Hasselbeck rescued his Seattle legacy with a four-touchdown performance against the Saints.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' return trip to Chicago carries different circumstances.

Also from Williams: He passes along Brian McIntyre's weekly Seahawks personnel report.

Doug Farrar of Sportspress Northwest looks at how Pete Carroll has changed since his last stint as an NFL head coach.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals might have no shot at hiring the Steelers' Keith Butler as their defensive coordinator. Somers: "After the 2009 season, Butler turned down an offer to become the Dolphins' defensive coordinator. According to the Post-Gazette, Butler and the Steelers agreed then to contract language that identifies Butler as 'the coordinator in waiting' for when Dick LeBeau decides to retire." The 49ers' Greg Manusky could be a candidate, but he might have options elsewhere, including at San Diego if Ron Rivera leaves, or at Dallas.

Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the Cardinals have not asked for permission to speak with Butler.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com updates the Cardinals' search for a defensive coordinator. Urban: "(Ken) Whisenhunt has not said whether a coach’s background on scheme impacts the hire, although the Steelers do run a 3-4 look like the Cardinals. It also seems unlikely to make a significant scheme change in an offseason that could be drastically shortened or even lost because of labor problems and a lockout."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees no likely in-house candidates to replace Pat Shurmur if the Rams' offensive coordinator becomes head coach of the Browns. Thomas: "Should Shurmur end up with the Cleveland job, the Rams don't appear to have any logical replacements for the coordinator's job in-house. Assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Dick Curl hasn't been a coordinator since 1997 with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe. Wide receivers coach Nolan Cromwell was an offensive coordinator on the college level, but for just two seasons at Texas A&M. He does, however, have a background in the West Coast system, having been wide receivers coach for Holmgren both in Seattle and Green Bay. Running backs coach Sylvester Croom was offensive coordinator for Detroit, but that was 10 years ago-plus (1997-2000)."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com updates the 49ers' efforts to hire a coaching staff. Manusky has permission to pursue other jobs. Vic Fangio could have opportunities elsewhere, including at Stanford. Maiocco: "Fangio served as an NFL defensive coordinator for 11 seasons. But Fangio might also be a candidate to replace Harbaugh as Stanford head coach after top candidate Chris Petersen announced he will remain at Boise State." ESPN's John Clayton has mentioned former 49ers assistant Marc Trestman as a person Harbaugh has contacted about possibly becoming offensive coordinator.

Also from Maiocco: a look at how a lockout could affect player personnel for the 49ers. Maiocco: "The only contracts that can be signed before March 3 are extensions. That is, a team can sign a player on its current roster to a new deal. So, the 49ers are allowed to work out contracts with their own scheduled free agents, such as David Baas, Aubrayo Franklin, Manny Lawson, Dashon Goldson and others. (Remember, there was no NFL salary cap in 2010, and there are no indications that one will come back in the future.)"

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says it's likely the 49ers would want to retain offensive line coach Mike Solari, running backs coach Tom Rathman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.

The 49ers' website passes along an interview transcript featuring linebacker Keaton Kristick.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat previews a potential national broadcast featuring Harbaugh against his brother.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News links to bios for Harbaugh's coaches at Stanford.

Mailbag: Waivers and late-round picks

September, 12, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Richard from New York writes: Mike, apologies if you've covered this during the preseason, but could you explain again how waivers work? Doesn't this mean that another team could sign the player? Why would a team "waive" one of its draft picks so early on (e.g., Seahawks/Forsett)? I thought Forsett was signed to a multiyear deal?

Mike Sando: Not a problem, Richard. It's a good question and something we should brush up on every so often.

Late-round draft choices fail to earn roster spots somewhat routinely. Justin Forsett was a seventh-round choice. NFL teams drafted 80 players in the sixth and seventh rounds this season. Half those players were not on 53-man rosters as of midweek.

Contracts can include guaranteed money, but the contracts themselves are not guaranteed. An NFL team can terminate a veteran's contract, making the player eligible to sign a new contract with another team.

Nonveterans can be waived. Another team can file a waiver claim. If more than one team claims a player, the team with the worst record in the previous season prevails. The league then awards the waived player to the claiming team. The claiming team inherits the waived player's contract.

(Read full post)

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