NFC West: Trevor Canfield
Four of the 29 players NFC West teams selected in that draft remain with their original teams: Michael Crabtree in San Francisco, James Laurinaitis in St. Louis, Max Unger in Seattle and Rashad Johnson in Arizona.
Unger is the only one of the 29 to earn Pro Bowl honors. Unger and Laurinaitis are the only ones to receive long-term contract extensions from their original teams.
NFC West teams have fired the head coaches and general managers associated with those 2009 selections.
Reasons for those firings went far beyond the 2009 draft, of course. Still, the massive turnover since that draft reflects poorly on what was, by most accounts, a weak class across the league. It also shows how frequently personnel turns over in the NFL. The league has 21 new head coaches and 19 new general managers since the 2009 season concluded.
Curry was widely considered the "safest" choice in that 2009 draft as a fearsome linebacker from Wake Forest. Seattle would trade him to Oakland for seventh- and fifth-round picks before Curry had finished his third season.
Jason Smith, chosen second overall by St. Louis in 2009, supposedly had a mean streak and was a natural leader. The Rams would trade him to the New York Jets for Wayne Hunter after three disappointing seasons.
Beanie Wells came to the Cardinals in the first round of that 2009 draft pretty much as advertised: highly talented, but not very durable. The Cardinals released him this offseason, and Wells remains unsigned amid questions about his knee.
2009 was also the year Arizona sought to upgrade its pass-rush by selecting Cody Brown in the second round. The 49ers tried to improve their depth at running back by using a third-round choice for Glen Coffee. Brown would never play in an NFL game. Coffee would retire after one season.
The chart shows how many regular-season NFL starts each 2009 NFC West draft choice has made, regardless of team.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield was the latest addition to the "Minnesota West" roster in Seattle.
"Ever since we controversially signed Steve Hutchinson from them," Aaron writes, "it has seemed as though the Seahawks go out of their way to snatch whatever Vikings they can to stick it to us. It started with them signing Nate Burleson, then Sidney Rice and Heath Farwell, Darell Bevell and Tarvaris Jackson (for whatever reason). They even outbid us for T.J. Houshmanzadeh a few years back. They signed Ryan Longwell at the end of this past season. Obviously, it has continued with Percy Harvin and now Winfield."
Sando: It's a remarkable pattern, but there's likely no revenge factor. The people running the Seahawks during the Hutchinson controversy are long gone from the organization. They were involved in adding Burleson and Houshmandzadeh, but they had nothing to do with the Seahawks' more recent deals for Rice, Farwell, Bevell, Jackson, Harvin or Winfield.
Bevell's hiring as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator stands out as a factor behind the team's decisions to sign Rice and trade for Harvin.
John Schneider's presence as the Seahawks' general manager since 2010 provides a strong link to the NFC North in general. Schneider, after spending much of his career with the Green Bay Packers, played a role in Seattle adding former NFC North players such as Breno Giacomini, Will Blackmon, Cliff Avril, Steven Hauschka, Brett Swain, Frank Omiyale and others. Also, Schneider and Bevell were together in Green Bay. However, Seattle has added many more players without ties to the Vikings or the NFC North.
For a while, the Detroit Lions signed or otherwise acquired a long list of players with Seahawks ties. There were some connections between the organizations -- former Lions coach Rod Marinelli and former Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell shared a history with Tampa Bay, for instance -- but some of the overlap defied explanation.
Tyler Polumbus, Burleson, Will Heller, Rob Sims, Lawrence Jackson, Maurice Morris, Julian Peterson, Trevor Canfield, Marquand Manuel, Kole Heckendorf, Kevin Hobbs, Logan Payne, Chuck Darby, Keary Colbert, Billy McMullen, Travis Fisher, Cory Redding, John Owens, Joel Filani, T.J. Duckett, Kevin Kasper, Etric Pruitt and Mike Williams were among the players to play for both organizations.
Update: The Burleson signing did have a retaliatory aspect, as ZippyWasBanned noted in the comments section. Seattle signed him to an offer sheet featuring "poison pills" similar to the ones that helped the Vikings land Hutchinson.
The player Seattle's previous leadership drafted fourth overall was part of a draft featuring quite a few underwhelming players near the top.
Thirteen NFC West choices from the 2009 draft remain with their teams: Max Unger, Deon Butler and Cameron Morrah in Seattle; Beanie Wells, Rashad Johnson, Greg Toler and LaRod Stephens-Howling in Arizona; Jason Smith, James Laurinaitis, Bradley Fletcher and Darell Scott in St. Louis; and two players in San Francisco, Michael Crabtree and Ricky-Jean Francois.
Let's sift through the rubble ...
The San Francisco 49ers have gone for quality over quantity in trying to build a big, powerful offensive line.
The team has drafted seven offensive linemen since 2005, one below the NFL average. But the 49ers selected a league-high three of the seven in the first round and a league-high five of them in the first two rounds.
That jumped out right away when sizing up NFC West offensive linemen from the 2005-2010 draft classes for the latest "adventures in drafting" installment.
The Arizona Cardinals have taken a different approach, using a division-low one first-round selection for the offensive line since 2005. Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Oakland, San Diego, Tennessee, Dallas, Minnesota and the New York Giants have selected no first-round offensive linemen during that span.
The charts break out NFC West selections by general draft position, with a column showing how many starts each has made for his original team. I am using the term "not active" loosely to describe players who haven't been on rosters during the regular season recently.
Italics reveal what teams might have been thinking as they entered various stages of the draft.
We should find 10-year starters with Pro Bowl potential, most often at tackle ...
Every offensive lineman selected among the top 50 or so choices should contribute and hopefully start ...
The most athletic prospects are gone by now, but tough guys still have value ...
These guys have question marks, obvious limitations or both, but we'll still get some starts from them ...
Anyone seen the Seahawks or 49ers lately?
What are our numbers on the line again? Let's get another one here.
Best pick so far: Seventh-round choice LaRod Stephens-Howling has become a Pro Bowl-caliber player on special teams, both as a returner and in coverage. He has increasingly found a home in the Cardinals' offense. Arizona can line him up as a running back or wide receiver. For his career, Stephens-Howling has three touchdowns on kickoff returns, one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown.
Second-guessing: The Cardinals could badly use young talent at outside linebacker. Second-round choice Cody Brown missed his rookie season after suffering a wrist injury. The Cardinals cut him heading into this season after Brown showed little during camp. With Brown out of the picture, veterans Joey Porter and Clark Haggans remain the team's best options at outside linebacker.
Key variable: Beanie Wells has shown he can be a difference-maker. His 43-yard reception up the right sideline Monday night validated coach Ken Whisenhunt's contention that Wells has good receiving skills. Wells has also occasionally added a physical presence to the offense through his running style. Injuries and inconsistency have prevented Wells from meeting expectations, however. His latest setback came Monday night when Wells failed to widen his arms enough while accepting a handoff, leading to a tone-setting lost fumble on the Cardinals' first offensive play.
I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.
This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.
Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).
St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)
Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)
Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)
Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)
Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)
Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)
Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)
Special teams: Ryan Neill
Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)
Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)
Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)
Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)
Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)
Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)
Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)
Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)
Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)
Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)
Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)
Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)
Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)
Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)
Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)
Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)
Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)
Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)
Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)
Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)
Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)
Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)
San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)
Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)
Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker
Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)
Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)
Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)
Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)
Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt
Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)
The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.
The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.
The latest move between the teams is particularly chuckle-worthy (surely there must be some reason these teams keep hooking up, but I can't find any hard ties). The Lions recently won a waiver-claim battle with Seattle over former Denver Broncos offensive lineman Tyler Polumbus. The Lions held Polumbus for a few days, then traded him to the Seahawks, presumably for something of minimal or even conditional value. Polumbus and Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates were with the Broncos in 2008.
The Seahawks and Lions have made multiple trades and shared multiple players spanning multiple coaching staffs and front offices in recent years.
Among the players to spend time on both rosters: Polumbus, Nate Burleson, Will Heller, Rob Sims, Lawrence Jackson, Maurice Morris, Julian Peterson, Trevor Canfield, Marquand Manuel, Kole Heckendorf, Kevin Hobbs, Logan Payne, Chuck Darby, Keary Colbert, Billy McMullen, Travis Fisher, Cory Redding, John Owens, Jon Kitna (OK, not recently in Seattle), Joel Filani, T.J. Duckett, Kevin Kasper, Ike Charlton (again, not recently in Seattle), Etric Pruitt, Mike Williams and probably a few others.
The 2010 draft class will command more immediate attention when teams open training camps, but the 2009 class figures to contribute more after a year of seasoning.
Here's my look at the NFC West's 2009 choices heading into their second season:
Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers. The Cardinals' Wells and the Rams' James Laurinaitis made more immediate impacts. They reported to camp on time. But Crabtree commanded a starting job right away once he finally signed, and he immediately justified his starting status. Crabtree was surprisingly consistent and polished. Given a chance to select any other 2009 NFC West draft choices, I think the 49ers would stick with Crabtree.
Best immediate contributor
Laurinaitis, MLB, Rams. Laurinaitis became an immediate starter and didn't seem to fall off the way No. 4 overall choice Aaron Curry did in Seattle. Laurinaitis wasn't a star, but he stepped into a position requiring knowledge of the defense. Laurinaitis finished the season with 2.0 sacks, five passes defensed, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He and Seahawks second-rounder Max Unger were the only 2009 NFC West draft choices to start 16 games last season.
LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Cardinals. The Cardinals found one of the best special-teams players in the division with the 240th overall choice. Stephens-Howling was outstanding on coverage teams. He provided a threat in the return game, too, scoring a critical touchdown at Tennessee. The Cardinals also found ways to work Stephens-Howling into the offense. He caught 10 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, though he didn't provide much as a rushing threat.
Most to prove
Jason Smith, LT, Rams. Curry finished a close second in this category. Smith started only five games and did not stand out when he was on the field (not that offensive linemen always have to stand out). A serious concussion and subsequent toe injury have raised questions about Smith's durability. The Rams will be investing heavily in No. 1 overall choice Sam Bradford and they'll need Smith to protect him. Smith works hard and the Rams have surrounded him with veteran mentors.
A team-by-team look at the 2009 class:
2009 picks: 8San Francisco 49ers
Total 2009 starts: 2
Projected 2010 starters (2): first-rounder Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State; fourth-rounder Greg Toler, CB, St. Paul's.
Other potential starters (1): Wells could have wound up here, but I'll stick with my projection that he'll start this season.
On the hot seat: Cody Brown, OLB, Connecticut. The Cardinals could use one of their young pass-rushers to emerge. A serious wrist injury prevented Brown from contributing last season. He was a second-round choice, though, so expectations are relatively high. Arizona needs him.
No longer with team (1): seventh-rounder Trevor Canfield, Cincinnati (Detroit Lions)
Keep an eye out for: sixth-rounder Will Davis. He showed promise last season and was improving until a knee injury sidelined him.
Forgotten man: We've seen little evidence suggesting third-round choice Rashad Johnson will become a factor anytime soon, if at all.
2009 picks: 7Seattle Seahawks
Total 2009 starts: 13
Projected 2010 starters (1): Crabtree
Other potential starters (0): None.
On the hot seat: Scott McKillop, LB, Pitt. The 49ers hoped McKillop might develop into a successor to inside linebacker Takeo Spikes. It could still happen, but coaches quickly replaced McKillop with veteran Matt Wilhelm when Spikes was out.
No longer with team (1): sixth-rounder Bear Pascoe, TE, Fresno State (New York Giants)
Keep an eye out for: seventh-rounder Ricky Jean-Francois, NT, LSU. Jean-Francois worked at nose tackle during minicamps and organized team activities while franchise player Aubrayo Franklin remained unsigned. Franklin will likely sign and he'll become the starter again when he does.
Forgotten man: Glen Coffee, RB, Alabama. Frank Gore's return to health means Coffee will not be needed much, if at all. The 49ers used a sixth-round choice for Anthony Dixon, a running back from Mississippi State. The buzz on Coffee went away when he struggled to gain yardage running behind a struggling line early last season.
2009 picks: 7St. Louis Rams
Total 2009 starts: 28
Projected 2010 starters (2): first-rounder Curry, LB, Wake Forest; second-rounder Unger, G, Oregon.
Other potential starters (0): None.
On the hot seat: Curry. His rookie season went from promising to disappointing after the Seahawks lost their defensive quarterback, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, to season-ending injury. Curry said he tried to do too much from that point forward. The Seahawks hope Curry can become an effective pass-rusher in nickel situations. To fulfill his potential, though, Curry must become a good strongside linebacker, too.
No longer with team (2): sixth-rounder Mike Teel, QB, Rutgers (Chicago Bears); seventh-rounder Courtney Greene, S, Rutgers (Jacksonville Jaguars).
Keep an eye out for: third-rounder Deon Butler, WR, Penn St. Butler has good straight-line speed, but he lacks the size Seattle wants in its receivers. Coach Pete Carroll called Butler one of the team's most improved players this offseason, but it's unclear whether the team will find a role for him.
2009 picks: 7Earlier: Winners, losers from 2008 class.
Total 2009 starts: 33
Projected 2010 starters (2): first-rounder Smith, LT, Baylor; second-rounder Laurinaitis, MLB, Ohio St.
Other potential starters (2): third-rounder Bradley Fletcher, CB, Iowa; fourth-rounder Darell Scott, DT, Clemson.
On the hot seat: fifth-rounder Brooks Foster, WR, North Carolina. The Rams like other young receivers, including rookie free agents Dominique Curry and Brandon McRae. They also used a fourth-round choice for Mardy Gilyard. Brandon Gibson should play a role. There's pressure on Foster to make a strong comeback from the ankle injury that ended his rookie season.
No longer with team (0): All seven choices remain on the roster.
Keep an eye out for: Fletcher, the third-round corner from Iowa. Torn knee ligaments ended Fletcher's rookie season in October after the promising rookie started three games. The Rams hope Fletcher can come back to win the starting job.
The market for Oshiomogho Atogwe appears undefined roughly 12 hours into the former Rams safety's life as a free agent.
Of course, Miami wasn't considered the most likely destination for receiver Brandon Marshall before the Dolphins acquired him, as one acquaintance noted. Stuff could be swirling beneath the surface in the absence of visible evidence.
Maurice Morris, Nate Burleson, Rob Sims, Julian Peterson, Bryant Johnson, Shaun Hill, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jonathan Wade, Marquand Manuel, Will Heller, Roy Schuening, Jahi Word-Daniels and Trevor Canfield come to mind.
The Lions have also collected former NFC West head coaches, from Steve Mariucci to Scott Linehan to Mike Martz.
The defending NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals have parted with 15 of the 53 players on their Week 17 roster from last season. Only the rebuilding Seahawks have parted with more -- 16 -- among division teams this offseason. The Rams have parted with 11. The 49ers, seeking continuity as they try to build on an 8-8 season, have parted with only three.
The first chart shows how many Week 17 starters and backups have returned to each NFC West team.
The second chart shows how many Week 17 starters and backups have left each NFC West team.
I'll first list the players by team.
Seattle (16): receiver Nate Burleson, quarterback Seneca Wallace, linebacker Lance Laury, defensive end Cory Redding, guard Trevor Canfield, quarterback Mike Teel, tackle Damion McIntosh, linebacker D.D. Lewis, snapper Jeff Robinson, fullback Justin Griffith, cornerback Ken Lucas, safety Deon Grant, defensive end Darryl Tapp, guard Rob Sims, tight end John Owens and defensive end Patrick Kerney.
Arizona (15): linebacker Pago Togafau, safety Antrel Rolle, receiver Jerheme Urban, receiver Sean Morey, kicker Neil Rackers, linebacker Bertrand Berry, fullback Dan Kreider, cornerback Ralph Brown, quarterback Brian St. Pierre, defensive end Jason Banks, receiver Anquan Boldin, linebacker Karlos Dansby, quarterback Kurt Warner, cornerback Bryant McFadden and linebacker Chike Okeafor. Note that Rolle did not start in Week 17.
St. Louis (11): defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, cornerback Jonathan Wade, receiver Ruvell Martin, quarterback Mike Reilly, defensive end Leonard Little, safety Clinton Hart, snapper Ryan Neill, running back Samkon Gado, linebacker Paris Lenon, tackle Alex Barron and tight end Randy McMichael.
San Francisco (5): receiver Arnaz Battle, cornerback Marcus Hudson, quarterback Shaun Hill, safety Mark Roman and cornerback Dre Bly.
The third chart shows what happened to players who were on injured reserve in Week 17.
I'll first list by team the players who were on IR but are no longer with their teams.
San Francisco (5): tackle Tony Pashos, punter Ricky Schmitt, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, cornerback Walt Harris and running back Thomas Clayton.
Seattle (4): running back Tyler Roehl, tackle Walter Jones, snapper Kevin Houser and tackle Brandon Frye.
St. Louis (3): quarterback Marc Bulger, defensive tackle Adam Carriker and safety Eric Bassey.
Arizona (2): tackle Mike Gandy and fullback Justin Green.
Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune follows up with T.J. Houshmandzadeh regarding the recent radio conversation featuring Seattle receivers and analyst Hugh Millen. Houshmandzadeh and Millen spoke at length after practice. Houshmandzadeh: "We were just talking about certain plays in the game. And I saw his point, and told him my point, period. I don’t dislike him because I don’t know him to dislike him. But he told me what he saw with his points and I told him why I did what I did."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks need to score 13 points Sunday to avoid their lowest-scoring season since the historically inept 1992 offense. O'Neil: "Four of the team's interceptions these past two weeks came in the second half with Seattle trailing by more than 20 points. At that point, the Seahawks offense has been reduced to heaving the ball deep downfield in hopes someone will make a play. Instead, it has often been a defensive back making the play."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with guard Trevor Canfield, signed off the Cardinals' practice squad.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals will worry about the Packers -- and scoreboards from other games -- in Week 17. McManaman: "If the Vikings win, however, it's pretty much a moot point. Of the eight possible playoff scenarios involving the NFC West champion Cardinals, six include them having to turn around and face the Packers again at home in the NFC wild-card round. Should that be the case, the Cardinals probably would save some of their best game-planning for a rematch, and they might even consider resting some regulars, including Warner."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who played junior college ball in Scottsdale and might be revisiting the area over the next couple of weekends.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com sizes up an improved Arizona running game. Larry Fitzgerald: "I was 2 minutes and 40 seconds away from being a Super Bowl champion last year. Whatever it would take to get back there and hoist that trophy, I could care less if we run it 50 times a game."
Also from Urban: The Cardinals expect to play the Packers again in the wild-card round. How should they approach the Week 17 game between the teams?
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce wasn't expecting coach Mike Singletary to let him play against the Rams in what will be his final game. The other receivers lobbied Singletary to make Bruce active. Bruce: "I was kind of surprised, but if it had been me, I don't think I would have done it. I'm a football player. I believe in players earning the right to play. I believe that if one player is better than another, the best player should play." Tell me that isn't refreshing. Singletary: "I had asked him earlier what his thoughts were on playing in the game. He said probably not. Then when I told him about his teammates asking me, I think it shocked him to hear. It was a matter of these guys he mentored, about what it is to be a pro. That group of guys made it known that they would like to see him play."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Josh Morgan offered his starting spot to Bruce against the Rams.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Alex Smith can remove doubts with a strong performance against the Rams. Singletary: "It's just going to be a matter of him continuing to mature and at some point in time, hopefully it’s this Sunday, he’s going to know, and everybody else will know, that he’s the guy that can take us where we need to go. He has done enough for me at this point to say that, going forward, I don’t see why I would doubt it."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says about 8,000 tickets to the 49ers-Rams game remained unsold early in the week, making it likely Bruce's final game will not be shown locally in St. Louis. Bruce says he is 75 percent sure about retiring.
Also from Thomas: Bruce is excited about returning to St. Louis. Bruce: "I'm always excited to go back to St. Louis. To go back to the dome. Be on that turf again. The fans. And see the employees that work for the Rams right now, that run that building. Just being in that atmosphere again. Seeing the banners that hang from the rafters, that's always exciting to me."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Kyle Boller would like to return to the Rams in 2010. Boller: "Any time you have an injury or an illness and you’re taken out of the position, somebody else has an opportunity to get in there. It’s unfortunate that that happened to me. I’m going to have to deal with that, and hopefully work my way back."
Also from Coats: Jason Smith's return to practice Wednesday came as a surprise. Smith finally passed concussion-related testing. Smith: "It was a great relief to, No. 1, pass the best and then to be able to be around the team, be at practice and be able to do something. We took the test a couple of days ago, and I was able to pass it. We started taking it one day at a time from there, doing light workouts and seeing how the head reacts."
Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat offers comments from Leonard Little, among others, regarding Bruce's return to the Edward Jone Dome. This might also be Little's final game with the Rams. Little: "He was the ultimate competitor. He always prepared like it was the last game of his career. Always. That's the way he is. He was a great teammate and an inspiration to young guys. He was an inspiration to me when I was young. He takes young guys under his wing and tries to teach them the best way he can to be a pro and do things the right way. He will go down as one of the greatest receivers of all time. He’s a Hall-of-Fame player. He’s proven that over the years. If this is his last game, he deserves the chance to be around the fans who were with him most of his career."
Also from Balzer: Steven Jackson says he hopes to play in the Pro Bowl, but he will not put himself at undue risk.
Making a move such as this one heading into Week 17 probably has more implications for the offseason than the short term. Perhaps Canfield, a seventh-round draft choice from Cincinnati, is a prospect Seattle would like to evaluate through an offseason.
Seattle made room on its roster by placing receiver Mike Hass on injured reserve.
The Titans' Kenny Britt might edge him out, though, after catching the game-winning touchdown pass against Arizona.
Stephens-Howling was a seventh-round draft choice from Pittsburgh. The Cardinals have found ways to work him into the offense as well. Stephens-Howling has six receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown this season.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have shown more balance from the shotgun formation, a necessity now that they are using the formation more frequently. Maiocco: "QBs coach Mike Johnson took a year off from coaching last season. During that time, he visited with several college programs. He went to Illinois because he felt the Big Ten program does the best job of running the ball from the spread formation. Johnson shared that knowledge with (offensive coordinator Jimmy) Raye during the months when the 49ers began installing their offense."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee outlines key matchups in the 49ers-Packers game, including Adam Snyder against Aaron Kampman. Barrows: "The Packers like to move Kampman all over the field, but he'll most commonly be rushing from the quarterback's right side. That will put him against Snyder, who struggled last week to contain Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. The Packers also will try to overload the left side of their defensive line, meaning that Frank Gore will be asked to step forward and block the 260-pound Kampman from time to time. Gore is an excellent blocker, but that is a mismatch the Packers will look to exploit."
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers aren't saying which one of their receivers is the No. 1 option. Salaries usually do not lie. Crabtree is the No. 1 receiver in San Francisco.
Niners Nation's Florida Danny sifts through the stats, most favoring Green Bay, in previewing the 49ers-Packers game. The 49ers enjoyed success running outside against the Bears, but San Francisco has run up the middle a disproportionate amount the rest of the season, often with poor results.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals held spirited practices during the week, culminating with a fight between rookie practice-squader Trevor Canfield and second-year defensive lineman Kenny Iwebema on Friday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn't sure what to make of it. Whisenhunt: "Listen, we are a long way from being that mature team that you can count on to show up every week and play the game you're supposed to play. We've made great strides in that direction, though, and this game will go a long way toward seeing where we are." Sounds like a challenge.
Also from Somers: He thinks the Rams should not be able to keep the game close if Arizona plays well. Somers: "The Cardinals should be ready to put a dominant game together. Their receiving corps is healthy, and Beanie Wells is emerging as a running threat. The offensive line will be making its 30th consecutive start together. The Rams don't match up well with the Cardinals. Defensive end Leonard Little, 35, has slowed down, although he shows occasional flashes of pass rush ability The Rams have spent draft pick after draft pick on defensive linemen, but none has emerged as an impact player."
More from Somers: Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson shares a bond with Hall of Famer Larry Wilson. They expected to get together in St. Louis.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Chike Okeafor will not play for the Cardinals in Week 11.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals have run out of teams to chase in the NFC West.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks are on the short end of several mismatches against the Vikings. Linebacker Aaron Curry: "You can't be right against Brett Favre. You try to be right, but it doesn't matter how well you cover his receivers, he'll throw it in tight spots. He knows how to look everybody off, his pump fake is crucial. He's a very amazing quarterback and more athletic than people think." Curry was in kindergarten when Favre played his first NFL game.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks haven't won a road game against a team that finished with a winning record since the 2006 season. Seattle is 5-15 on the road since 2007, with four of the victories against the Rams and 49ers.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks need to crank up their pass rush. Coach Jim Mora: "It has been somewhat of a struggle for us lately."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers a podcast previewing the Seahawks' game at Minnesota.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams defensive lineman Victor Adeyanju has an opportunity to get more playing time. The Rams had little use for him earlier in the season. Adeyanju: "I was very down. At one point, I was losing sleep. I don't come here to sit around and not play. As a competitor, it hurt like hell. But it wasn't my call, and this is a team sport. ... So you have to look at that and say, you know what, I'll get my opportunity sooner or later."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' Steven Jackson is on pace for 1,626 yards rushing. Center Jason Brown: "I consider it a privilege to be able to block for such a talented back; it's exciting every single week. He makes our job so much easier, because not only does he see the holes develop, he's going to make sure he gives everything he has."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
I've gone through the initial NFC West cut lists -- those players released at the 53-man deadline -- to see which ones have returned to their teams or caught on elsewhere.
The chart shows results for Arizona.
Veteran safety Aaron Francisco signed with the Colts. Receiver Onrea Jones signed with the Redskins' practice squad. Arizona re-signed four players to its practice squad.
Four others -- Wilrey Fontenot, Chris Vincent, Carlton Medder and Pago Togafau -- were injured when the Cardinals released them. All but Fontenot have reached injury settlements, leaving the roster. Fontenot remains on injured reserve. Update: Fontenot has also reached an injury settlement.
Some veterans on the list might have an easier time finding work after Week 1. Rules require teams to guarantee salaries to some veterans who are active for Week 1 and then released.