NFC West: Willie McGinest

San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman was an entertaining guest Tuesday on NFL Network.

Bowman, appearing with the Baltimore Ravens' Torrey Smith, was candid when asked for his thoughts on teammate Colin Kaepernick wearing a Miami Dolphins hat while in Florida.

"This is a huge mistake by 'Kap'," Bowman said on the air. "I'm sure he understands that now. But in his defense, we're young. In our era these days, we like to match our snapbacks with our outfit. The hats now these days are very important to the outfit. Kap, I understand what you did, but let's stay away from the NFL teams. Wear the NBA or the college or the baseball hats."

Co-host Willie McGinest and Bowman were laughing incredulously while discussing the subject.

"I understand the fashion and swag," McGinest said in setting up Bowman, "but did you go up to him in the locker room and holler at him and grab him up and be like, 'You play for the San Francisco 49ers. You can't disrespect us or this franchise.' "

We've covered this ground already and I'm sure we'll hear more from other players when training camp opens. Bowman's status as an All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebacker with a long-term contract adds to his stature when discussing such matters. This isn't going to be a big deal longer term, in my view, except as it fits into any patterns.
Quarterback speculation figures to dominate the conversation as the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks open training camps.

Arizona opened first with a practice Wednesday.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt already had some speculation to shoot down when former NFL player Willie McGinest, now with NFL Network, said players told him the team was favoring John Skelton.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic has the details. Whisenhunt: "From what I've seen, standing in the huddle, which I don't believe he (McGinest) was in the huddle, the team's responded to both guys. I don't put a whole lot of stock into that. If he's willing to say who it was and what they're talking about and in what context, maybe it would worthy of commenting." Noted: This is the latest in a series of reports reflecting negatively on Kevin Kolb. So far this offseason, there's been one report suggesting the team had lost confidence in Kolb and another suggesting fans had booed him during a fan-fest practice in June. Kolb needs someone to start spreading positive rumors on his behalf. Mostly, though, he needs to play well.

Also from Somers: Beanie Wells wants to play it safe with his surgically repaired knee. Wells: "I had a scope and we did some things in there. Kind of let some things settle down and get right. ... I'm going to take my time. I don't think anybody wants to see a 75 percent Beanie Wells. Everybody wants to see a 100 percent Beanie Wells, and that's what I want to give."

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic thinks Kolb has the inside track over Skelton for the starting job at quarterback, based on salary. Boivin: "Fairly or not, Ken Whisenhunt will always be tied to Kolb. The player's success or failure will reflect on the coach. It's hard to imagine Kolb won't walk away with the starting job, but Skelton appears to be doing everything necessary to prepare in case the unlikely happens. I don't buy the team divisiveness part, not like the days of Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner, when locker-room support appeared top-heavy in Warner's favor. Players were joking around with Skelton after practice, while Larry Fitzgerald made a point to interrupt an interview Kolb was doing with Sports Illustrated's Peter King."

Darren Urban of says Michael Floyd took the blame for an interception even though Patrick Peterson made a sensational play on the ball. Floyd: "I'll watch film later on and see what I did wrong, make sure it doesn’t happen again. ... I always feel I can make a play. I kind of feel it was my fault."

Also from Urban: Dan Williams' dramatically improved conditioning stands out on the first day of camp. Williams passed the team's conditioning test and weighed in at 314 pounds.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh following Harbaugh's annual mission trip to Peru. Harbaugh on the tranformational nature of the trips: "In some ways, it's a little uncomfortable talking about it. The Scripture says, 'Don't let your left hand know what your right hand's doing,' you know? On the other hand, it's so good. It's not only been a great experience for me, but my friends, that I want to tell people about it. I feel like I should share this. I'm lucky to participate and be surrounded by so much good."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers' backup quarterback Josh Johnson connected with Harbaugh quickly when Harbaugh, then at the University of San Diego, recruited Johnson out of high school. Johnson: "We didn't know each other from a can of paint. But we could talk football for hours. And he just kept pushing me, pushing me, trying to get a feel for my knowledge of the game. He brought out some pencils and had me drawing X's and O's from the day we met."

Matt Maiocco of says Randy Moss reported to 49ers camp a day ahead of schedule. Maiocco: "Coaches and 49ers teammates raved about Moss during the offseason program. He heads into training camp as a presumptive starting wide receiver. Moss has not made himself available to the media since March 13 when he signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the 49ers."

Clare Farnsworth of says Chris Clemons has collected 15.5 of his 22 sacks on the road over the past two seasons. That includes nine of his 11 sacks last season. Clemons: "Teams tend to play us differently at home, with quick throws and things like that. When they're at home, they think they have a better opportunity because of the hard counts and because of the snap count. So they get an opportunity to drop back more."

Also from Farnsworth: thoughts from assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable regarding the recently re-signed Max Unger. Cable: "When I got here, we made some decisions -- in terms of people that were here; those who weren’t going to be; and those that were, but were they in the right spot. I kind of just drew on my past with Max. I thought three years ago when he came out that he’d be a terrific center. So we put him there from Day 1, and his development has been second to none on this team."

More from Farnsworth: Former Seahawks safety and assistant coach Paul Moyer offers praise for new Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune raises five questions regarding the Seahawks heading into camp.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks Jeff Fisher has advantages over previous Rams coaches Steve Spagnuolo and Scott Linehan. Miklasz: "Strategy wasn't the primary issue for Linehan and Spagnuolo. Like many insecure first-time NFL head coaches, the pressure of the job consumed them. They worried about having total control and wanted to make all of the personnel decisions. They built walls and bunkers and fretted over silly matters that had little to do with game-day success. Linehan and Spags could never complete that difficult jump from assistant to head coach. They couldn't fill the big meeting room with their presence. That won't be a problem for Fisher."

Nick Wagoner of offers a primer for the Rams' defense heading into camp. Wagoner: "Most likely, the Rams will keep seven linebackers, and aside from James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar, there don’t seem to be any certainties. The two other starting positions will be hotly contested amongst the rest of the linebackers, and the other backup jobs create a land of opportunity for a bunch of young players fighting for jobs."
Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Roger Craig, Sean Morey, Sam Bradford and Takeo Spikes are among the NFC West players and alumni scheduled to appear at the NFL Players Association's draft-related festivities in New York beginning April 28.

Hall of Famer and current Seattle Seahawks radio analyst Warren Moon, who played for Seattle before the team's move back to the NFC West in 2002, is also on the guest list revealed Monday.

The NFLPA took criticism when news broke that it planned to discourage players from attending the draft itself, but these events have been scheduled to give players flexibility should they choose to attend both.

"The series of events is a celebration of legacy -- of past, present and future football players coming together to honor those making the journey from prospect to professional," the NFLPA said in a news release.

The NFLPA has scheduled a welcome meeting and dinner with families for 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, the first day of the draft, which begins at 8 p.m. ET. Draft prospects attending would then have time to appear at the draft, should they choose to do so, as both will be headquartered in New York.

The NFLPA has scheduled media access for Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, followed by a lunch and dinner with reception at 4:30 p.m. A fitness and skills clinic is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in Harlem, followed by lunch and a party beginning at 9 p.m.

NFL teams generally fly first-round choices to their facilities in the day or two following the first round. Rules will allow that to happen again, despite the lockout. Players heading to their new teams' facilities for news conferences could miss NFLPA-sponsored events for Friday and/or Saturday.

The initial guest list, subject to change, features the following current and former NFL players: Charlie Batch, Cornelius Bennett, Dwayne Bowe, Bradford, Ahmad Bradshaw, Craig, Zak DeOssie, Dickerson, Eddie George, Faulk, Felix Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Dustin Keller, Brandon Marshall, Kevin Mawae, Willie McGinest, Brian Mitchell, Moon, Morey, Shaun O'Hara, Ray Rice, Tony Richardson, Spikes and Mike Vrabel.

The list of draft prospects includes Prince Amukamara, Marvin Austin, Adrian Clayborn, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Blaine Gabbert, A.J. Green, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, Corey Liuget, Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson, Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, Daniel Thomas and J.J. Watt.
Len Pasquarelli of says only the Bills used more starting offensive linemen than the Seahawks last season. That included four starting left tackles. Pasquarelli: "Most coaches and players surveyed this week agreed that, although athletes are better now on the line, overall offensive line play has waned. More than any other unit, an offensive line demands cohesiveness. But rarely do the same five players stay together long enough to achieve the necessary mesh." Every team in the NFC West could have more than one new starter on its offensive line this season. Arizona and Seattle generally had very good continuity up front when winning the last six NFC West titles.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant, who is eager to bounce back from an injury-affected season. Trufant: "I feel like I’ve got a lot to prove. And I want to come out, and I want to do better for my team. I felt like I not only let myself down, but I let my team down by coming back and not playing at the level that I know I can play at. So I’m just here to do the best for my team, and to help the team out as best as possible." Trufant should be much better this season. A back injury sidelined him last offseason and into the regular season. He then tried to assimilate into a new system during the season.

Also from Williams: a photo from Trufant's recent community event.

Doug Farrar of looks at how Seattle's new defense hopes to generate a pass rush. Farrar: "(Pete) Carroll got great sack seasons out of Chris Doleman in San Francisco and Willie McGinest in New England before he went to USC. For the Trojans, the most obvious beneficiary of the position was Clay Matthews."

Darren Urban of says the Cardinals are trying to develop young quarterbacks John Skelton and Max Hall. Urban: "(Quarterbacks coach Chris) Miller said mental makeup becomes crucial. Some players can play right away for a bad team and eventually make it work. Troy Aikman was terrible as a rookie for a one-win Cowboy team, but overcame that. So too did Steve Young after being battered in Tampa Bay. Others -- like Miller’s Oregon brethren Joey Harrington and Akili Smith -- never developed." The Cardinals did not select a quarterback in their first three drafts under coach Ken Whisenhunt. The need became much greater once Kurt Warner retired with one season remaining on his contract. Warner recently reiterated that he has no plans to come out of retirement.

Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' Jason Smith was happy to be back on the field for recent practices after suffering through a concussion-shortened rookie season. Smith: "It feels really good being with the team. Obviously, at the end of last year, I wasn’t able to be with them. For me, it feels great to be able to come out here and pull on this jersey for the Rams. I’m glad that we’re focused on a new season."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the NFL should be more proactive in settling the Rams' ownership situation. Balzer: "With training camp around the corner and the first overall pick in the draft to be signed, it’s time for the NFL to make a decision. It shouldn’t be that difficult. There are only three options here, it seems: Change the cross-ownership rules; keep the rules and allow (Stan) Kroenke to do whatever he wants with transferring ownership of his teams; or keep the rules and tell Kroenke he’s out of luck, that family ownership won’t fly."

Also from Balzer: Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe will probably hit the market. Balzer: "One team to keep an eye on is the San Francisco 49ers. Atogwe’s rehabilitation is believed to be taking place in the Bay Area, and he has been dating the daughter of 49ers coach Mike Singletary for at least the last year."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are hoping one of their young players can emerge as Steven Jackson's backup this season. Chris Ogbonnaya played very well against the Cardinals in Arizona late last season, I thought. More on that in a bit.

Matt Maiocco of says during a chat he expects Anthony Davis to start at right tackle in Week 1. Maiocco: "My guess would be that Anthony Davis starts. But, for the short term, it probably won't be the worst thing in the world if Snyder is in there. Let's face it, Davis is going to struggle some as a rookie. He'll experience ups and downs, no question. The 49ers have to be prepared to give up a little and ride the rollercoaster at the beginning with the result being a better player down the road."

Also from Maiocco: a player-by-player look at the 49ers' offense, with this note about Alex Smith coming out of recent practices: "He threw the ball OK. He made some very nice deep and intermediate passes. He was off-target on some of his shorter throws. But the biggest development of the week was Smith's outward confidence and control of the team's protections. On Tuesday, he stood at the line of scrimmage and had the full attention of his teammates as he recited all of the adjustments the offense had to be prepared to make depending on the different possible defensive looks. That is something O.C. Jimmy Raye said Smith could not have done a year ago -- even during the season."

More from Maiocco: a player-by-player look at the 49ers' defense featuring these thoughts on rookie Taylor Mays: "He lined up with the third team defense at safety. He played more of a strong safety over the course of the four days, but was also seen playing deep in coverage, too. He did not see a lot of action come his way. On Thursday, he was isolated on the left deep half and looked smooth in his backpedal, then he flipped his hips and turned right. Mays was right there as Smith completed a deep route to tight end Joe Jon Finley. It was one of those plays that the coaches have been telling the defensive backs to let the receivers catch, rather than making a play on the ball (or the man) and running the risk of injury. With pads on and against an enemy defender, Mays would've been in position to make a play on the ball or deliver a big hit."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says punter Andy Lee plans to report to the 49ers for practices beginning June 7. Lee has missed voluntary sessions recently while his wife is expecting the couple's first child.

Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle say the 49ers are spending millions on a campaign to get a stadium built in Santa Clara. Matier and Ross: "The Niners' political team is led by Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who managed both Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2006 gubernatorial bid and John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, as well as local consultants Ed McGovern and Jude Barry. They also have a full-time campaign manager overseeing a paid staff of five and scores of volunteers."

NFL trade market could be fascinating

February, 16, 2010
The NFL trade market could be much more exciting without a salary cap to spoil the fun.

In the past, cap considerations made it easy to rule out the vast majority of trades involving significant players.

But when a Patriots fan recently asked's Mike Reiss about New England possible reacquiring Deion Branch from Seattle, Reiss proposed a Branch-for-Adalius Thomas trade.

And why not? The NFL salary cap becomes history if the NFL and its players do not have a new collective bargaining agreement by March 5.

My mission for the rest of the day involves putting together an item for Wednesday proposing four reasonable trades -- one to help each NFC West team in 2010.

Give me your ideas. I like the Branch-for-Thomas move, which might arm Seahawks coach Pete Carroll with the "elephant" linebacker he needs for his defense (Willie McGinest played the role for Carroll in New England).

Surely we can come up with at least one move that would help every team in this division. And I'm sure Anquan Boldin will be part of this conversation.