Around the NFC West: Hill the starter for now

March, 22, 2009
3/22/09
9:15
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Ralph Barbieri of KNBR radio provoked testy responses from 49ers coach Mike Singletary by repeatedly asking him about Kurt Warner after Singletary kept telling him he wanted to cover other topics. The interview ended on a friendly note. Along the way, Singletary said Shaun Hill was the 49ers' starting quarterback -- for now. Singletary: "I would envision at some point in time we make a decision on whether Shaun Hill is going to be the starting quarterback or whether it is going to be Alex Smith. But I can tell you right now, today, based on what he did last year, he is the starting quarterback." Damon Huard will be strictly a backup, Singletary said.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers are optimistic about their defense after dropping the "hybrid" from their hybrid 3-4 scheme. We will probably find out more definitively whether Manny Lawson can become a strong outside pass-rusher. The 49ers envisioned him as someone for which opposing quarterbacks would have to account at the snap.

Also from Maiocco: Alex Smith threw the ball relatively well for a man coming off such a long layoff. His arm strength and throwing motion appeared fine. Maiocco: "This was a good minicamp for Dashon Goldson, Manny Lawson, Brandon Jones and Alex Smith."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Vernon Davis' over-the-shoulder grab from Shaun Hill was a highlight. Barrows: "I paid careful attention to the end-of-practice, sideline-to-sideline gassers the team was running. Once again, Patrick Willis, Alex Smith, Reggie Smith, Lewis Baker and Goldson were among the winners. Isaac Sopoaga, Aubrayo Franklin, Chilo Rachal and Ahmad Brooks brought up the rear."

Also from Barrows: Justin Smith hopes the 49ers can become a top-10 defense. Meanwhile, the team is about two weeks away from being able to use the massive training hill under construction at Singletary's urging.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News provides additional details on the hill. Brown: "Singletary used to run hills himself during his playing days, as did Hall-of-Fame teammate Walter Payton. The 49ers' Jerry Rice was famous for his sprint work in the hills of San Carlos. Singletary said that athletes who trained that way 'were a cut above some of the other competition around the league and had a long playing career.'"

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says Hill remained anonymous during the offseason despite emerging as the 49ers' best quarterback in 2008.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says Singletary plans to make the 49ers work -- hard -- during their offseason program. Crumpacker: "Singletary cautioned his players at the end of the season that they had better be prepared to work when the offseason program began. So it was in a minicamp Friday and Saturday when the players were put through 50-minute circuit training sessions featuring short sprints, change of direction, lateral movement and running with weighted bags."

StrictlyFootball of Niners Nation looks at Frank Gore's declining production and weights two primary factors: injuries and instability at quarterback. The 49ers expect to draft a bigger back to carry some of the load.

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 sizes up California center Alex Mack as a potential Cardinals draft choice. Andrew602: "Regardless of whether he stumbles or not, Mack will become the anchor of the line for whoever drafts him. He works hard in the weight room and is always trying to improve his skills. Once he polishes certain aspects of his game, he will be able to start for a team if they needed him too."

Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog wonders how closely the Seahawks were looking at Knowshon Moreno during the pro day featuring Matthew Stafford. Staton: "The only marker you could place against Moreno is that he isn't a four-year starter. But let's be honest, how many running backs are these days? He played two solid years for a big school in a pro-style offense. That should be enough compensation."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com questions the Seahawks' wisdom in letting fullback Leonard Weaver leave through free agency. The team could sign Justin Griffith instead.

Chris Harry of the Orlando Sentinel checks in with former Rams coach Jim Haslett, who is coaching the Orlando franchise in the upstart UFL. Haslett: "I know that when I was in my office on a Thursday night that I would sit there and watch a Division I-AA game if it was on. And I'm like a lot of people -- people love football I'm going to have fun with this." Jay Gruden is serving as Haslett's offensive coordinator. The story says UFL coaches will earn around $500,000 per season. That's less than Haslett would have earned as an NFL defensive coordinator, but still great money, obviously.

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