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Thursday, August 14, 2008
Around the NFC West: Martz opens up


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat gets 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz to open up about his heart condition, Bill Walsh, the pressure he puts on players and the assertiveness he wants from a quarterback.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee follows up on his earlier blog item about Alex Smith's best friend, David Edwards, committing suicide. Barrows: "Smith said he would call Edwards whenever he needed to escape football. Edwards ran cross country and played golf with Smith. The two participated in fantasy baseball leagues together. According to Smith, Edwards also could talk about politics, music and other topics. And he always was available."

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers answers questions from readers. One reader asked whether general manager Scot McCloughan's reputation would suffer if Smith, the first player drafted in 2005, failed to win the starting job. Maiocco: "Technically, Nolan had the 'trigger' in that draft. McCloughan wanted Smith, but so did Nolan. We'll have to let this thing play out. If Smith never gets another chance with the 49ers, McCloughan's rep will be determined by what Smith does in his next place of employment." I think Nolan's handling of Smith will be the enduring story.

More from Maiocco: The 49ers' receivers are having a hard time keeping up with the pace of Martz's practices. Also: Guard Tony Wragge signed a one-year contract extension with a $175,000 bonus, while Takeo Spikes signed a one-year deal worth $1.68 million.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle checks in with 49ers fullback Zak Keasey. A former Ivy League linebacker, Keasey excels on special teams. That could give him an edge on veteran fullback Moran Norris as players fight for roster spots.

Also from FitzGerald: J.T. O'Sullivan keeps getting the first-team reps at quarterback, but 49ers coach Mike Nolan keeps saying the three-man race continues.

SI.com offers a Rams camp overview summing up pertinent developments.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with players on the fringes of the Rams' roster. Kicker Justin Medlock knows there isn't a roster spot for him, but he hopes to catch on elsewhere.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says tight end Joe Klopfenstein enjoyed perhaps his best camp with the Rams. I noticed the Titans blew up a Rams running play during the exhibition opener after Klopfenstein failed to hold his block, but one play does not make a training camp.

Elizabethe Holland of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are taking steps to liven up their fans on game days: "To that end, the Rams have hired a drumline, are making fan-driven changes in game-day music and plan to have a disc jockey on the field during pregame warm-ups." The Seahawks also have a drumline.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Rams' linebackers wear a gaudy championship belt if they lead the team in sacks during a given week. Newcomer Travis LaBoy suggested the idea and even paid for the belt: "According to [Karlos] Dansby, LaBoy paid for the campy hardware, plunking down 'something between $10,000 and $20,000.' With the blessing of the coaching staff, the linebackers will take turns wearing it during the regular season, based on who has the most sacks from game to game."

Brian McIntyre of the Scout.com network updates his Seahawks roster analysis. He puts Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor and Jordan Kent ahead of Logan Payne and Michael Bumpus in the receiving race. I'm less certain about that position now than I was two weeks ago. 

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune looks at the Seahawks' move from their old, outdated facility into their palatial digs along the shores of Lake Washington. Former fullback Mack Strong will miss the old place.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks receivers coach Keith Gilbertson, who has officially been around. Gilbertson: "I must be old school, like from the 1920s. I guess I've had a lot of jobs. But I'm 60 years old, too. If you look at most 60-year-old guys, they've been a few places."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times was there when backup Seahawks quarterback Charlie Frye impressed by calling the correct audible. Frye, acquired from the Browns after the 2007 season opener, is getting work with the first team this week while Matt Hasselbeck rests a sore back. Seneca Wallace remains the No. 2 quarterback. Frye could get the start in the second exhibition game. He'll play extensively.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune has more from Frye. He quotes Wallace as saying Frye has definitely improved since last season. 

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer touches on Frye at the bottom of a story about new quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. The Seahawks hired Lazor after longtime quarterbacks coach -- and franchise icon -- Jim Zorn became the Redskins' head coach. Lazor also offers advice on diaper changing. Seriously.