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Sunday, May 3, 2009
Around the NFC West: Shadowing Spagnuolo


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says new Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is a blur at practice, darting from one station to the next. Burwell: "The Rams' new coach is a little man (5-foot-8) in an oversized NFL world, which in part explains the disappearing act. His practice garb is straight out of the minimalist school: He goes hatless with long khaki pants, short-sleeved wind shirt and a whistle. His practice routine is straight out of the minimalist school, too: nothing terribly flamboyant. He crouches a lot. He moves a lot. He ducks in and out of crowds all over the three practice fields almost like a mole popping out of a burrow. He's here ... then he's there ... quiet one moment, animated the next, observing and teaching, briskly moving from one cluster of position players to the next as he begins this daunting mission to resurrect an ailing franchise."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says new backup quarterback Keith Null counts former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner among his role models. That should be enough to endear Null to the locals.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says second-year cornerback Justin King has much to prove after a toe injury ruined his rookie season. Before the injury, King was showing promise. He was going to factor heavily in the secondary. The toe injury was serious and the previous staff had concerns about King's long-term prognosis.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks first-year 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye appears more "nurturing" than predecessor Mike Martz in his handling of quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Alex Smith. I'd love to hear Martz's thoughts on that one. Also, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky likes what he sees -- so far -- from Ahmad Brooks.

Also from Barrows: Rookie tight end Bear Pascoe, an inline blocker, shined as a receiver in practice.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers a few highlights from the 49ers' rookie camp. Second-year receiver Josh Morgan stood out as exceptional. Michael Crabtree's selection in the first round should help keep the receivers sharp. Not that receivers coach Jerry Sullivan lets those guys rest.

Also from Maiocco: Raye would like to see Alex Smith and Shaun Hill play during the exhibition season before making a decision on the starter, assuming the competition remains close.

Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News examines the close relationship between Smith and Hill. Hill served as a groomsman in Smith's wedding this offseason. Smith: "I'd be lying to you if I said this is easy. It's uncomfortable to compete against a good friend."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says much has changed for the Cardinals since Super Bowl XLIII. Somers: "Five starters from the 2008 team are gone, including three on defense. Five coaches have left, including both coordinators."

Also from Somers: Roughly 3,000 to 4,000 fans turned out for the Cardinals' annual Fan Fest, up from previous years.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic passes along details from Larry Fitzgerald's offseason travels. In Africa, Fitzgerald saw a leopard rob the womb of a buffalo. Fitzgerald: "They all turned around and chased the leopard away, but the baby was already dead. That was the only part I was kind of sad about. But that's survival of the fittest. At home, we sprain an ankle, we go to the training room and nurse it. Out there, you sprain an ankle, you die."

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune found out where superstitions take Whisenhunt on the Saturdays before home games.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks rookie Max Unger held up very well in pass-rush drills, even against Brandon Mebane. Unger is working at left guard with the backups for now.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seattle-area prep product Tony Fein, a former quarterback trying to make an impression as a linebacker at Seahawks camp. Receiver Ben Hannula is another Seahawks prospect with local ties.

More from Williams: Rookie Deon Butler is making an impression with his speed at Seahawks camp. The third-round choice is getting open downfield and making big plays.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers observations from Seahawks camp. He thinks guard Rob Sims might benefit from the new blocking scheme.