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Sunday, August 31, 2008
Around the NFC West: Optimistic Cardinals

Posted by's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic gives an overview of the Cardinals heading into the season. A line about Antrel Rolle stood out to me: "Rolle has moved from corner and looks like he'll be a solid player at the other [free] safety spot."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals' coordinators single out Tim Hightower, Clark Haggans and Travis LaBoy as players to watch this season.

More from Somers: Travis LaBoy starts over Bert Berry. Deuce Lutui starts over Elton Brown. Reggie Wells and Elton Brown are candidates to play center if something happens to Lyle Sendlein before Al Johnson returns from injury.

And this from Somers: optimism abounding in Tempe.

Darren Urban of checks in with Kurt Warner after the Cardinals named him their starting quarterback. On a related topic, Matt Leinart was unavailable to reporters.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune circles the Cardinals' Nov. 16 game at Seattle as one that could send Arizona on its way.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Craig Terrill and Josh Wilson will likely replace Rocky Bernard and Jordan Babineaux during the season opener. Bernard and Babineaux will be serving suspensions.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune expects Deion Branch back on the field for the Seahawks sooner rather than later. Otherwise, Branch might have landed on the physically unable to perform list.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revisits the exhibition season to see what the Rams learned about themselves. Improved red-zone defense was evident.

Also from Thomas: No surprises among the Rams' roster cuts. That in itself is no surprise. Most cuts around the league could have been predicted five or six weeks ago.

And this from Thomas: Chris Long faces a difficult adjustment going from a 3-4 scheme in college to a 4-3 scheme in the NFL. Long: "The overwhelming thing is not the physicality of it. It's the technique. You have to work on that every day. I'm doing OK. I've just got to keep chipping away every day." 

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Nick Leckey will open the regular season as the Rams' starting center.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Ashley Lelie has the highest yards-per-catch average of any active NFL receiver. That didn't mean much in the training room.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle channels Frank Gore's sheer delight at the 49ers' offensive capabilities this season. The realist in me expects mixed results. I expect to see weeks when the offense flourishes, and others when little goes right.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider blames former 49ers center Jeremy Newberry, now with San Diego, for injuring current 49ers defensive lineman Aubrayo Franklin.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers provides Mike Nolan's reasoning for various cuts. He also notes that Jeff Ulbrich remains the starting "Ted" linebacker ahead of Takeo Spikes. The 49ers would like another receiver, but they viewed Ashley Lelie as a durability issue. I wonder if they'll feel so strongly after the opener, when teams can re-sign veterans without guaranteeing their salaries for the season.

Also from Maiocco: Gone are the days when the 49ers ran low on defensive backs. The team kept 11 on the initial cut to 53 -- 12 if you count return man Allen Rossum.

Tony Bizjak of the Sacramento Bee tells a tragic story of a 49ers fan killed at Candlestick Park when a runaway police horse named "Seattle" ran over him. Eugene "Bud" Caldwell was 78 and had recently overcome a severe heart attack. Caldwell was a longtime 49ers season-ticket holder.