NFL Nation: Chris Draft
Former Rams receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce chatted it up with former Tennessee cornerback Samari Rolle, who is working in the team’s coaching internship program. That trio was joined at various times by Lance Schulters, another former Titans defensive back in the internship program, La'Roi Glover, a former Rams defensive tackle and now the team’s director of player programs, and former Rams tackle Grant Williams.
The sight of former Rams is nothing new around the team’s training facility these days. Since Jeff Fisher took over as coach in Jan. 2012, he’s made it abundantly clear that he’s happy to welcome back former players who might want to offer some advice to his young team or who might just want to watch practice.
In the two weeks since camp started, other former Rams such as defensive back Aeneas Williams, safety Keith Lyle and linebacker Chris Draft have stopped by. It’s not limited to Rams alumni, either. In addition to Schulters and Rolle, former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck was also in town for a couple of days.
While it might be nothing new for Fisher to open the doors to past Rams, it does represent something of a departure from how things were in the not-too-distant past.
“This is home,” Holt said. “I should feel comfortable and good when I come here. Myself and others, we did a lot for this organization. So it feels good to be able to step back out on this field and not be looking over your shoulder or feel like you’re stepping on anybody’s toes and then to be able to provide information for guys to improve their game. It’s not about us, it’s just about sharing what we’ve learned to make this organization better and try to bring back championships to this organization.”
That’s a feeling that Holt shared with plenty of other former Rams who didn’t feel welcome or comfortable about being at Rams Park on a regular basis.
In 2011, Rams Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood told ESPN’s Arash Markazi that he didn’t feel like he had any connection to the team he once played Super Bowl XIV with while nursing a broken leg.
"We are their legacy but they forgot us," Youngblood said then. "They don't have anything to do with us, really. I find that unfortunate because you look at other franchises, even those that have moved, and they use their alumni in their marketing and in their organization. They use their Hall of Famers as an example for the players who are there today. They use their alumni, but the Rams have cut us out of the picture."
At the time, the Rams had begun to make inroads in their alumni program, which has taken off in recent years. As part of those efforts, the Rams signed Holt and Bruce to one-day contracts so each could retire as Rams. Most notably they welcomed back 20 prominent players from their past to celebrate the team’s 75th anniversary last December.
Included in that group were a number of Los Angeles Rams, including Rosey Grier, Vince Ferragamo, Dennis Harrah, Jackie Slater, LeRoy Irvin and Youngblood.
That’s just the tip of iceberg. Holt is back in St. Louis this week in preparation for his work as a color analyst on the team’s preseason broadcasts. He joins another former Ram, Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, in the booth for those duties.
Fisher’s open-door policy should come as no surprise given his experience in the league. He’s entering his 28th year coaching in the NFL and his 18th as a head coach.
Surrounded by a veteran staff with plenty of experience of its own, Fisher is undeniably comfortable in his own skin. The paranoia that can sometimes accompany first-time head coaches has long since evaporated and Fisher clearly views the opportunity to bring in any former player with wisdom to share as a positive for a team that again figures to be one of the youngest in the league.
“It feels good to be back, it feels good to be welcome and Coach Fisher gets it,” Holt said. “He welcomes us. He knows the value and the importance of the guys talking to veteran guys who have been there, done it and done it at a high level because you can gain so much from that as a player. I’m thankful that I’m able to come back and coach Fisher is an excellent coach who understands the game, understands what it takes to improve his roster and he’s allowing us to help out.”
The veteran linebacker spent that season with Buffalo, went to camp with Washington in 2010 and was out of the league last season.
Draft was needed far more elsewhere last season. His wife, Keasha, was dying of lung cancer. Draft had proposed to her following her diagnosis. The website for Draft's foundation links to remembrances.
Jeremy Schaap's piece, available in the video above, tells their story.
Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Ryan Denney, LB Chris Draft, DB Todd Johnson, G Seth McKinney, WR Terrell Owens, WR Josh Reed, S Bryan Scott, G Kendall Simmons, LB Josh Stamer.
Potential restricted free agents: LB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, TE Derek Schouman, T Jonathan Scott, S George Wilson, CB Ashton Youboty.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Bills are in a rebuilding mode and shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to sign their free agents. In fact, they took the unusual step of publicly announcing they wouldn't offer Owens, Reed or Denney contracts. The most attractive players are Incognito and Wilson. Most of the rest were bit players and injury replacements.
Potential unrestricted free agents: NT Jason Ferguson, CB Nate Jones, QB Chad Pennington, OLB Jason Taylor.
Potential restricted free agents: RB Ronnie Brown, TE Anthony Fasano, OLB Quentin Moses.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Dolphins have a tough decision to make on Ferguson. He'll turn 36 during the 2010 season and is coming off a serious quadriceps injury. Without him, however, the Dolphins have a massive void in their 3-4 defense at a position that's difficult to replace. Pennington, Jones and Taylor all could be gone.
New England Patriots
Potential unrestricted free agents: OLB Tully Banta-Cain, CB Leigh Bodden, OLB Derrick Burgess, RB Kevin Faulk, DE Jarvis Green, P Chris Hanson, G Stephen Neal, ILB Junior Seau, TE Benjamin Watson.
Potential restricted free agents: K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins, OLB Pierre Woods.
Franchise player: NT Vince Wilfork.
What to expect: Several starters are about to go up for bids, and the Patriots can't keep them all. Expect Faulk to be re-signed without much fuss. Neal, Bodden and Banta-Cain comprise a group they'd have trouble replacing. All three could fetch offers the Patriots would rather not match. Don't count on Watson coming back.
New York Jets
Potential unrestricted free agents: LS James Dearth, DE Marques Douglas, K Jay Feely, LB Ryan Fowler, TE Ben Hartsock, LB Larry Izzo, FB Tony Richardson.
Potential restricted free agents: QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, DT Howard Green, T Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, S Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: As a "final eight" team, the Jets have to window shop until one of their UFAs sign elsewhere. General manager Mike Tannenbaum is creative. Don't be surprised if the Jets use trades to upgrade. The key restricted free agent to monitor will be Washington, who received a second-round tender. His agent has been tweeting alarms the Pro Bowler could sign an offer sheet and dare the Jets to match.
There was no mention of Buffalo's other unrestricted free agents: guards Seth McKinney and Kendall Simmons, linebacker Chris Draft and safety Bryan Scott.
Owens played one season with the Bills. He had a team-high 55 receptions for 829 yards and five touchdowns.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh suggested he would be interested in bringing Owens aboard.
"I've always said I've got a lot of respect for T.O., and I know Ozzie [Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome] does, too," Harbaugh said at the NFL scouting combine. "He had a good year last year, we watched him on tape and he was very effective."
When pressed on his interest in Owens, Harbaugh added "You cornered me. You got me. We're interested in T.O. We're interested in all the guys that can make our team better."
Reed spent eight seasons with the Bills. The slot receiver caught 27 passes for 291 yards and one touchdown last year. He had his best season in 2008, when he made 56 catches for a career-high 597 yards and a touchdown despite missing three games.
Denney also played eight years in Buffalo, collecting 23.5 sacks mostly as a backup. Of his 31 career starts, 24 of them came in two seasons -- 2003 and 2008.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
So much for the Chris Draft Show on 101ESPN St. Louis.
The Rams released Draft, presumed to be a starting linebacker, in a surprise move. The veteran linebacker refused a pay cut earlier in the week, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Draft was scheduled to earn $1.225 million in salary this season.
The Rams are rebuilding, obviously, and that means getting younger. But releasing a veteran starter three days before the season opener strikes me as the type of move that can backfire in the locker room, at least short term.
The Rams' linebackers minus the 33-year-old Draft feature Will Witherspoon, James Laurinaitis, Chris Chamberlain, David Vobora and Larry Grant. Re-signing Quinton Culberson could be one option.
I thought the Rams were already thin at linebacker after releasing Pisa Tinoisamoa, who subsequently signed with the Bears. If nothing else, this move shows that the Rams viewed Draft far differently than thought.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams' roster requires additional study after a thorough house-cleaning this offseason. With so many new faces, I feel less familiar with the Rams than with the other teams in the division. This initial look at the roster will hopefully help bring some focus.
Donnie Avery's injury and overall health concerns at receiver could influence how many players the Rams carry into the season at the position.
Marc Bulger's broken pinky shouldn't affect the roster as long as he recovers on schedule. Teams must reduce to 75 players by Sept. 1 and 53 players by Sept. 5. Those initial 53-man rosters sometimes change by Week 1 kickoffs. For that reason, I've been focusing on Week 1 rosters when setting baseline expectations for each position.
The chart provides a framework for how many players the Rams might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Seahawks.
Here's a quick look at which Rams players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' recent moves suggest the team is heading in the right direction. Crumpacker: "Signing tackle Joe Staley to a six-year extension, to go with earlier contract extensions for center Eric Heitmann, outside linebacker Parys Haralson and running back Michael Robinson, sends a message to the rest of the team that hard work and production on the field will be rewarded."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says new 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye plans to use tight end Vernon Davis as a receiver more frequently than the 49ers did last season. That's what happens when a team requires its coaches to use its personnel as intended. The 49ers did not draft Davis near the top of the first round to block defensive ends.
Also from Maiocco: It'll be tough for Alex Smith to beat out Shaun Hill this season. Maiocco: "He not only has to outplay Hill in practice, he has to outplay him by a considerable margin. And, even then, it might not be enough for Singletary to go with him over Hill."
More from Maiocco: Patrick Willis predicts a top 10-finish for the 49ers' defense in 2009. That would require an improvement of three places from last season.
Still more from Maiocco: Details on Staley's contract and Staley's contention that the 49ers' new offense should help them cut down on sacks. I think Staley is being genuine -- he knows no other way, it seems -- but players usually say they prefer new systems over previous ones. Here's what another 49ers lineman said about the Martz system last offseason: "Everything about our offense makes sense. With some I've had in the past, we had seven or eight adjustments on a play depending on a defense. Right now I feel everything is very precise, very defined. We have rules we stick to. It should be easier for the long term."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Isaac Bruce thinks parity in the NFL can help the 49ers contend for the Super Bowl. Also, tight ends coach Pete Hoener is pushing rookie Bear Pascoe, a player the 49ers expect to help in the run game.
Also from Barrows: Hill struggles throwing in windy conditions. That's tough for him because winds tend to become a factor during afternoon sessions at team headquarters. Not that the wind ever swirls at Candlestick.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com cites a Forbes magazine piece noting that the Cardinals' brand has enjoyed strong gains over the last year. Urban: "Forbes says the Cards' 'brand value' has increased a 'staggering 143 percent' over the past three years, up to $68 million. They also note the $155 million, 20-year naming rights deal with the University of Phoenix at the stadium is the third-largest in the NFL. These days, with the economy being what it is, it's also tough to come by such a naming rights deal anywhere close. In the NFL, the Giants are the second 'hottest brand,' with the Cowboys third, the Jets fourth and the Colts fifth."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Seahawks coach Jim Mora and CEO Tod Leiweke will climb Mt. Rainier with famed climber Ed Viesturs on July 5. Viesturs has visited the Seahawks regularly over the years. He has summited Everest six times. He was the first American and fifth person overall to scale the 14 highest peaks without supplemental oxygen.
Dean J. Koepfler of the Tacoma News Tribune provides a slideshow from the Seahawks' recent visit to an Army obstacle course.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Rams running back Steven Jackson as saying he's getting more detail-oriented coaching this season.
Also from Coats: a look at the Rams' safeties. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "If those two are on the same page, that'll permeate to the rest of the defense. If they're not on the same page, then everything goes south."
More from Coats: "Chris Draft, who had been working exclusively in the middle , took some reps at strongside linebacker on Saturday. That could be a prelude to second-round draftee James Laurinaitis moving up to the first team at or near the start of training camp."
VanRam of Turf Show Times thinks Rams backup running back Kenneth Darby can be effective in pass protection. He suggests the team could use two halfbacks at the same time. That wouldn't facilitate a power running game, however.
Chris Lee of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides a photo slideshow from Rams minicamp.
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Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have no interest in former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress. Miklasz: "When new head coach Steve Spagnuolo was hired, he stressed the four pillars of his leadership, the four pillars that would rebuild the franchise: (1) Faith; (2) Character; (3) Core Values; (4) Team. Does that sound like Plaxico Burress to you?" Burress could be facing jail time.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says bouncing between nose tackle and three-technique tackle hasn't helped first-round choice Adam Carriker. Thomas: "Carriker's first two seasons were slightly disappointing, but in his defense he was bouncing around [from] NT to UT. He's more suited for UT, or 3-technique, it seems, and if he's left there, he might come around pretty quickly. [Clifton] Ryan has been pretty solid in the middle. The rest of the rotation is pretty much up in the air at this point. Rookie Darell Scott probably will be in there, and Orien Harris, too. As for [Claude] Wroten, I expect the Rams to release him as soon as he's reinstated. Of course, I could be wrong about that. But he doesn't seem to fit the Spags profile."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Spagnuolo is stressing penalty reduction. Also: "Larry Grant worked with the first unit at strongside LB on Tuesday. That spot is open following the release of veteran Pisa Tinoisamoa. With second-round draftee James Laurinaitis still with the No. 2 unit, Chris Draft was at MLB with the ones."
Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers have reached agreement with Santa Clara on financing for a new stadium. Mayor Patricia Mahan: "I believe we have negotiated as far as we can, and we are ready to bring it to the public." The public could get a look at the deal next week.
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle sizes up the 49ers' stadium efforts this way:"In this corner, there is Jed York, born to the purple and working on behalf of mom and dad to get the Santa Clara deal moving. In the other, there is Carmen Policy, Eddie DeBartolo's old wing man, working on behalf of Lennar, the folks who are trying to make the 49ers a new home at Hunters Point if the Santa Clara thing collapses. And in the middle -- leaning toward Jed -- is Eddie, who is about to be inducted into the 49ers' Hall of Fame, largely on Jed's initiative. We're sure the development is entirely coincidental and meritorious."
Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' other receivers seem to be embracing first-round choice Michael Crabtree, viewing him more as a threat to opponents than to their own playing time. If veteran Isaac Bruce is concerned, it's not showing. He has skipped the voluntary workouts to this point.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers players keep getting hurt during organized team activities (OTAs). Crumpacker: "The early diagnosis on [Walt] Harris was a sprained knee, with further evaluation to come. The 49ers are not deep at cornerback. Behind Harris on the depth chart is Tarell Brown and after him, there's Shawntae Spencer, who is coming off a 2008 knee injury that cost him 14 games."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the best-case scenario for Alex Smith and the 49ers would be for Shaun Hill to open the 2009 season as the starter. I think that depends on how the quarterbacks look during the offseason, specifically during the exhibition games. Is there a chance Smith wins the job and plays well for 16 games? Also, just to be clear, the 49ers also have no interest in Burress.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' depth at receiver is being tested with Bruce away, Crabtree rehabilitating a foot injury and Jason Hill suffering a sprained ankle in practice.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says new Cardinals running back Jason Wright is embracing the opportunity in Arizona. Wright: "It's an offense that puts players in the best position to win. It's an attacking offense, aggressive and it's not reactive. I love that about this offense. It's forward moving and it's very efficient. In fact, I was amazed during our first minicamp at how many completions there were and how few dropped balls and mental errors I saw. That's really rare. But they've got something really crisp going on."
Also from McManaman: Karlos Dansby expresses confidence in the Cardinals' ability to reach a long-term agreement with him.
Carrie Watters of the Arizona Republic details Arizona's failed bid to land the 2013 Super Bowl. New Orleans was more than a sentimental favorite.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Wilson, Sean Morey, Kenny Iwebema, Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor did not attend OTAs Monday. Urban expects them to show up later.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind sizes up Cardinals sixth-round choice Will Davis. Hawkwind: "It wouldn't be surprising at all, given the current depth at OLB, for Davis to spend the season on the practice squad. He has zero experience in space [and] his transition to OLB will be more difficult than second round pick Cody Brown. When you add in that he also needs to get stronger and possibly drop some weight, a year on the practice squad seems to make sense. If he does find his way onto the roster, it'll likely be because he's made a name for himself on special teams."
Gregg Bell of the Associated Press says Bryan Pittman's agent confirmed the long-snapper's contract agreement with the Seahawks.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com says vice president Joe Biden, speaking at Wake Forest's commencement, pointed to Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry as reason for optimism. Biden: "As a student of history, it's the history behind me and the people in front of me that give me such a degree of optimism. ... It's about Aaron Curry, a scrawny freshman linebacker recruited by only two schools, who worked his rear off, became a Top 5 pick, and is walking off this stage into an opposing NFL backfield. Aaron, I heard you wanted to go to law school -- you were considering going to graduate school. I also heard that your fellow draftees have taken up a collection encouraging you to go. So I'm sure there's a scholarship there if you want it."
John Morgan of Field Gulls outlines 10 keys for the Seahawks on defense. Darryl Tapp's emergence tops the list.
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Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams didn't think Pisa Tinoisamoa had the size to fit their scheme, and the team wasn't going to pay him starter money if he didn't fit the defense. That makes sense in theory, but the Rams will also need players this season. Are they strong enough at linebacker to make this move if injuries sideline Chris Draft or one of the other starters? This move carries some risk.
VanRam of Turf Show Times wasn't surprised when the Rams released Tinoisamoa. We know this because he wrote about the possibility in February: "While talk of cutting or trading Torry Holt and Orlando Pace has dominated roster talk around Rams nation, Pisa's name has bubbled up here and there as a potential casualty of business. We know the Rams are in store for plenty of roster turnover, so don't be shocked if Tinoisamoa joins the long list of former Rams."
The 49ers' Web site provides an interview transcript featuring thoughts from free-agent running back Kory Sheets. Sheets: "I plan on breaking that myth about me being a perimeter guy or a third-down back. I want to show everybody that I can be an every down back." Also from Sheets: "Growing up I used to watch Barry Sanders all the time. My high school coach gave me a tape of his highlights and I used to watch that all the time. I used to watch it at least three times a week just to see how he ran the ball. I definitely patterned my game after him."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com explains what Kurt Warner sees from new quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. Urban: "Warner believes Miller will help in the translation of game preparation to actual game-planning, noting that sometimes with coaches that haven't played quarterback, 'in their mind, [a play] works, but sometimes it doesn't necessarily work when you are seeing it as a quarterback on the field.'" Warner's former position coach, Jeff Rutledge, also played in the NFL. Miller also wants to help Matt Leinart improve his footwork.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times recalls an NFL.com report that said Ken Lucas discouraged the Lions from acquiring him. Had the Panthers sent Lucas to the Lions in February, Detroit would have inherited Lucas' $5.6 million salary. Instead, the Panthers released Lucas, whose one-year deal with Seattle features $2.3 million in base salary and no bonuses.
John Morgan of Field Gulls draws from previous reports on Max Unger in putting together a detailed scouting report on Seattle's second-round draft choice. Morgan: "Health and muscle development will determine Unger's upside and downside. If knee injuries occur or worsen, he could lose enough agility and enough power to no longer be athletic enough to play in the league. If he fills out and develops better sustained power, he has the kind mastery of technique and innate athleticism to be a special, even Pro Bowl caliber, center or guard."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com sizes up the Seahawks' running backs. T.J. Duckett says the organization is showing great faith in the current runners. I do not think the Seahawks were against adding to the position early in the draft. They found what they considered to be better values at other positions.
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Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals general manager Rod Graves met with Karlos Dansby's agent. They agreed to meet again next week.
More from Somers: Graves and agent Kirk Wood sounded optimistic after their meeting. Wood said everyone is committed to getting a deal done in the near term.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind seeks answers from azcardinals.com editor Darren Urban during an interview. Asked to rank three possible scenarios for Edgerrin James in order of likelihood, Urban put them in this order: "1) Edge is cut after the draft, 2) Edge returns, 3) Edge is cut before the draft." He explains this way: "My percentage of Edge returning, and again, this is my guess and not because of any inside info, would be about 5 percent. If a running back isn't taken in the first two rounds of the draft, my percentage would grow maybe as high as 40 to 50 percent. I still find it doubtful Edge is here next season, but like any good bet-hedger, I will never say never."
Also from Urban: photos provided by world traveler Larry Fitzgerald.
More from Urban: Will one of the top college quarterbacks wind up in the NFC West? Check out that photo of Mark Sanchez. Makes him look pretty slim.
Eric Williams of Seahawks Insider summarizes Seattle radio station KJR's interview with new Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Bradley: "Our whole philosophy is we need to put guys in a position to where they can play fast. And I think we need to be an attacking defense. And sometimes I think people assume attacking means a heavy, blitzing package. And we're going to be doing that. But I think more so just getting our guys to play fast so they can be more aggressive, and that's just knowing what they do starting from each play." That could mean keying more on the quarterback to help players react to the football more effectively.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers sound increasingly amenable to drafting a quarterback in the first round. Maiocco: "I still don't believe the 49ers will take a quarterback in the first round of the draft. But my reasoning now is different than it was a couple weeks ago. Now, I don't think either Matthew Stafford or Sanchez will be available after the first nine picks in the draft. So the 49ers might not have to make that decision."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers plan to meet with Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji early next week. Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin are not scheduled to visit at this time. The team does plan to meet with Mark Sanchez, Andre Smith, Michael Oher and Michael Crabtree.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch lists draft prospects scheduled to visit the Rams: Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry and Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe are on the list. Teams drafting as early as the Rams need to cover their bases. Thomas lists the 16 known visitors and scheduled visitors.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Chris Draft is excited about returning to middle linbacker, a position that features his communication skills in getting teammates on the same page.
VanRam of Turf Show Times wonders if John Greco might still wind up in the starting lineup for the Rams even if the team drafted a left tackle early. Greco would have to beat out Alex Barron at right tackle, unless someone changed positions.
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton are preparing for increased roles with the Rams' offense. Avery has recovered from the hip problems that slowed him as a rookie in 2008. Burton says he misses the mentoring Torry Holt provided.
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Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have not yet commenced contract talks with coach Ken Whisenhunt. Somers: "Whisenhunt hasn't brought the subject up with management, nor does he have plans to. Asked at the owners' meetings about his contract, Whisenhunt said he wasn't even thinking about it. General Manager Rod Graves referred questions about the subject to team President Michael Bidwill, who smiled and didn't respond to the question." Whisenhunt has three years left on his deal.
Also from Somers: The NFL owners' meeting included a video presentation complete with Super Bowl highlights. Whisenhunt had trouble watching.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team's new additions tend to have special-teams prowess. Somers asked Whisenhunt about that during the NFC coaches' breakfast Wednesday. Whisenhunt said special-teams play was a factor in the signings, but not necessarily a pivotal one.
Also from Urban: New Cardinals defensive coordinator Bill Davis takes a long-range view.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind wonders what the Cardinals need more: Help on the offensive line or a running back. The running back probably provides more value at No. 31.
Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press says the 49ers weren't impressed by Matthew Stafford's attitude. This story revisits Bay Area reports stemming from the combine.
Paul Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee checks in with Al Davis and Mike Singletary from the NFL owners' meeting. Both enjoyed a laugh or two.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers and Marvel Smith could be moving toward an agreement. Also, Tony Wragge extended his contract through 2010.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo from the NFL owners' meeting. Not counting interim coaches, Spagnuolo is the Rams' first defensive-minded head coach since Ray Malavasi. So far, James Butler is the only defensive starter added during the offseason. Thomas: "Spagnuolo confirmed Wednesday that Will Witherspoon will open next week's minicamp at outside linebacker with Chris Draft at middle linebacker. At defensive end, he likes the experience that Leonard Little brings to the table and the high-energy approach of Chris Long."
Also from Thomas: Former Rams receiver Torry Holt plans to visit the Jaguars.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks the Seahawks need a running back with speed. Williams: "Don't get me wrong, [Julius] Jones is plenty fast. He ran a 4.51 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine when he came out of Notre Dame in 2004. However, I'm thinking of guys like Chris Johnson with Tennessee (4.29), Felix Jones with Dallas (4.44) or Steve Slaton (4.44) with the Houston Texans, guys who can change the complexion of a game with one play by bursting through the line of scrimmage and sprinting past the secondary for a long touchdown run."
Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts explains why he thinks Seattle fans aren't excited about Jones. Sullivan: "It also seems that many fans believe that [Maurice] Morris was the better back last year, but statistically that's not the case. They were basically on par with each other (4.41 ypc for Jones, 4.35 for Morris). Jones had two touchdowns, Morris had none; Jones had two fumbles lost, Morris had one. Call it even? I do."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Matt Bowen of National Football Post analyzes trade prospects for Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin. Bowen: "This guy is for real. I played against him during my career, and I can tell you that he's the last receiver you want to see in the open field with the ball in his hands. Yes, Randy Moss might strike the most fear in NFL players when he lines up before the snap, but once Boldin catches the football, he's the scariest thing on the field."
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind summarizes recent reports about Boldin. Hawkwind: "I won't go as far as guaranteeing that he'll be a member of the 2009 Arizona Cardinals but the team seems to be loading up for a championship run with Warner at the helm and Boldin is more valuable, in the short term, than two or three extra draft picks."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic quotes Cardinals general manager Rod Graves as saying the team hasn't changed its approach to a potential Boldin trade. I would expect the Cardinals to maintain that stance.
Rebekeh Sanders of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are raising lower-level ticket prices while leaving upper-level prices unchanged. Team vice president Mark Dalton: "We're really proud of the product we have not only on the field but also the atmosphere in the stadium. We think it's among the best, if not the best, in the league. In order to compete successfully on the field, we have to have a certain price point."
U.S. Army Sgt. Emily Suhr, writing for the Arizona Republic, checks in with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald during his USO tour stop in Iraq. Rams linebacker Will Witherspoon is also among those present. Said Sgt. Donald Zeitler of Orting, Wash.: "Who I wanted to see the most was probably Larry Fitzgerald because there's kind of a rivalry between the Seahawks and the Cardinals and I've watched them play a lot. He's really fun to watch play."
PCarn of Turf Show Times likes the way the Rams have upgraded their inside running game with fullback Mike Karney and center Jason Brown.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks Rams running back Steven Jackson for his thoughts on Karney's addition. Jackson: "I've seen the holes that he's opened up. He's someone I'm looking forward to working with." Jackson also said he liked the Rams' direction so far this offseason.
Also from Coats: Utility offensive lineman Adam Goldberg paid a free-agent visit to the Browns. Coats wonders why the Rams haven't re-signed the versatile backup. Goldberg played reasonably well in relief at times during the 2008 season.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times suggests former Seahawks receiver Joe Jurevicius, recently released by the Browns, might have failed a physical examination prior to his release. I can confirm that Jurevicius did indeed fail the physical. However, that doesn't necessarily tell us much about the nature of his condition. Players fail physicals associated with their releases quite routinely.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer asks whether the Seahawks might consider drafting Aaron Curry even though the team has much invested in its current linebackers. The strongest quote comes from Rams general manager Billy Devaney: "Curry was the first guy we put [tape] on, and we were like, 'Wow! This guy is special.' He is really good on tape. And then we started talking about the intangibles and, to a man, everybody said he's top of the line."
John Morgan of Field Gulls lists reasons for the Seahawks to demonstrate interest in Curry, including Julian Peterson's age and salary. Peterson, who turns 31 in July, has remained durable enough to play roughly 95 percent of the Seahawks' defensive snaps since joining the team as a free agent before the 2006 season.
Also from Morgan: He thinks Howard Green's limitations will prevent the ex-Seahawk from making the desired impact for the Jets.
Mike Parker of Seahawk Addicts explains why he thinks the Seahawks will not seriously consider B.J. Raji with the fourth overall choice. Parker: "When all is said and done, if the decision at No. 4 is to be made between Raji and [Eugene] Monroe, the smart money is going to be on Monroe."
David Fucillo of Niners Nation selects Florida State's Everette Brown for the 49ers in a mock draft. For those of you unfamiliar with mock drafts, they consist of ... kidding.
Lisa Goodwin of 49ers.com checks in with Vernon Davis after the tight end spent considerable time meeting with congressmen to promote physical fitness. Rams linebacker Chris Draft also took part in the meetings.
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Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic expects Kurt Warner to re-sign with the Cardinals in the next two or three weeks. McManaman: "That was the word circulating through the Warner camp before and following the Cardinals' 27-23 loss to the Steelers in Tampa. And unless management completely drops the ball and short-changes the quarterback at the negotiating table, it's appears to be a done deal."
Also from McManaman: a quick look at questionable calls in the Super Bowl. Aaron Francisco calls out the Steelers' James Harrison.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was "humbled" and "stunned" to receive a phone call from the president following Super Bowl XLIII.
Also from Somers: The Cardinals are five weeks behind most teams as they finally dive into offseason preparations.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals said their goodbyes Tuesday, knowing some players would not be back.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says Whisenhunt appeared "bewildered" by the number of penalties called against the Cardinals in the Super Bowl.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 looks at what the Cardinals' Super Bowl appearance might mean to the team in the future. Seven of the last eight Super Bowl losers missed the playoffs the following season.
Niners tackle Joe Staley blogs about his Super Bowl experience. Watching other teams play made him feel sick, or was it the annoying fan seated behind him? Staley's immediate plans include visiting family in Pennsylvania and hanging out with quarterback Shaun Hill in Missouri. It's a good sign when an offensive lineman chooses to hang out with a quarterback.
Kris Anderson of 49ers.com profiles linebacker Patrick Willis.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat takes a look at free-agent situations around the NFC West. He considers retirement "highly unlikely" for Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.
Also from Maiocco: a look at how the 49ers contained Larry Fitzgerald during the regular season. The Cardinals were a running team when they visited San Francisco in the opener. And then I thought Nate Clements played well during the rematch in Arizona.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at whether the 49ers will split carries between backs or rely almost exclusively on Frank Gore.
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News contrasts the 49ers and Steelers in showing how Pittsburgh has built a consistent winner. Brown: "So how does Pittsburgh do it? Their transactions in 2004 certainly helped. That off-season, Pittsburgh drafted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the first round (11th overall), and quietly landed linebacker James Harrison (free agent) and running back Willie Parker (free agent). That same year, the 49ers' drafted Rashaun Woods."
Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com suggests the Rams can improve if Steve Spagnuolo can restore their attitudes. Linebacker Chris Draft: "I'm definitely excited. Not just what he's done with the defense in New York, but he is going to come with a swagger. His guys have been playing well, have been playing with passion, playing with physical presence these last few years. That's what we need. We need to have a swagger to us."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams need at least two new starters on their offensive line. Thomas: "To me, the Rams need a new starting center and a new starting tackle at a minimum for the line next season. I don't know if you saw the stat during the Super Bowl, but Bulger has been sacked something like 190 times over the past five seasons, the second-highest total in the league over that period. So it starts there."
Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer summarizes Greg Knapp's comments following Knapp's first interview as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator. Knapp: "One of the strengths of the zone run game is that its history has proven, as the parts have changed -- whether the runner or linemen -- it's still been pretty productive. There's so much turnover now with free agency and coaches, this is a system that maybe lends better to that environment. It provides a quicker learning curve to get on target to have success."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times traces Knapp's NFL roots to his days as camp quarterback for the 49ers and Chiefs.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks will need more than an altered scheme to revive their offense in 2009.
John Morgan of Field Gulls says Florida State's Everette Brown is on his radar as a potential Seahawks draft choice.
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Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have lost their edge in recent weeks. They hope to get it back against the Rams. We're talking about the lower-cased edge in this case
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says winning one division title isn't enough for the Cardinals. General manager Rod Graves says the organization has "an opportunity to really establish ourselves as the strength of our division for a long time."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says "playoffs and the Cardinals won't be mutually exclusive anymore." Beating the Rams would help.
Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News says the Cardinals' success has its roots in the Bill Parcells-era Cowboys.
Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle can't remember why the 49ers went with J.T. O'Sullivan over Shaun Hill to start the season.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat outlines key matchups in the Jets-49ers game. Justin Smith vs. Alan Faneca. Eric Heitmann vs. Kris Jenkins. Isaac Bruce vs. Darrelle Revis. Michael Lewis vs. Dustin Keller. And more.
Also from Maiocco: The 49ers have no formal plans to mark the 2-year anniversary since Mark Roman's last interception.
More from Maiocco: The 49ers can beat the Jets by avoiding turnovers and sacks.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers a scouting report for the Jets-49ers game. The game might serve as an audition at right tackle, where Adam Snyder and Barry Sims are both expected to get reps.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald looks at the college play that launched Matt Hasselbeck's career at Boston College.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says Seahawks rookie John Carlson ranks third among NFC tight ends in receiving yardage.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' usual Pro Bowl players might not be heading to Hawaii after this dismal season.
Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks are 1-5 at home and 1-5 on the road. At least no one is asking about their inability to win away from Qwest Field.
Also from Johnson: The Deion Branch trade hasn't worked out for Seattle, but using a 2007 first-round choice on a receiver might not have produced better results.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams would like to re-sign Oshiomogho Atogwe and Ron Bartell in their secondary.
Also from Thomas: A look at which team has the edge in key areas when the Rams and Cardinals meet in Glendale, Ariz.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Adam Goldberg will start at right tackle for the Rams after Alex Barron was late for a team meeting. Is this an upgrade?
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat quotes linebacker Chris Draft as saying "there's a lot of heartache" in the Rams' locker room. Getting a victory would mean more than possibly delaying the Cardinals' division title.
VanRam of Turf Show Times wonders if the Rams are finished with Barron.
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Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have yet to dispel negative perceptions despite a 7-5 record and imminent division title.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals made their punting change with East Coast weather in mind. Field position could be key when the Cardinals visit the Patriots in Week 16 or if they face a road game in the playoffs.
Also from Somers: The Cardinals are trying not to focus on the big picture.
Bob Young of the Arizona Republic would rather see the Cardinals claim a division title by beating the Rams than by having the 49ers lose.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals are hoping to jump-start their pass rush against the Rams, who allowed zero sacks in Week 13.
Also from Tulumello: Neil Rackers adjusts to a new holder on field goals and extra points.
John Morgan of Field Gulls thought Seahawks rookie Lawrence Jackson showed signs of improvement against the Cowboys. I would love to know how many times Jackson maintains run containment to his side. Seems like not enough.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times counters perceptions about Patriots coach Bill Belichick. I've always thought Belichick needed better questions more than he needed better answers.
Also from O'Neil: Mike Holmgren says the Seahawks' decision to name Jim Mora the next head coach hasn't affected performance on the field, even though Holmgren would have preferred the arrangement to have remained a private matter.
Frank Hughes of Seahawks Insider disputes Deon Grant's contention that reporters took the Seattle safety's postgame comments out of context. Grant seemingly criticized defensive coordinator John Marshall after the 34-9 defeat at Dallas.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the NFL's 30th-ranked defense "got defensive" about what Grant meant by his comments.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says Seahawks center Chris Spencer lost feeling in his toes thanks to a herniated disk.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers safety Mark Roman is looking for his first interception in two years.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says 49ers coach Mike Singletary has improved his approach since a rough first week on the job.
Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says Frank Gore deserves better than what the 49ers have to offer.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle polled 49ers players on gun ownership. Ten said they owned guns. Six declined to answer. Twenty-seven said they did not own a firearm.
Also from Crumpacker: The 49ers plan to honor Fred Dean at halftime Sunday.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers cornerback Nate Clements is playing with a broken thumb. The injury could limit Clements' availability as a return specialist while complicating efforts to play press coverage.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Cardinals can clinch a home playoff game for the first time since the Truman Administration. Thomas: "For many St. Louis football fans over the age of 35, this could be a tough day. Our old team, with our old quarterback, winning our division."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calls Rams running back Steven Jackson "235 pounds of paradox" while saying there isn't a more complex athlete in St. Louis. Since Jackson became a starter, the Rams are 21-33 when he plays and 1-10 when he does not play. They average an additional 59 yards rushing per game when Jackson plays.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams hope to move veteran Chris Draft into the starting lineup at middle linebacker. Usual starter Will Witherspoon is hurting. Rookie David Vobora got the start in Week 13. Also, coach Jim Haslett says he has never owned guns, but cornerback Ron Bartell does pack a firearm.
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