NFL Nation: Derek Smith

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' decision to draft James Laurinaitis over Rey Maualuga in the second round could be a defining one for general manager Billy Devaney. Thomas: "These are the types of decisions that can shape franchises and put their stamp on coaching and general manager tenures. For those reasons and more, no Rams draft pick, not even No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith at offensive tackle, will be under as much scrutiny during his rookie season as Laurinaitis."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides several notes from the Rams' minicamp. I liked Marc Bulger's quote about getting to know center Jason Brown. Bulger:  "We're getting there. It's just a feel thing ... you know, literally." Any levity from Bulger is a good thing for the Rams because it suggests he's having fun after a couple of tough seasons.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' perceived emphasis on helping Bulger persists even though the team has probably done more to help Steven Jackson. Of course, anything that helps Jackson also helps Bulger.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' 2008 draft class -- notably defensive end Calais Campbell -- needs to step forward. Good quote from the 6-foot-8 Campbell, who is working on technique: "I've got to be consistent and show them I'm an every-down player. Being 6-8 definitely can be a problem if you don't play with great technique. If you get high and an offensive lineman gets under you, you're going for a train ride."

Also from Somers: Speed isn't a problem for rookie cornerback Gregory Toler.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says former Rams backup Anthony Becht hopes to become the Cardinals' starting tight end. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "There's going to be a lot of competition with that group this year, I'm sure of it. We like what we have. I liked what we had last year, too, but we were dealing with a lot of injuries there. It'll be interesting to see how things develop moving forward." Becht's ties to Whisenhunt from their days together with the Jets should help him, to a point. Jerame Tuman also had ties to Whisenhunt.

Ed Thompson of Scout.com caught up with Seahawks rookie Deon Butler before the former Penn State receiver participated in the team's post-draft camp. Butler hadn't made a pre-draft visit to the Seahawks. He had no idea the team was interested in him. Former Penn State teammate Aaron Maybin, who did visit the Seahawks, put in a good word for Butler. The Seahawks liked Maybin, but in drafting Aaron Curry with the fourth overall choice, Seattle selected another player who did not visit team headquarters before the draft.

Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog thinks Aaron Curry has a good chance at becoming defensive rookie of the year in 2009. Staton: "The last six defensive rookies of the year were all linebackers."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Matt Hasselbeck is moving well at Seahawks practices. Hasselbeck surprised and then outran defensive end Darryl Tapp on a bootleg.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Hasselbeck and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are working well together. Receiver Courtney Taylor also stood out.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers rookie linebacker Scott McKillop reminds him of Derek Smith. Brown also touches on the quarterback situation and other rookies. Brown: "Based on his strong play from last season, I think Shaun Hill has the upper hand in the quarterback competition. And he looked crisp on Saturday, betraying his reputation as a shaky practice player."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sorts through the quarterback situation with the 49ers. He struggles to see the logic in how the repetitions are distributed. Barrows: "Nolan said today that O'Sullivan has been in the quarterback competition all along. But because there aren't enough repetitions to go around in training camp, Smith and Hill have been getting all the snaps. Which is a little bit like saying there's a third-party candidate in this election, but there was no room to put him on the ballot."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat also tackles the 49ers' quarterback situation. Maiocco: "In all honesty, the offense could be further along with O'Sullivan at quarterback RIGHT NOW because he spent last season in the system. But the goal is to get the quarterback on the field who is going to be more productive during the regular season -- and not the first week of training camp."

Radio talker Rush Limbaugh confirms his interest in purchasing the Rams while acknowledging the team is not technically for sale. Limbaugh: "Look, of course I am serious. I have told people for many years I'd love to own or be a part of an ownership group of a National Football League team, and over the years I've gotten to know a whole lot of owners in the NFL. I've made no secret about it. So, sure. I can't believe the question."

Bob Baum of the Associated Press says Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart is trying to shake his party-boy image. The Leinart story angle -- specifically whether the photos of Leinart partying on his own time suggest he's not serious about his job -- strikes me as beyond overblown. Yes, image is important for a starting NFL quarterback. But it's not like someone snapped those photos the night before a game in Week 8. These were offseason pictures of Leinart enjoying himself. Big deal.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks center Chris Spencer is suffering from a sore back. Spencer did appear to wrench the back during the first practice. Spencer is also dealing with shoulder injuries.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shares a hilarious quote from Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, via fullback Leonard Weaver. Weaver was singing gospel songs during practice when Holmgren asked him to stop. Weaver: "I was back there singing a gospel song and he was like, 'Leonard, stop it. I don't want to feel good right now, I'm trying to be mean.'" Weaver is having a strong camp. Holmgren, who was with the 49ers for the Tom Rathman era, said Weaver is as talented as any fullback he has coached.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports on mounting injury concerns on the Cardinals' offensive line. That is one area Arizona cannot afford to take many hits. Third-team center Scott Peters left practice on a cart after injuring a knee. Starting center Al Johnson is already out with a knee injury, though the team thinks he'll be OK for the regular season. Somers also reports on contract offers to the team's assistant coaches.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com links to a YouTube video showing Anquan Boldin's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, hoping for a reconciliation between the team and his disgruntled client. Boldin has already said he plans to sign elsewhere once the final three years of his deal expire.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News reports on the 49ers' use of former White House press secretary Ari Fleisher to advise players on media relations. I applaud Brown's reference to Gore -- Frank, not Al -- early in the story. That was a must.

The Associated Press says former 49ers linebacker Derek Smith could start while Stephen Cooper serves a four-game suspension to open the season. The 49ers reaped salary-cap savings after parting with Smith this offseason. Smith, 33, had played the "Ted" linebacker position for the 49ers (the "Ted" does the dirty work, freeing up the "Mike" to tackle people and generally create mayhem). Jeff Ulbrich is the new "Ted" for San Francisco.

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