NFL Nation: Justin Griffith
I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.
This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.
Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).
St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)
Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)
Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)
Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)
Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)
Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)
Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)
Special teams: Ryan Neill
Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)
Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)
Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)
Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)
Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)
Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)
Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)
Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)
Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)
Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)
Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)
Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)
Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)
Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)
Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)
Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)
Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)
Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)
Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)
Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)
Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)
Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)
San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)
Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)
Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker
Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)
Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)
Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)
Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)
Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt
Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)
The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.
The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.
They think the 49ers face at least as many questions as the Arizona Cardinals, from Alex Smith's abilities as a starting quarterback to the effects of playing two rookies on the offensive line.
Our conversation pointed to something I wrestle with all the time: perception vs. reality.
Sometimes those perceptions get out of hand. It could be happening in the NFC West right now. A few things to consider along those lines heading into the regular season:
- The Seattle Seahawks are taking flak for dumping T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Josh Wilson and others (Rob Sims and Nate Burleson come to mind) during an ongoing roster overhaul. It's fair to ask whether all the changes were necessary. It's fair to question whether Seattle might fall off some in the immediate term while less experienced players take over. But why pretend as though the Seahawks needed only some fine-tuning? They needed an overhaul and they're getting one. Sometimes a team gets a little worse before it gets better. But if you honestly assess each roster change, you might find more upgrades than downgrades. How much will this really team miss Ken Lucas, Cory Redding, Justin Griffith, D.D. Lewis, Damion McIntosh, Owen Schmitt, Mansfield Wrotto, Lawrence Jackson, John Owens, Darryl Tapp, Deon Grant, Lance Laury and the others? It's tough to argue that those players were part of the solution.
- The Cardinals are worse off without Kurt Warner. That much is a given. But should recent instability at quarterback significantly lower those already reduced expectations for the upcoming season? It's probably better to rule out Matt Leinart now than to do so four or five games into the regular season. Quarterback was already a concern. It's still a concern. But let's not pretend the 49ers are dramatically better off with Smith under center. I'm favoring the 49ers in the division because they're the safest bet following an offseason without much roster turnover. They appear slightly better than the team that went 8-8 in 2009. But it's no shock if the Cardinals win this division. I'd call it only a mild surprise.
- The Rams are easy to write off with a rookie quarterback under center and only six wins over the last three seasons. It's not the upset of the century, however, if they find a way to prevail in Week 1. They trailed the Cardinals 21-3 at halftime in the Edward Jones Dome last season. A concussion prevented Warner from returning. Final score: 21-13. If you're the Rams and you know Warner won't be there Sunday, and you know Marc Bulger posted a 57.8 rating as your quarterback in that 21-13 defeat, you're thinking you've got a chance this time around, right? Right.
- About those 49ers. Let's not get carried away with the 12-4 predictions, OK? One step at a time. The 49ers were 5-1 in the division last season. Are they really going to match that record or improve upon it and then add three more victories outside the NFC West? It's possible with AFC West teams on the schedule, but the 49ers have only seven true home games this season. Two of those are against New Orleans and Philadelphia. They play road games against Atlanta, Green Bay and San Diego. Find a dozen sure victories on that schedule and I'm guessing you're a 49ers fan.
To be continued in the comments section, and beyond.
Unrestricted free agents: TE Anthony Becht, LB Monty Beisel, LB Bertrand Berry (retired), LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, FB Dan Kreider, WR Sean Morey, LB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware.
Restricted free agents: SS Hamza Abdullah, WR Steve Breaston, G Ben Claxton, FB Justin Green, LG Deuce Lutui, TE Ben Patrick, TE Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, WR Jerheme Urban, NT Gabe Watson.
Franchise player: none
What to expect: The Cardinals generally do not pursue marquee free agents from other teams. That trend figures to continue. The Cardinals have too many of their own free agents to re-sign for them to worry about chasing other teams' castoffs. We might see Arizona plug the roster with a few lower-tier free agents. They had success doing that last offseason, particularly with Becht at tight end. Dansby leads the list of 2009 starters expected to depart.
St. Louis Rams
Unrestricted free agents: QB Kyle Boller, DE James Hall, SS Clinton Hart, LB Paris Lenon, DE Leonard Little, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.
Restricted free agents: S Eric Bassey, S Craig Dahl, TE Daniel Fells, LS Ryan Neill, DT Clifton Ryan, CB Jonathan Wade, DE Victory Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin, G Mark Setterstrom.
Franchise player: none
What to expect: The Rams could be in the market for a veteran quarterback such as Chad Pennington. Beyond quarterback, coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams could use a little more seasoning in the form of veteran role players. The Rams will remain a young team, but they could add some experience. The team parted with players fitting that profile last offseason, but most had inflated salaries. The ones St. Louis adds this year figure to carry lower price tags in most cases. The Rams have said they want Little and Hall back. McMichael figures to be gone.
Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser, LB D.D. Lewis, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, S Lawyer Milloy, DE Cory Redding, LS Jeff Robinson.
Restricted free agents: T Brandon Frye, WR Ben Obomanu, LB Lance Laury, G Rob Sims, G Chris Spencer, DE Darryl Tapp.
Franchise player: K Olindo Mare
What to expect: The Seahawks are a little difficult to figure. Their owner has the money to bankroll aggressive spending if Seattle chooses to go that route. Coach Pete Carroll surely realizes the team could use talent upgrades. The new general manager, John Schneider, comes from the Ted Thompson school of personnel. Thompson's aversion for free agency is well established, although Schneider has characterized himself as slightly more aggressive. The problem, of course, is finding good players on the market. Burleson will hit the market. He could return if the price is right. Carroll has said nice things about Redding, who should be affordable.
San Francisco 49ers
Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre Bly, CB Walt Harris, T Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, T Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich (retired), LB Matt Wilhelm.
Restricted free agents: LG David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Marcus Hudson.
Franchise player: NT Aubrayo Franklin
What to expect: The 49ers have largely turned their back on free agency now that they feel better about their roster. I would expect the team to lay low again when the signing period begins late Thursday night on the West Coast.
An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC West.
Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.
Key figures: The more than $17.7 million Arizona has paid to Dansby over the past two seasons should suffice as a parting gift if, as expected, the linebacker leaves in free agency. Dansby could be leading an exodus. Okeafor turns 34 in March and could be on his way out. Berry announced his retirement. Morey has had concussion problems. Gandy's return probably depends on whether he's willing to stay for less than the $5 million he earned last season. Safety Antrel Rolle does not appear on the list, but he would hit the market when free agency begins if the Cardinals decline to pay a $4 million roster bonus.
San Francisco 49ers
Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre' Bly, NT Aubrayo Franklin, CB Walt Harris, RT Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, LT Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich, LB Matt Wilhelm, CB Keith Smith.
Key figures: The 49ers have been proactive in re-signing their own players. That explains why relatively few big names appear on this list. The franchise tag appears well suited for Franklin, the only marquee UFA on the 49ers' list this offseason. Tagging Franklin at the $7 million franchise rate makes sense heading into labor uncertainty. Why spend lavishly on a long-term deal? Franklin has played at a high level consistently for only one season, and a lockout could keep him off the field in 2011. Re-signing Sims for depth would make sense. Ulbrich, meanwhile, has retired and joined the Seahawks' coaching staff.
Unrestricted free agents: DE Cory Redding, CB Ken Lucas, K Olindo Mare, LB D.D. Lewis, FB Justin Griffith, LT Damion McIntosh, SS Lawyer Milloy, LS Kevin Houser, LS Jeff Robinson.
Key figures: New coach Pete Carroll is on the record saying he likes what he's seen from Redding. Mare is coming off an outstanding season. Lucas has the size Seattle's new leadership wants in its cornerbacks. Milloy played for Carroll in New England. There isn't much more to say about this relatively nondescript group, and it's unclear how much the new regime will value these UFAs. Unrestricted free agency isn't the only road out of Seattle this offseason. The team will probably part with a few established players who haven't lived up to their salaries because of injuries and other factors. Patrick Kerney and Deion Branch come to mind.
St. Louis Rams
Unrestricted free agents: DE Leonard Little, DE James Hall, LB Paris Lenon, QB Kyle Boller, S Clinton Hart, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.
Key figures: Boller, 28, is the only player on the Rams' list younger than 30. Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe and starting tackle Alex Barron become only restricted free agents under rules governing the uncapped year, explaining their absence from the Rams' UFA list. It's unclear how seriously Little and Hall figure into the team's plans for 2010. Chris Long's emergence late last season should make it easier for the team to move on without them, but the aging defensive ends did combine for 27 starts and 11 sacks last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Holding out quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in Week 3 is the right call for the Seahawks.
This isn't a playoff game when the Bears visit Qwest Field on Sunday.
Seattle has injury-related question marks on its offensive line. The team could use a mobile quarterback, not a wounded one. Starting Seneca Wallace makes the most sense. Hasselbeck's official status Friday -- doubtful -- makes starting Wallace the smart choice.
Sean Locklear will not play and fellow tackle Walter Jones is questionable.
A look at the rest of the injury report for Seattle: Locklear, Leroy Hill and Josh Wilson are out; Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu and Justin Griffith are doubtful; Jones, Brandon Mebane and Ken Lucas are questionable; Deion Branch, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Travis Fisher and Chris Spencer are probable.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Seahawks are not sure whether Matt Hasselbeck will be available for Week 3. They have released no new information.
We might find out more from coach Jim Mora during his news conference this afternoon, but Adam Schefter is reporting the injury as a "fracture," while saying the team remains optimistic and unsure about his availability for Week 3.
Rib injuries are painful and Hasselbeck's status could remain uncertain from week to week. Quarterbacks have played with broken ribs. We need more specific information before determining whether Hasselbeck might miss any games.
The Seahawks could be better off with Seneca Wallace at full strength than with Hasselbeck at a diminished capacity. The new coaching staff has incorporated more quarterback movement into the offense. I think the staff could play to Wallace's strengths if given a full week to prepare a game plan with him at quarterback.
Previous coach Mike Holmgren was more reliant on a rigid offensive system. Adjusting to injuries and other personnel changes could be problematic. We've already seen the Seahawks' offensive line function at a higher level after losing key players. Perhaps Wallace could get Seattle to its bye with a 2-2 record.
Given injuries to Hasselbeck and so many others, the Seahawks badly need to beat the Bears at home in Week 3 before heading to Indianapolis in Week 4 and, mercifully, the bye in Week 5.
Seattle could be without 12 projected and actual starters. Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer, Deion Branch, Brandon Mebane, Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupu, Marcus Trufant and Josh Wilson are among those injured. Fullback Justin Griffith also appeared to suffer an injury Sunday, while guard Mike Wahle retired as training camp opened. Mora should have plenty to talk about this afternoon.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
- Edgerrin James and fullback Justin Griffith started in the Seahawks' backfield against Oakland, James' debut with Seattle. Julius Jones remains the starting halfback for the regular season. Griffith should start over second-year player Owen Schmitt based on experience, performance and knowledge of the offense. James carried the ball twice and looked good.
- Seahawks rookie Aaron Curry was the only defensive starter playing for Seattle. He has been very active and making plays with enthusiasm.
- Steven Jackson did not play for the Rams during their 17-9 victory over the Chiefs. Good call by Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. No need to risk injury. Samkon Gado took punishment, apparently to the ribs, and did not return.
- Quincy Butler's interception return for a touchdown might be enough for the free-agent corner to secure a roster spot with the Rams. Butler has made plays throughout training camp and the exhibition season.
- The Cardinals' first-team offense played three series and sputtered again. The Broncos picked off Kurt Warner's final pass. Big deal? I suspect not.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with some of the 49ers' undrafted free agents. Offensive lineman Alex Boone said not getting drafted was a humbling experience that showed him how actions have consequences. Brown: "Boone, a mammoth (6-foot-7, 328 pounds) tackle out of Ohio State, was arrested after being subdued with a Taser in what law enforcement officials say was a drunken tirade. The Orange County sheriff's office told the Associated Press in February that Boone was jumping car hoods, yanking on a tow-truck cable and trying to break a window when he was arrested. Boone was taken to a hospital and then to a jail medical ward."
The 49ers' Web site says the team has signed former Nicholls State kicker Alex Romero.
Also from 49ers.com: A transcript from coach Mike Singletary's latest session with reporters. Singletary isn't leaving the quarterback race to coordinator Jimmy Raye and quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson. Singletary: "Every day we talk about, 'What do you see? What's happening? What were the conversations?' Because for me, it's that quarterback that when he steps in that huddle, magic happens. There's something that wakes up everybody."
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle says the last few months are a blur to new 49ers running back Glen Coffee. Ratto: "[Frank] Gore is at the stage of his own career where teams start wondering about the amount of tread left on the tires, no matter how much is actually there, and 812 carries and 157 receptions in three years suggests that the 49ers needed to get serious about either lightening Gore's load or finding potential future replacements."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Alex Smith and Shaun Hill took all the quarterback reps on the first day of the post-draft camp. Maiocco also runs a depth chart showing new names in prominent roles because not all veterans are in attendance.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic traces the link between contractual unhappiness and hamstring soreness. Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett demonstrate the theory. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "Hey, we know what's going on, so I'm really not going to have much to say about that."
Also from Somers: Quarterback Kurt Warner took part in practice despite undergoing hip surgery recently.
More from Somers: Karlos Dansby says he's focused on football, not a new contract.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Boldin thinks the Cardinals didn't legitimately try to trade him in recent weeks. "I never give up hope [about being traded]," Boldin said. Can earning $2.75 million in salary from the NFC champs be that much of a hardship?
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals' success last season is no match for economics. Bordow: "Yes, the flotilla of warm feelings that carried the Cardinals to the Super Bowl has washed up on shore. Once again, it's all about the money. Boldin and Dockett want their existing contracts renegotiated and they're going to refuse to do their chores until they get what they want."
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind says the Cardinals are taking a flier on Oliver Ross even though the offensive tackle hasn't played since 2006. Ross is one of three veterans participating in camp on a tryout basis. Former Rams tight end Dominique Byrd is also there.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Seahawks rookie receiver Deon Butler make a positive first impression at minicamp.
Also from Johns: First-round Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry estimates he has spent 10 to 15 hours "staring" at his playbook. Said fellow linebacker Leroy Hill: "He's smart. A lot of the questions that [linebackers coach Zerick Rollins] was asking him in meetings, he was picking up just like that. I'm like, 'Man, I didn't even know that yet.' On the field, he's running with the first team and fitting right in. I think it's going to be fun to watch and play with him."
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com takes a big-picture view of the Seahawks' first post-draft practice. Farnsworth: "Hill was huffing and puffing a bit after his first on-field action since Week 13 last season, as he missed the final four games with a neck injury. But he also showed the traits that made retaining his services a priority for the Seahawks. On one play, Hill was all over a pass into the flat to running back Justin Forsett. Later, on a running play, Hill got to the back before the back could get anywhere near the line of scrimmage."
Mary Beth King of Seahawks.com opens the mailbag. She says the Seahawks like their current situation at running back.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times lists players who did not practice with the Seahawks on Friday: CB Kelly Jennings (shoulder), FB Justin Griffith (knee), LB D.D. Lewis (knee), G Mike Wahle (shoulder), T Walter Jones (knee), WR Deion Branch (knee), DL Cory Redding and DE Patrick Kerney (shoulder).
Also from O'Neil: A camp overview.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Curry fit in well on his first day of camp and did not appear out of place running with the starters.
Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts looks at the "upside" and "downside" of the Seahawks' various moves this offseason.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explores Rams rookie running back Chris Ogbannaya's background. Ogbannaya's father grew up in Nigeria and moved to the United States in 1976. Ogbannaya: "He was lucky enough to get sponsored by a family in South Carolina who ended up being my godparents. Self-made man. Went to Clemson University. Went to medical school after that."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are counting on newly acquired receiver Laurent Robinson to contribute. Injuries slowed Robinson with the Falcons last season.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Steven Jackson likes the Rams' offseason additions. Jackson: "They've also made decisions in the draft and free agency to help me out. That's the biggest thing. You just don't want to throw it all on one guy, and don't give him anything to work with. I think in free agency and the draft, the things that needed to be addressed were addressed."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
RENTON, Wash. -- Ten things I saw during the Seahawks' first minicamp practice since the draft:
- Third-round choice Deon Butler diving to catch a 50-yard touchdown pass after outrunning cornerback Kevin Hobbs. Butler definitely has speed. Bonus note on receivers: Nate Burleson, who underwent reconstructive knee surgery last season, is practicing.
- Tight end John Carlson controlling defensive end Lawrence Jackson off the line, then turning Jackson and driving him to the ground.
- Former Seahawks owner John Nordstrom chatting with current CEO Tod Leiweke while watching practice as a guest of the team.
- Receiver Deion Branch and newly signed fullback Justin Griffith hopping up a hill while rehabbing injuries. Branch recently underwent a cleanup operation on his knee.
- Newly signed cornerback Ken Lucas picking off a pass in his first practice with the Seahawks since the 2004 season. Lucas appears very trim, as usual, but he said he wasn't in practice shape just yet. OK, a confession: I did not see the Lucas pick. But coach Jim Mora credited him with one, and it's possible I was watching another portion of practice when it happened. I did see Marquis Floyd pick off a pass.
- Undrafted free agent Michael Bennett lifting and tossing tackle William Robinson, easily the most impressive feat of the always entertaining pass-rush drills.
- Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threading a ball over the middle in rhythm to receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Expect to see that combination a few more times.
- Seventh-round draft choice Nick Reed, at 247 pounds, hustling around the field, but still looking too small to play defensive end in the NFL.
- Linebacker Leroy Hill harboring no apparent animosity after the Seahawks withdrew the franchise-player designation from him.
- Brian Russell running with the first team at safety, same as last season. Some Seattle fans have asked whether Jamar Adams might be a candidate to take Russell's job.
That was 10 things. One more: According to Hasselbeck, Butler also held up well when offensive coordinator Greg Knapp called on the rookie repeatedly during meetings. Also according to Hasselbeck, former Seahawks teammate Bobby Engram and Engram's wife put in a good word for Butler. Engram and Butler both played at Penn State, although years apart.
Finally: First-round choice Aaron Curry worked with the starters, but I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. He definitely looks the part, but it's early.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The expected and long-anticipated additions of cornerback Ken Lucas and fullback Justin Griffith, as noted by Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times, make sense after Seattle did not address either position in the draft.
Whether the Seahawks consider former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks next could hinge on what happens with Leroy Hill, who became a free agent when Seattle withdrew the franchise player designation from him. The market for Hill could be a tough one this late in the process. Enough teams have salary-cap flexibility to consider him, but most have already made plans at linebacker. This is not the time to be looking for work in the NFL.
Lucas gives Seattle needed size and experience at cornerback. Josh Wilson will give him a tough run for the starting job, but Wilson has the makeup to defend the slot in nickel situations. The flexibility Lucas provides should help Seattle hold up better against bigger NFC West receivers such as, hmmm, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree? We shall see.
Griffith steps into the void left when Seattle decided against bringing back Leonard Weaver. Griffith is more of a blocking fullback than Weaver, obviously, and he knows Greg Knapp's offense from their days together in Oakland.
The Lucas and Griffith additions would qualify as logical moves for the Seahawks. These moves would also make it easier to justify the decision to rescind Hill's offer. General manager Tim Ruskell and the Seahawks can turn this into a home run by getting a deal done with Hill despite any hard feelings that might linger from the decision to rescind the franchise tag.
Update: The Seahawks have announced these signings.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Ralph Barbieri of KNBR radio provoked testy responses from 49ers coach Mike Singletary by repeatedly asking him about Kurt Warner after Singletary kept telling him he wanted to cover other topics. The interview ended on a friendly note. Along the way, Singletary said Shaun Hill was the 49ers' starting quarterback -- for now. Singletary: "I would envision at some point in time we make a decision on whether Shaun Hill is going to be the starting quarterback or whether it is going to be Alex Smith. But I can tell you right now, today, based on what he did last year, he is the starting quarterback." Damon Huard will be strictly a backup, Singletary said.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers are optimistic about their defense after dropping the "hybrid" from their hybrid 3-4 scheme. We will probably find out more definitively whether Manny Lawson can become a strong outside pass-rusher. The 49ers envisioned him as someone for which opposing quarterbacks would have to account at the snap.
Also from Maiocco: Alex Smith threw the ball relatively well for a man coming off such a long layoff. His arm strength and throwing motion appeared fine. Maiocco: "This was a good minicamp for Dashon Goldson, Manny Lawson, Brandon Jones and Alex Smith."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Vernon Davis' over-the-shoulder grab from Shaun Hill was a highlight. Barrows: "I paid careful attention to the end-of-practice, sideline-to-sideline gassers the team was running. Once again, Patrick Willis, Alex Smith, Reggie Smith, Lewis Baker and Goldson were among the winners. Isaac Sopoaga, Aubrayo Franklin, Chilo Rachal and Ahmad Brooks brought up the rear."
Also from Barrows: Justin Smith hopes the 49ers can become a top-10 defense. Meanwhile, the team is about two weeks away from being able to use the massive training hill under construction at Singletary's urging.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News provides additional details on the hill. Brown: "Singletary used to run hills himself during his playing days, as did Hall-of-Fame teammate Walter Payton. The 49ers' Jerry Rice was famous for his sprint work in the hills of San Carlos. Singletary said that athletes who trained that way 'were a cut above some of the other competition around the league and had a long playing career.'"
Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says Hill remained anonymous during the offseason despite emerging as the 49ers' best quarterback in 2008.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says Singletary plans to make the 49ers work -- hard -- during their offseason program. Crumpacker: "Singletary cautioned his players at the end of the season that they had better be prepared to work when the offseason program began. So it was in a minicamp Friday and Saturday when the players were put through 50-minute circuit training sessions featuring short sprints, change of direction, lateral movement and running with weighted bags."
StrictlyFootball of Niners Nation looks at Frank Gore's declining production and weights two primary factors: injuries and instability at quarterback. The 49ers expect to draft a bigger back to carry some of the load.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 sizes up California center Alex Mack as a potential Cardinals draft choice. Andrew602: "Regardless of whether he stumbles or not, Mack will become the anchor of the line for whoever drafts him. He works hard in the weight room and is always trying to improve his skills. Once he polishes certain aspects of his game, he will be able to start for a team if they needed him too."
Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog wonders how closely the Seahawks were looking at Knowshon Moreno during the pro day featuring Matthew Stafford. Staton: "The only marker you could place against Moreno is that he isn't a four-year starter. But let's be honest, how many running backs are these days? He played two solid years for a big school in a pro-style offense. That should be enough compensation."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com questions the Seahawks' wisdom in letting fullback Leonard Weaver leave through free agency. The team could sign Justin Griffith instead.
Chris Harry of the Orlando Sentinel checks in with former Rams coach Jim Haslett, who is coaching the Orlando franchise in the upstart UFL. Haslett: "I know that when I was in my office on a Thursday night that I would sit there and watch a Division I-AA game if it was on. And I'm like a lot of people -- people love football I'm going to have fun with this." Jay Gruden is serving as Haslett's offensive coordinator. The story says UFL coaches will earn around $500,000 per season. That's less than Haslett would have earned as an NFL defensive coordinator, but still great money, obviously.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Leonard Weaver wanted to re-sign with the Seahawks. I think his talents will be better suited for what the Eagles are likely to do offensively. His contract agreement with Philadelphia makes sense as Weaver tries to enhance his profile.
The versatile fullback figures to handle the football more frequently in Philadelphia than he would have in the Seahawk's offense under new coordinator Greg Knapp.
The Seahawks have a very good receiving tight end in John Carlson and an upgraded receiving situation now that T.J. Houshmandzadeh is on board. They will alter carries between Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and any running back they plan to select in the draft.
Weaver is a good runner -- for a fullback. He is a good receiver -- for a fullback. But he is still a fullback, and that hurt his value on the market.
Weaver's departure from Seattle, the league-high seventh by an unrestricted free agent this offseason, makes the Seahawks more likely to pursue Justin Griffith as a replacement. Griffith played for Knapp in Oakland. He visited the Seahawks recently.
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This presumably means Leonard Weaver will find a home in the near future. The Eagles and Bucs are possibilities for the unrestricted free agent from Seattle. Weaver could also re-sign with the Seahawks.
If Weaver signs elsewhere, the Seahawks might be more likely to sign former Raider Justin Griffith, who visited with the team recently and played for Seattle offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Oakland and Atlanta.
Meanwhile, Karney gives the Rams a straight-ahead blocking fullback to clear running lanes for Steven Jackson. Jackson lobbied for a physical fullback last season. Karney is nearly 260 pounds. The first time I really noticed him was when he laid out then-Seahawks cornerback Andre Dyson during an exhibition game before the 2005 season.
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Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contrasts Rams receiver Torry Holt to former Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens. Burwell: "Holt, the 32-year-old seven-time Pro Bowler, has asked the Rams to release him after 10 Hall-of-Fame-worthy seasons. He believes the Rams are going in a new direction and that those long-range plans no longer include him. He didn't preen in front of cameras in a press conference in the driveway of his suburban St. Louis home. He didn't hurl insults at management. What he did is what he has always done since he arrived in St. Louis in 1999. He handled himself with class."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides additional details on Jason Brown's contract with the Rams, noting that the deal can void after four seasons.
Also from Thomas: The Rams' moderate interest in Heath Evans became irrelevant when the fullback signed with the Saints.
Jim Trotter of SI.com picks apart the 49ers' brief courtship with Kurt Warner. Trotter: "The 49ers decision to court Warner was flawed on so many fronts that it's difficult to decide where to begin. For one thing it sent a mixed message to the players, fans and media about the blueprint for the future. [Mike] Singletary, who had the interim tag removed from his job title in December, has spent the last few months creating the impression that he wants a physical, ground-based offense. Then the team brings in a quarterback like Warner, who is at his best using spread formations and throwing the ball around."
Patrick Willis' hit on Brad Smith stands out as the 49ers' hit of the year in a poll of players. This was about as violent as a hit can be within the rules.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers aren't interested in Terrell Owens even though general manager Scot McCloughan told KNBR the door wasn't closed.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News describes the 49ers as a jittery franchise after listening to McCloughan on KNBR.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com relays some information from Larry Fitzgerald's USO tour of the Middle East. The Rams' Will Witherspoon is also part of the group.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 declares Warner the Cardinals' player of the year for 2009. Previously, "Steve Breaston has won Most Improved Player, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie won Rookie of the Year, Karlos Dansby won Defensive Player of the Year."
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson following the signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Burleson: "It made me smile. I'm excited about what's going on."
Also from Farnsworth: a quick update on the Seahawks' plans in free agency. John Owens has signed. Justin Griffith and Bryan Pittman are visiting. Jermaine Phillips is off the market.
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Griffith played under new Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Oakland and Atlanta. Weaver remains an unrestricted free agent and it's unclear if the Seahawks will re-sign him.