NFL Nation: Michael Bumpus

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Among the things I'll be watching when the Seahawks face the Broncos in their second exhibition game Saturday night:

  • Sean Locklear at left tackle. The Seahawks hope Walter Jones can return from knee surgery in time to play a full season at left tackle. Locklear will work there in the meantime. The team's usual right tackle can earn an additional $600,000 in 2010 compensation if he plays half the snaps at left tackle in half the Seahawks' regular-season games this season. That price would be a bargain if Locklear plays well.
  • Depth at receiver. Jordan Kent, Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne, Mike Hass and Michael Bumpus are battling for one or two roster spots behind receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Deon Butler. Kent, Obomanu and Taylor do not have practice-squad eligibility. They need to produce now.
  • Nick Reed, Michael Bennett and Baraka Atkins. At least one of these players could be affected if the Seahawks keep fewer than 10 defensive linemen. Another impressive showing from Reed, who had two sacks and an interception in his exhibition debut, could make it tougher for Seattle to sneak him onto the practice squad.
  • Matt Hasselbeck. The quarterback has yet to take a hit since last season. The Broncos pressured the 49ers' quarterbacks last week by exploiting fullback Zak Keasey in blitz pickup. Seattle fullback Owen Schmitt needs to prove he can play consistently well in that area. One lapse could expose Hasselbeck to punishment.
  • The kickers. Brandon Coutu needs to get more depth on his kickoffs. He and Olindo Mare are competing for one roster spot. The team will not keep two kickers this season.
  • Cameron Morrah. Seattle will likely choose between Morrah, a seventh-round rookie, and Joe Newton as the third tight end. It's the sort of competition you'll probably appreciate if you've lasted this deep into a blog entry about things to watch during a game few will remember one month from now.
NFL Network is carrying this game live at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are working on a potential contract for 2009 with coach Jim Haslett. Meanwhile, Oshiomogho Atogwe was named the NFC's defensive player of the week after scoring a touchdown against the Redskins.

Also from Thomas: Haslett is taking part of the blame for Richie Incognito's 15-yard penalty against the Redskins. The penalty could have cost the Rams their first victory of the season.

Jacqueline Lee of the Belleville News-Democrat was there when Rams players and cheerleaders worked out with young kids as part of a program teaching self-respect.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explains how the Cardinals have gone 2-0 without receiver Anquan Boldin. Steve Breaston and J.J. Arrington have stepped up.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers never came close to making a trade before the deadline.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle raises questions about the potential firing of 49ers coach Mike Nolan. Who would make the decision? Who would replace Nolan?

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks are no longer forcing three-and-out possessions, a strength last season.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune looks at quarterback injuries in the NFL. They were a problem long before this season. Twenty years ago, the Seahawks lost Dave Krieg, the Oilers lost Warren Moon and the Redskins lost Mark Rypien.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune tops his Seahawks-Bucs matchup box with a note on Justin Forsett joining the 53-man roster at Michael Bumpus' expense.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks at Matt Hasselbeck's injury history. Hasselbeck hasn't missed many games, but he has played through quite a few injuries.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune singles out Matt Hasselbeck's downfield block as a signature play in the Seahawks' blowout victory over the Rams in Week 3.

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times said the Seattle defensive backs rediscovered their swagger against the Rams after giving up big plays in previous weeks.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' victory excludes them from discussions about hapless teams around the league.

More from O'Neil: Linebacker Leroy Hill was one of the Seahawks' players of the game, finishing with 11 tackles.

And this: Seattle telegraphed a running play by having Sean Locklear line up as the third tight end, but the Rams were still helpless to stop the play.

O'Neil and Jose Romero check in with Seattle receiver Michael Bumpus, who scored a touchdown and plans to give the ball to his mother.

Also from Romero: Mike Holmgren was happy with the victory because all aspects of the team contributed.

Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks finally figured out how to use T.J. Duckett. If only they could play the Rams every week.

Also from Thiel: Hasselbeck and the offense draw inspiration from "smashmouth" plays.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Seattle safety Deon Grant was "extra fired up" against the Rams because he was seeking redemption.

Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Seattle fans threw peanut shells at Rams kicker Josh Brown, who wasn't surprised by the reaction.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' offensive line loves the commitment to the ground game. Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack said he would run on every play if the coaches would let him.

Williams and Frank Hughes assess the Seahawks' improvement on defense. The Rams had only 240 total yards.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune was too busy watching Bumpus and Billy McMullen shred the Rams' defense to miss Deion Branch, Bobby Engram or Nate Burleson.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com was in the Arizona locker room when Olympic wrestler Henry Cejudo, a gold-medal winner, showed off his hardware to players. Guard Deuce Lutui asked to wear it, then claimed to have won it in a pie-eating contest.

Also from Urban: Right tackle Levi Brown gets ready to face Redskins defensive end Jason Taylor, a key matchup for Arizona in Week 3.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic asks Cardinals players about the passer-rating formula after quarterback Kurt Warner posted a perfect rating in Week 2. The man who invented the rating lives in Arizona. I spoke with him several years ago and will revisit that conversation in an item here later today.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are mindful of the role conference games can play in earning a playoff berth.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat spent enough time with 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce to conduct an informal Bible-study session. Proverbs 18:21 is a personal favorite for Bruce. Cohn has a full transcript of an interesting conversation.

Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with former Home Depot employee Tony Wragge, now the 49ers' starting right guard. Said Wragge's wife: "He is the most dedicated person I've ever met. When he wasn't with a team, he would never be just sitting on the couch waiting for a phone call. He's always doing something. Nothing gets him down."

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz isn't making a big deal about facing his former team. But the players know his history with the Lions. Running back Frank Gore: "It would be great if we could go out and beat them real bad."

Also from FitzGerald: Jonas Jennings apologizes for missing so many of the 49ers' games because of injury. A bad right shoulder is the culprit.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Jennings thought he had overcome the shoulder problems after making it through last season without any dislocations. But the shoulder popped out during the 49ers' game against Seattle, and another surgery is a possibility.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has completed only 17 passes to wide receivers this season. Also, Michael Bumpus remains the team's best option as a slot receiver.

Also from Farnsworth: Deon Grant picked off two passes and broke up three others during the Seahawks' practice Thursday.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Seahawks safety Brian Russell as saying the defense hasn't paid close enough attention to detail, leading to big plays for opposing offenses.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall as saying the Seattle defensive backs weren't necessarily blowing coverages against the 49ers, but they certainly weren't making plays.

Also from O'Neil: Seattle has company as one of 10 teams with an 0-2 record. Jacksonville, San Diego and Minnesota can relate.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times checks in with Brandon Coutu, one of two kickers on the Seahawks' roster.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Steven Jackson wants the ball, sure, but the Rams' running back isn't making public demands.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch follows up with Rams kicker Josh Brown, who returns to Qwest Field as the enemy.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat also checks in with the Rams' kicker. Brown's prekick routine is straight out of Major League.

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Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read shows where the 49ers' offensive players rank in big-play production. Seattle's defense is a common denominator in some of the findings. Isaac Bruce and Lee Evans have combined for seven pass plays of 25-plus yards this season. Six came against Seattle. Bruce caught passes for 63, 33, 30 and 27 yards against the Seahawks. Evans caught passes for 41 and 32 yards against Seattle.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says right tackle Jonas Jennings and cornerback Shawntae Spencer will miss the upcoming game to rest injuries. The 49ers' signing of Barry Sims allows them to carry on without Jennings a little more readily.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers provides a transcript of an interview with 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce. Bruce not on the Rams? That still doesn't sound right. My fingers started typing "Rams" before I caught myself.

Also from Maiocco: Lions quarterback Jon Kitna is either overstating things or the 49ers have a great quarterback in J.T. O'Sullivan.

Bill Coats of Around the Horns saw no apparent lineup changes for the Rams at practice today.

Turf Show Times says the Rams should start playing younger players. I'll take a closer look at the premise, but my initial feeling is that the Rams have a few too many aging backups. I count nearly 10 close to age 30 or older.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says left tackle Walter Jones will miss the Seahawks' practice today. He was hurting during the game against the 49ers. Having the 49ers' Michael Lewis sack Matt Hasselbeck into the back of his legs didn't help. Also, Michael Bumpus will return punts. Koren Robinson could return kicks.

Also from O'Neil: inside the mind of Rams kicker Josh Brown.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic thinks the Cardinals need to be 3-1 after their first four games to put themselves in position for a playoff push. That sounds about right.

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John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune blames the Seahawks' problems on complacency, a word Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu used to describe how the team played.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks have more problems than injuries to wide receivers. Boling: "The Hawks scored enough points to win this one regardless of the injury problems. But their veteran defense, which has come up with so many fourth-quarter stops and key turnovers in recent seasons, forced just three punts in the final 10 49ers drives."

Also from Boling: Isaac Bruce was a great receiver, but he shouldn't be catching four passes for 153 yards against anyone at this stage of his career.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune wonders what's up with the Seattle defense. Tatupu: "There are still 14 games to be played. I'm not calling us the New York Giants, but they did start 0-2, didn't they?"

Williams and Frank Hughes saw rookie tight end John Carlson becoming a security blanket for Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Not that Hasselbeck had many other options.

Also from Hughes: So much for that Seahawks swagger.

Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune says the 49ers supported Joe Nedney following his missed field goal, and Nedney rewarded them in overtime. Nedney: "I tell you what, that crowd is loud. The acoustics in the stadium and the way the crowd gets up for plays, it's a spectacle to behold. But there was nothing louder than 67,000 people dead silent."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks played it safe late in regulation because Mike Holmgren feared a mistake might cost his team the game. Problem was, Seattle never got the ball back.

More from O'Neil: A 2-minute drill with players of the game, a play of the game, a turning point and more.

O'Neil and Jose Romero take a look at Michael Bumpus' debut game as an NFL receiver. Also, Julian Peterson says the NFL doesn't want players to have a good time during games.

Also from Romero: The 49ers picked a good time to pull an upset at Qwest Field.

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks gained more yards rushing against the 49ers than they gained against any opponent in 2007. Julius Jones, Mike Wahle and Walter Jones were three reasons for the improvement.

Brian McIntyre of Scout.com breaks down the Seahawks in 1,743 words. He wonders if the team will bring in another punter.

Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer uses a mascot malfunction as a metaphor for the Seahawks' struggles. I had similar thoughts upon seeing a fan in a Seahawks No. 12 jersey changing a tire along the side of I-5 on the way to Qwest Field.

Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with stopgap receiver Billy McMullen, who made three catches for 48 yards but also had a hand in two turnovers.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks are "stunned" and "surprised" by their early struggles. Also, Seattle has lost seven of its last eight overtime games under Mike Holmgren. Hmmmm.

Also from Farnsworth: A look at how the Seattle defense unraveled against the 49ers.

Jim Moore of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with Jones, the ex-Dallas runner, whose big game nearly helped the Seahawks beat the 49ers.

Also from Moore: Don't expect the Seahawks to pull the type of reversal the Giants managed during their run to the Super Bowl last season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

SEATTLE -- Disbelief washed over the Seattle Seahawks following their 33-30 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

For the first time in years, the thought of something other than another NFC West title seems possible and perhaps even likely for Mike Holmgren and the four-time defending division champs.

This is what happens when journeyman Billy McMullen becomes your quarterback's first read four days after joining the team.

"It is really amazing what is happening right now," Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.

The Seahawks are in trouble if they don't start getting healthy in a hurry. They are staggering along with an 0-2 record and desperate to get receivers Deion Branch and Bobby Engram back from injuries. Both could miss another week, and if current form holds, neither will last long upon his return.

While the Seahawks were losing their first two games for the first time since 2002, the Arizona Cardinals were winning their first two for the first time since 1991. While Cardinals receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were combing for 293 yards and three touchdowns, Seattle's wide receivers were struggling to amass 91 yards among them.

The Seahawks are in trouble if they don't start getting healthy in a hurry.

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, uncharacteristically somber this early in a season, bypassed the usual post-defeat talk about the team needing to roll up its sleeves and carry on. He skipped the obligatory lines about needing to analyze the offensive game film. Instead, Holmgren turned his eyes directly to the waiver wire.

"We have got to look to sign a couple guys, first of all," the coach said.

That's how desperate the situation has become after injuries have sidelined Branch, Engram and fellow receivers Nate Burleson, Ben Obomanu, Logan Payne and Seneca Wallace.

Payne, on the bubble for a roster spot only a month ago, started against the 49ers. He quickly became the latest casualty, suffering a torn knee ligament during the first quarter. Wallace, the athletically gifted backup quarterback and part-time wideout, had worked at receiver all week, only to suffer a pulled calf muscle during pregame warm-ups. He did not play.

"I don't know what to say," Hasselbeck said. "We're a little surprised. I'm a little surprised, a little stunned, a little upset."

Courtney Taylor, rookie Michael Bumpus and McMullen were the Seahawks' only healthy receivers. Taylor had been expected to contribute as perhaps the fourth or fifth option this season. Bumpus, signed from the practice squad Saturday, was no better than the sixth receiver when training camp broke, a long shot to make the team.

McMullen wasn't even supposed to play against the 49ers. Hasselbeck couldn't recall throwing to him even once during practice. Pressed for details, Hasselbeck estimated he might have thrown two passes to McMullen all week. By game's end, McMullen had caught three passes for 48 yards, making him the team's most productive wide receiver by a wide margin.

Taylor and Bumpus combined to catch four passes for 29 yards. Payne suffered the knee injury after making his only catch.

The 49ers won largely because cornerback Walt Harris tipped away a pass intended for McMullen, setting up linebacker Patrick Willis' 86-yard interception return in the third quarter.

The 49ers' defensive backs tipped away five passes, capitalizing on the Seahawks' inability to run routes precise enough for Hasselbeck to throw the ball in rhythm. Seattle will continue to experience similar frustrations as long as Branch and Engram remain on the sideline. Holmgren said he had no idea if Branch would be ready for a suddenly pivotal Week 3 home game against St. Louis. Branch isn't expected back until after the bye.

"I want to get to the point where I can throw to them without looking at them so much," Hasselbeck said.

The young receivers also haven't learned how to jump from practice speed to game speed.

The offense tends to function in rhythm in practice. Against the 49ers, receivers repeatedly failed to keep playing fast when plays broke down.

Hasselbeck, a 62.6 percent passer last season, completed only 18 of his 36 attempts against the 49ers. And that marked an improvement from a 34-10 defeat at Buffalo in the season opener, when Hasselbeck completed 41.5 percent while taking five sacks. Hasselbeck hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Burleson suffered a season-ending knee injury with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter of the opener, a span of 15 possessions.

Julius Jones rushed for 127 yards and rookie tight end John Carlson caught six passes for 78 yards, but that wasn't near enough to offset the feeling pervading Seattle's locker room after this one. The Seahawks' defense watched J.T. O'Sullivan pass for 321 yards and rush for 32 more, with Isaac Bruce roaming free through the secondary one week after failing to catch a pass during the 49ers' opening defeat against Arizona.

"Unacceptable," Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. "I give them all the credit in the world, but we didn't put up much of a fight in giving that one away. It's embarrassing."

The Seattle defense collected eight sacks and scored a touchdown. As much as that side of the ball faltered by allowing big plays, finding an identity on offense remains priority No. 1 for the Seahawks.

Seattle used seven players as runners and receivers during a 15-play, 74-yard drive to the tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Only two of the seven players -- receiver Courtney Taylor and fullback Leonard Weaver -- spent any time on the Seahawks' 53-man roster last season. The others were Jones, Carlson, T.J. Duckett, Bumpus and rookie fullback Owen Schmitt.

A week after Seattle lost starting guard Rob Sims to a season-ending injury, trainers tended to Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones and center Chris Spencer during a late timeout. Both appeared to be hurting. They'll have company in the training room this week.

"We can't feel sorry for ourselves," Holmgren said. "We have to fix the things we can fix, hopefully, and get ready for the Rams coming in here next week."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

SEATTLE -- The 49ers absorbed eight sacks and failed to establish Frank Gore in the running game, but they still found a way to beat the staggering Seahawks at Qwest Field.

This was an important victory for the 49ers as they continue to establish J.T. O'Sullivan as their starting quarterback. O'Sullivan took a brutal beating, but he kept coming back for more and willed his team to victory with timely scrambles. The 49ers even got receiver Isaac Bruce involved, proving they could win without Gore carrying the offense.

The Seahawks blew a prime opportunity to weather a brutal string of injuries, watching helplessly as Joe Nedney's 40-yard field goal decided the game in overtime. Seattle had put together a 15-play touchdown drive to tie the score early in the fourth quarter, leaning hard on several lesser-known players. But they could not finish.

Courtney Taylor, rookie Michael Bumpus and mid-week signing Billy McMullen were the Seahawks' only healthy receivers after Logan Payne suffered a knee injury early in the game. Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace had worked at receiver during the week, but he missed the game after suffering a calf injury during warm-ups.

The Seahawks still have time to regain their form offensively once receivers Deion Branch and Bobby Engram return from injuries, probably after Seattle has a bye in Week 4. But they're clearly not the same team with so many unproven players in key roles. And at 0-2, their margin for error could be gone.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee describes 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz as borderline giddy over J.T. O'Sullivan's performance in the season opener. O'Sullivan had three turnovers, but Martz blamed receiver Arnaz Battle for running the wrong route on O'Sullivan's lone interception. Left tackle Joe Staley was responsible for allowing a fumble-forcing sack. Martz has much invested in O'Sullivan after bringing him to San Francisco from Detroit.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says Martz welcomes crowd noise as "what the league is all about" -- and he'll encounter plenty at Qwest Field on Sunday. I do not think Staley, making his second NFL start at left tackle, will welcome the crowd noise when Julian Peterson is lining up wide on third down. That is a tough combination.

Also from FitzGerald: 49ers linebacker Tully Banta-Cain was "devastated" to be named inactive for the opening game. Banta-Cain: "I thought I did enough in the preseason to get on the field."

Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read says Martz enters each game committed to getting "X" number of touches for running back Frank Gore. No other player on the roster figures into the game plan in that way, Martz said.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat also gets into the Gore factor. Martz: "Isaac [Bruce] and Vernon [Davis] and all the other guys, they're all good players and they'll have their opportunities. But [Gore is] the only guy that you go into a game and say, 'You know what? This guys needs to touch the ball 'X' amount of times.' " Martz wouldn't say how many touches Gore needs to get each game.

(Read full post)

DraftRoundPickTeamRookie WRStartsRec.Yds. TD
2003254ARIAnquan Boldin161011,3778
200413ARILarry Fitzgerald 16587808
2003117ARIBryant Johnson8354381
20025149ARIJason McAddley8253621
20057226ARILeRon McCoy4181911
20034124SFBrandon Lloyd 1142122
20034106STLShaun McDonald110620
20075142ARISteve Breaston08920
2004131SFRashaun Woods071601
20076197SEACourtney Taylor05380
2003374STLKevin Curtis14130
2007376SFJason Hill0160
20055174SFRasheed Marshall01-10
20076210SEAJordan Kent0000
20077249STLDerek Stanley0000
2006384SFBrandon Williams0000
20065144STLMarques Hagans0000
20067218ARITodd Watkins0000
20067249SEABen Obomanu0000
20056192STLDante Ridgeway0000
20057223SFMarcus Maxwell0000
2004377SFDerrick Hamilton0000
20045157SEAD.J. Hackett0000
20036197SFArnaz Battle0000
20037224SEATaco Wallace0000
2002395STLEric Crouch0000

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

I put together this chart as a companion to the earlier entry on rookie receivers. This shows rookie stats for every receiver NFC West teams have drafted since 2002. Eighteen of the 26 started zero games as rookies. Only four reached 20 receptions as rookies. Arizona has been the only team to draft productive rookie receivers with any consistency.

A quick look at the NFC West's rookie receivers and their likely prospects for 2008:
  • Arizona: Injury problems prevented third-round choice Early Doucet from seriously challenging for the No. 3 job vacated by Bryant Johnson. Doucet should play in a reserve role. Undrafted free agent Lance Long appears headed for the practice squad if he doesn't earn one of the final roster spots. Long has impressed in camp.
  • San Francisco: Sixth-round choice Josh Morgan has been the surprise of camp. He could figure into the rotation if the 49ers continue to suffer from injuries. Undrafted free agent Cam Colvin appears headed for the practice squad.
  • St. Louis: Second-round choice Donnie Avery and fourth-rounder Keenan Burton should play more than most rookies at the position. Avery adds value as a return specialist. Undrafted free agent Matt Caddell has one catch for 5 yards during preseason.
  • Seattle: Undrafted free agent Michael Bumpus has played well enough to land on the practice squad if, as expected, he misses the cut.
The receiver position in general has confounded NFL teams. John Clayton explored some of the reasons in a previous column. As Clayton discovered, NFL teams have developed only six Pro Bowl receivers since 2001.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat gets 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz to open up about his heart condition, Bill Walsh, the pressure he puts on players and the assertiveness he wants from a quarterback.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee follows up on his earlier blog item about Alex Smith's best friend, David Edwards, committing suicide. Barrows: "Smith said he would call Edwards whenever he needed to escape football. Edwards ran cross country and played golf with Smith. The two participated in fantasy baseball leagues together. According to Smith, Edwards also could talk about politics, music and other topics. And he always was available."

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers answers questions from readers. One reader asked whether general manager Scot McCloughan's reputation would suffer if Smith, the first player drafted in 2005, failed to win the starting job. Maiocco: "Technically, Nolan had the 'trigger' in that draft. McCloughan wanted Smith, but so did Nolan. We'll have to let this thing play out. If Smith never gets another chance with the 49ers, McCloughan's rep will be determined by what Smith does in his next place of employment." I think Nolan's handling of Smith will be the enduring story.

More from Maiocco: The 49ers' receivers are having a hard time keeping up with the pace of Martz's practices. Also: Guard Tony Wragge signed a one-year contract extension with a $175,000 bonus, while Takeo Spikes signed a one-year deal worth $1.68 million.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle checks in with 49ers fullback Zak Keasey. A former Ivy League linebacker, Keasey excels on special teams. That could give him an edge on veteran fullback Moran Norris as players fight for roster spots.

Also from FitzGerald: J.T. O'Sullivan keeps getting the first-team reps at quarterback, but 49ers coach Mike Nolan keeps saying the three-man race continues.

SI.com offers a Rams camp overview summing up pertinent developments.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with players on the fringes of the Rams' roster. Kicker Justin Medlock knows there isn't a roster spot for him, but he hopes to catch on elsewhere.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says tight end Joe Klopfenstein enjoyed perhaps his best camp with the Rams. I noticed the Titans blew up a Rams running play during the exhibition opener after Klopfenstein failed to hold his block, but one play does not make a training camp.

Elizabethe Holland of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are taking steps to liven up their fans on game days: "To that end, the Rams have hired a drumline, are making fan-driven changes in game-day music and plan to have a disc jockey on the field during pregame warm-ups." The Seahawks also have a drumline.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Rams' linebackers wear a gaudy championship belt if they lead the team in sacks during a given week. Newcomer Travis LaBoy suggested the idea and even paid for the belt: "According to [Karlos] Dansby, LaBoy paid for the campy hardware, plunking down 'something between $10,000 and $20,000.' With the blessing of the coaching staff, the linebackers will take turns wearing it during the regular season, based on who has the most sacks from game to game."

Brian McIntyre of the Scout.com network updates his Seahawks roster analysis. He puts Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor and Jordan Kent ahead of Logan Payne and Michael Bumpus in the receiving race. I'm less certain about that position now than I was two weeks ago. 

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune looks at the Seahawks' move from their old, outdated facility into their palatial digs along the shores of Lake Washington. Former fullback Mack Strong will miss the old place.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks receivers coach Keith Gilbertson, who has officially been around. Gilbertson: "I must be old school, like from the 1920s. I guess I've had a lot of jobs. But I'm 60 years old, too. If you look at most 60-year-old guys, they've been a few places."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times was there when backup Seahawks quarterback Charlie Frye impressed by calling the correct audible. Frye, acquired from the Browns after the 2007 season opener, is getting work with the first team this week while Matt Hasselbeck rests a sore back. Seneca Wallace remains the No. 2 quarterback. Frye could get the start in the second exhibition game. He'll play extensively.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune has more from Frye. He quotes Wallace as saying Frye has definitely improved since last season. 

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer touches on Frye at the bottom of a story about new quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. The Seahawks hired Lazor after longtime quarterbacks coach -- and franchise icon -- Jim Zorn became the Redskins' head coach. Lazor also offers advice on diaper changing. Seriously.

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Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read hits multiple nails on their heads in a comprehensive look at the team's quarterback situation. I think he has a very good read on the situation. No matter what you think of the 49ers' handling of this situation, Alex Smith could help himself by showing some fire and truly fighting for the job.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, searching for clues in the 49ers' great QB mystery, compares the comments coach Mike Nolan made on KNBR to those he made after practice. Barrows' first sentence pretty much sums it up: "So, is the quarterback competition even? Or does J.T. O'Sullivan have the edge? The answer depends on what time of day you listened to Mike Nolan."

Also from Barrows: The 49ers can't seem to find a suitable quarterback, and now they are running out of receivers.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle refers to the 49ers' quarterback race as a "whack-a-mole" competition. He notes: "In addition, we can pretty well expect that Nolan will put off the quarterback decision at least another week, because nothing else he has said on the subject has stood the test of time."

Bryan Chu of the San Francisco Chronicle quotes 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill as wishing Nolan were more forthcoming. Hill: "It's been a while since [Nolan] said anything to us about it. I wish we were in the light a little bit. I guess that's how it is." 

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes about the Seahawks' best linebacker. That would be Leroy Hill, not Julian Peterson or Lofa Tatupu. I recently filed a story along similar lines for an upcoming season preview package.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times singles out receiver Michael Bumpus as the player of the day. The Seahawks' young receivers do seem to be stepping up. Seattle has a former major college head coach overseeing the position. Keith Gilbertson knows how to teach the game even if his head coaching stints at Cal and Washington didn't work out.

Also from O'Neil: Six of Seattle's 10 first-round choices this decade are no longer with the team, a high number. By my count, Seattle has five of its own first-round draft choices on its roster, including 1997 choice Walter Jones, who predates O'Neil's sample. The league average is 6.2 first-round picks still with their original teams. The Seahawks were at the average, in other words, until they released injured defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs. Seattle could be the only team in the league without any of its own draft choices starting at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. We'll see if that holds after I update my starting lineups to reflect camp races.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with the Cardinals' red-zone offense. He also explains where Brandon Moore fits in the defense. Somers mentions Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's ankle injury in passing.

Also from Somers: Cardinals veterans are helping the young guys.

The Associated Press notes that Rodgers-Cromartie, the team's first-round draft choice, left Cardinals practice on a cart.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the cart was necessary, at least in part, because Rodgers-Cromartie was practicing on a distant field. The cornerback wasn't going to limp all the way back to the training facility. That said, the severity of the ankle injury was not yet known.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune leads with the Rodgers-Cromartie news. Later, he passes along a funny quote from Deuce Lutui. The Cardinals' right guard explained why communication issues on the line have improved: "I used to speak Tongan to (tackle) Levi Brown. All this time I didn't know he didn't speak Tongan. I've learned English in the offseason. [Now], I'm able to catch up with him." Lutui was kidding.

Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says a frustrating back injury is forcing Seahawks center Chris Spencer to miss valuable time. Spencer always seems to be dealing with some sort of injury. He has had surgeries on both shoulders.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calls Steven Jackson's holdout the longest in the 14-year history of the St. Louis Rams. Thomas also correctly defines a holdout as what happens when a player skips mandatory practices while under contract. People routinely refer to contract disputes as holdouts, particularly when an unsigned rookie draft choice misses camp. But those characterizations are wrong. An unsigned rookie draft choice isn't holding out any more than the team is holding out.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says holdout running back Steven Jackson must report to camp by Aug. 8 to avoid losing credit for the 2008 season under the collective bargaining agreement. Without credit for the season under the CBA, Jackson would not become a free agent. Thomas: "A little-known provision in the collective bargaining agreement could be a huge detriment to a prolonged holdout by Jackson. According to the NFL Players Association, players under contract must report at least 30 days prior to the first regular-season game or else they lose an accrued season of seniority." This provision is so little-known that I've never heard of it. Hmmm.

Dan Arkush of Pro Football Weekly thinks coaching continuity could help the Cardinals, who return every member of Ken Whisenhunt's staff. Of course, other teams in the division think they have improved by shaking up their staffs: Mike Martz in San Francisco, Mike Solari in Seattle, Al Saunders in St. Louis, etc. Coaching continuity is a good thing if you have a good staff. The Cardinals have a good staff with Todd Haley, Russ Grimm and others.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times checks in with new Seahawks receiver Bryan Gilmore, who explains what separates Seattle from the other NFC West teams for which he has played. Plenty of receivers have jumped around the division. When Isaac Bruce left the Rams for the 49ers this offseason, San Francisco released Darrell Jackson, who had been acquired from Seattle. Another former Seahawks receiver, Jerheme Urban, plays for the Cardinals.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News catches up with 49ers offensive lineman Barry Sims, who explains the difference between San Francisco and Oakland. The 49ers' playbook is more complex, Sims said. Also, the 49ers have more of a team atmosphere. Just once I'd like to hear a player rip his new team, but the cash is always greener on the other side.

The Associated Press says Manny Lawson is staying after practice longer than the other 49ers as part of his comeback from injury. Lawson looks good but is not 100 percent, coach Mike Nolan said.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer explains what the Seahawks saw in free-agent running back Julius Jones. The market for running backs was depressed, president Tim Ruskell said, and Jones seemed genuinely fired up about joining the team. One thing I noticed about Jones at Seahawks camp: Teammates described him as the anti-Shaun Alexander without ever mentioning Alexander by name. For example, Bobby Engram talked about Jones being an every-down back who hits the hole quickly.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today also writes about Jones in Seattle. Two things: Coach Mike Holmgren says Jones has grasped the offense quickly, and Jones said he's already on the same page with left tackle Walter Jones.

Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks are having a hard time snapping the ball without their regular centers. Johnson also notes that rookie receiver Michael Bumpus had a very tough time fielding punts.

The Associated Press quotes Holmgren on losing kicker Josh Brown to the rival Rams. Then as now, Holmgren is disappointed. The coach blames poor communication all the way around, even though Holmgren was in contact with Brown during the process.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explains why Edgerrin James thinks he won't fall prey to the curse of the 30-year-old running back. James, who turns 30 this week, thinks superior conditioning will set him apart. On his blog, Somers notes that safety Adrian Wilson keeps dodging reporters. He also has a note about center Al Johnson missing practice. The Cardinals do not have enough depth on their offensive line to lose starters. Elsewhere, Somers notes that a back problem prevented linebacker Monty Beisel from laughing at Adam Sandler's latest movie, which Beisel described as funny despite being the "dumbest movie ever."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat provides an injury update from 49ers camp. Special-teams star Michael Robinson could miss training camp after undergoing knee surgery, while nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin came off the PUP list. Elsewhere, Maiocco describes what Alex Smith is going through under Martz. Smith has a tendency to become stiff-legged when he isn't sure where to go with the ball, Martz said.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks Tully Banta-Cain has the best pass-rush move among the 49ers' defensive players. Not sure if that is a good thing. Barrows' employer tried to bury his Justin Smith story on page C7, but we'll feature it here. The 49ers plan to vary where Smith lines up, a contrast to how the Bengals used him.

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