NFL Nation: Reggie Smith


The Alex Smith trade will return a 2014 second-round choice to the San Francisco 49ers if the Kansas City Chiefs finish 8-8 or better.

Otherwise, the 49ers will receive only a third-round selection.

That was among the notes Peter King passed along Monday when noting that the 49ers and St. Louis Rams are holding additional picks in the 2014 draft. So, 49ers fans should root for the Chiefs this season. The rest of the NFC West should root against them.

The second-round pick would be later in the round. The third-round pick would be earlier in the round.

The 49ers selected LaMichael James, Colin Kaepernick, Taylor Mays and Chilo Rachal with second-round choices from 2008 through 2012. They used third-round picks during that time for Chris Culliver, NaVorro Bowman, Glen Coffee and Reggie Smith.
PHOENIX -- The Seattle Seahawks and especially the San Francisco 49ers added to their 2013 NFL draft hauls Monday when the NFL awarded compensatory selections to offset net losses in free agency last year.

The 49ers received the 131st overall pick, a fourth-rounder, plus the 246th and 252nd choices, both in the seventh round. The Seahawks received the 241st and 242nd overall choices, also in the seventh round.

Teams cannot trade compensatory picks.

"Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks," the NFL announced. "Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula."

The 49ers received compensatory choices because free-agent losses Blake Costanzo, Josh Morgan and Madieu Williams outweighed free-agent addition Mario Manningham according to the formula. The Seahawks received picks because free-agent losses Atari Bigby, John Carlson, David Hawthorne and Charlie Whitehurst outweighed free-agent additions Matt Flynn and Jason Jones.

I've put together lists below showing all unrestricted free agents added, lost and re-signed by NFC West teams last offseason.

Update: I've also made available for download an Excel file with tentative 2013 draft order, reflecting comp picks and known trades. This is unofficial. The league has not yet released the official order; additional trades could affect it.

The 49ers have a league-high 14 picks, including two picks in each of the second through fifth rounds. They're in prime position to stock their roster for the future.

By my accounting, the Cardinals hold the 7th, 38th, 69th, 103rd, 140th, 174th and 176th picks. The 49ers hold the 31st, 34th, 61st, 74th, 93rd, 128th, 131st, 157th, 164th, 180th, 227th, 237th, 246th and 252nd choices. The Seahawks hold the 56th, 87th, 123rd, 138th, 158th, 194th, 214th, 220th, 241st, and 242nd choices. The Rams hold the 16th, 22nd, 46th, 78th, 113th, 149th, 184th and 222nd picks.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-signed: D'Anthony Batiste, Mike Leach, Early Doucet, Jay Feely, Dave Zastudil
Added: Adam Snyder, William Gay, James Sanders, Quentin Groves
Lost: Richard Marshall, Sean Considine, Deuce Lutui

San Francisco 49ers

Re-signed: Tavares Gooden, Carlos Rogers, Alex Smith, Ted Ginn Jr.
Added: Mario Manningham, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson
Lost: Josh Morgan, Adam Snyder, Blake Costanzo, Reggie Smith, Madieu Williams, Chilo Rachal

Seattle Seahawks

Re-signed: Heath Farwell, Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan, Michael Robinson, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy
Added: Matt Flynn, Jason Jones, Deuce Lutui, Barrett Ruud
Lost: John Carlson, Atari Bigby, Charlie Whitehurst, Tony Hargrove, David Hawthorne

St. Louis Rams

Re-signed: Kellen Clemens
Added: Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford, Scott Wells, Quinn Ojinnaka, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Mario Haggan, Barry Richardson
Lost: Brandon Lloyd, Chris Chamberlain, Donnie Jones, Jacob Bell, Bryan Kehl, Gary Gibson

On Early Doucet's unusually long run

March, 10, 2013
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Wide receiver Early Doucet might not feel like a success story following his release from the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.

Doucet struggled with drops and lost playing time last season, after all. Those were negatives, but the bigger picture looks upon his Cardinals tenure more favorably.

Consider that Doucet's departure from the Cardinals leaves NFC West teams with four players from the 28 they selected in their 2008 NFL draft classes.

Chris Long (St. Louis), Calais Campbell (Arizona), Red Bryant (Seattle) and Larry Grant (San Francisco) comprise that short list. Grant played three seasons with St. Louis before re-signing with San Francisco. That places Doucet on a shorter list of 2008 picks lasting five years with the teams that drafted them.

NFC West teams drafted Long, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Lawrence Jackson, Kentwan Balmer, Donnie Avery, John Carlson, Chilo Rachal, Campbell, John Greco and Reggie Smith before the Cardinals selected Doucet.

Doucet never became a regular starter, but Fitzgerald and Boldin were well-established as franchise cornerstones when he arrived. And after Arizona traded Boldin in 2010, the team used a third-round choice for Andre Roberts.

Doucet was scheduled to earn $2 million in salary and workout bonus in 2013. He is 27 years old and could help a team as a slot receiver, in my view.

Doucet has 1,213 yards receiving from the slot since 2008, third on the Cardinals behind Boldin (1,352) and Fitzgerald (1,221) over that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also has 14 drops on those plays, matching the total for Boldin (eight) and Fitzgerald (six).

With the NFL deadline for naming franchise players passing at 4 p.m. ET Monday, we await official word from the league as to whether any NFC West players received the designation.

This can be a nerve-racking time for teams and fans hoping to keep favorite players.

Using the franchise tag almost always keeps a player from leaving in free agency. Teams must balance those concerns with a player's actual value. This year, deciding against using the tag could allow good-not-great NFC West players such as Dashon Goldson, Delanie Walker and Danny Amendola to reach the market and sign elsewhere.

It's tough losing key players, but for some perspective, let's revisit the list of 2012 NFC West unrestricted free agents to change teams during the UFA signing period last offseason: Note: UFAs include only veteran players whose contracts expired. Released players are not UFAs.
The evidence against Gregg Williams continues to mount, renewing questions about whether the indefinitely suspended defensive coordinator can credibly resume his career in the NFL.

The latest revelations -- profanity-laced recorded comments Williams made to New Orleans Saints players before their playoff game at San Francisco -- are chilling in their specificity. Time and again, Williams encouraged players to injure specific opponents, from Michael Crabtree to Frank Gore to Alex Smith to Kyle Williams.

Given these recordings, it's for the best that Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, declined to appeal his suspension relating to the Saints' bounty scandal. There can be no defending what he said.

Pro Football Talk has transcribed some of the comments. Yahoo! Sports' Mike Silver also has a column on the matter. I listened to the comments and transcribed them for this item.

"Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head," Williams told Saints players one day before the 49ers defeated New Orleans in the wild-card round. "Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head."

There was more. Much more.

"We need to find out in the first two series of the game, the little wide receiver, No. 10, about his concussion," Williams said, referring to Kyle Williams. "We need to [expletive] put a lick on him right now."

Williams also indicated the Saints should take out Crabtree's knee.

"We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a fake ass prima donna or he wants to be a tough guy," Williams told players. "We need to find it out. He becomes human when we [expletive] take out that outside ACL."

On and on it went.

Williams encouraged players to hit Smith under the chin, referring back to the "big eyes" Smith got when the Saints hit him repeatedly during the exhibition opener. He wanted the Saints to take out all the 49ers' key players, noting repeatedly that his team should not apologize for how it plays the game.

"We need to decide on how many times we can beat Frank Gore's head," Williams said.

Williams allegedly punctuated some of his comments with a hand gesture indicating he would pay cash for injuring the 49ers. These are damning tapes further cementing Williams' reputation for crossing the line.

Looks like we'll have even more than anticipated to discuss on the blog Thursday.

Elsewhere in the division ...

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News offers thoughts on the 49ers not facing the Raiders in the preseason.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Reggie Smith's departure from the 49ers in free agency further guts what remains of the team's 2008 draft class. Barrows: "According to a source, Smith, an unrestricted free agent, told the 49ers in his exit interview in January that he was not interested in returning to the team, presumably because he knew his chances of starting were slim with Dashon Goldson on the roster. The 49ers made Goldson their franchise player, although he has yet to sign the tender. The top three safeties for 2012 appear to be Goldson, strong safety Donte Whitner and C.J. Spillman. Madieu Williams, who also is a free agent, could return."

Taylor Price of 49ers.com says players are working out informally at team headquarters in advance of the voluntary offseason workout program.

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis quotes new Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan saying he wanted to play for Williams. Finnegan: "Every player you talk to says what a great coach he is. I was so excited to have a chance to play for him. He has a great defense and players love playing in that defense."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says recently retired former Rams receiver Torry Holt downplayed talk about the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Holt: "Shoot, we've got to get Cris Carter in the Hall, we have to get Andre Reed in the Hall, we've got to get Tim Brown in the Hall before we even start mentioning anything about Torry Holt being in the Hall."

Also from Thomas: notes from Holt's retirement news conference. Holt on whether signing a one-day contract would let him suit up: "I was speaking to Carla, my wife, and said, 'You know what? It would probably be cool if I called (equipment manager) Jimmy Lake and I had him set up my locker and get my cleats, and get my gloves, get my baggy shorts, and let me run one more deep seven (route). Shoot it out of the JUGS machine and I could catch it for a touchdown.' ... You know what? That'd be too much. Let's act like an adult here, I guess."

More from Thomas: The Rams have interest in free agent receiver Jerome Simpson.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune makes available draft analyst Rob Rang for a discussion focusing mostly on the Seahawks. Rang: "I believe Coby Fleener is going to wind up as a top 20 pick. There are few teams with obvious needs at TE to warrant such a pick, but coming off a 2011 season in which Gronk, Graham, etc. demonstrated just how effective these matchup nightmares can be, I believe some team is going to shock everyone. That team could be Seattle. If you're going to build a team around a relatively weak-armed QB, he'd damn well better have some weapons."

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle explains why he thinks the Seahawks' were true to form in letting David Hawthorne sign with New Orleans.

Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times says the Seahawks met with Patriots free agent defensive back Antwaun Molden.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic has this to say about the Cardinals' preseason schedule: "It will be the eighth time in the past nine seasons that the Cardinals have played the Broncos in the final preseason game."

Also from Somers: Levi Brown re-signed with the Cardinals shortly after the team visited with free-agent tackle Demetress Bell. Somers: "Coincidence? Maybe. The Cardinals paid Brown a $7 million signing bonus. Earlier in free agency they signed guard/tackle Adam Snyder to a five-year deal that included a $5 million signing bonus. The Cardinals remained interested in Bell, but it was questionable if they were going to write another big check for an offensive lineman."

More from Somers: The Cardinals have their key specialists under contract.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at options for Arizona on the offensive line. He quotes line coach Russ Grimm on Adam Snyder: "He was tops on our free agent list as far as offensive line was concerned. He’s a big physical guy, he's smart, he has played a number of positions. Right now we have him penciled in at right guard but if we have to move it around before camp we’ll move it around."

2012 NFC West UFA scorecard: update

March, 16, 2012
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Michael Robinson's expected re-signing with the Seattle Seahawks would give the team a league-high four re-signings in the unrestricted free-agent market.

Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan and Heath Farwell previously re-signed.

Seattle and the other NFC West teams have added only two UFAs from other teams, however. I've put together UFA scorecards for each team in the division. Ages are in parenthesis. Here goes ...

Seattle Seahawks

UFA unsigned (age): defensive end Raheem Brock (33), defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson (31), safety Atari Bigby (30), quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (29), linebacker Leroy Hill (29), linebacker Matt McCoy (29), defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (28), linebacker David Hawthorne (26), running back Justin Forsett (26), linebacker David Vobora (25)

UFA re-signed: Farwell (30), Robinson (29), McQuistan (28), Bryant (27)

UFA added: none

UFA lost: tight end John Carlson (27)

Franchise player: none

Comment: Forsett has provided value, but the Seahawks will want to add a power back as depth behind Marshawn Lynch, who re-signed before free agency. Mike Tolbert, a free agent from the San Diego Chargers, could be worth a look if the running back market remains soft. Tolbert weighs 243 pounds, has 21 total touchdowns over the past two seasons, and caught 54 passes in 2012. The price would have to be right after Seattle committed to Lynch.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA unsigned: fullback Moran Norris (33), tight end Justin Peelle (33), safety Madieu Williams (30), quarterback Alex Smith (27), receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (26), guard Chilo Rachal (26), safety Reggie Smith (25)

UFA re-signed: cornerback Carlos Rogers (30), linebacker Tavares Gooden (27)

UFA added: none

UFA lost: guard Adam Snyder (30), linebacker Blake Costanzo (27), receiver Josh Morgan (26)

Franchise player: safety Dashon Goldson (27)

Comment: Randy Moss and potential addition Rock Cartwright do not appear in the listings because they were not unrestricted free agents. Re-signing Alex Smith and finding additional receiver help appear to be the top priorities. The 49ers are showing little outward urgency on either front, however.

Arizona Cardinals

UFA unsigned: defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday (36), kicker Jay Feely (35), long-snapper Mike Leach (35), outside linebacker Clark Haggans (35), outside linebacker Joey Porter (34), offensive lineman Floyd Womack (33), punter Dave Zastudil (33), tackle D'Anthony Batiste (29), safety Sean Considine (29), guard Deuce Lutui (28), safety Hamza Abdullah (28), tackle Brandon Keith (27), receiver Early Doucet (26)

UFA re-signed: none.

UFA added: Snyder (30)

UFA lost: cornerback Richard Marshall (27)

Franchise player: defensive end Calais Campbell (25)

Comment: The Cardinals have been in a tough spot. They would have faced criticism had they declined to pursue Peyton Manning. They could now face criticism for sacrificing the first week of free agency while waiting for Manning. The reality is that Arizona probably wasn't going to be all that aggressive in the market this offseason, anyway. It did hurt losing Marshall to the Miami Dolphins after coordinator Ray Horton called him the Cardinals' defensive MVP.

St. Louis Rams

UFA unsigned: cornerback Al Harris (37), quarterback A.J. Feeley (34), offensive lineman Tony Wragge (32), linebacker Brady Poppinga (32), punter Donnie Jones (31), offensive lineman Adam Goldberg (31), guard Jacob Bell (31), receiver Brandon Lloyd (30), cornerback Rod Hood (30), running back Cadillac Williams (29), defensive tackle Gary Gibson (29), receiver Mark Clayton (29), tackle Mark LeVoir (29), tight end Stephen Spach (29), safety James Butler (29), tight end Billy Bajema (29), quarterback Kellen Clemens (28), running back Jerious Norwood (28), linebacker Bryan Kehl (27), linebacker Chris Chamberlain (26), cornerback Justin King (24)

UFA re-signed: none

UFA added: cornerback Cortland Finnegan (28)

UFA lost: none

Franchise player: none

Comment: The Rams are not looking to re-sign many of their own free agents. They want to turn over the roster, and that is happening in a big way. The team's failure to secure playmaking help for quarterback Sam Bradford stands out as the biggest theme to this point. Finnegan was a welcome addition, but he isn't going to score many touchdowns.

The chart below shows a general overview.

First look at 49ers' 2012 free agents

February, 7, 2012
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Five of the San Francisco 49ers' projected unrestricted free agents for 2012 played right around 1,000 snaps or more last season, easily the highest figure in the NFC West.

Re-signing quarterback Alex Smith appears likely. Smith accepted the Associated Press' coach of the year award on Jim Harbaugh's behalf Saturday, the latest indication Smith remains firmly in the fold.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers has said he wants to return. His value spiked after earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. The franchise tag remains available, but the price would be lower if San Francisco used it for free safety Dashon Goldson instead. Either way, the 49ers have decisions to make in their secondary.

The charts below expand upon Brian McIntyre's lists. I've added offensive and defensive snap counts from ESPN Stats & Information. The final column shows what players earned per year on their most recent contracts.

Some players, notably Blake Costanzo and C.J. Spillman, played extensively on special teams. The charts show offensive and defensive snap counts only.

.

The second chart shows restricted free agents. Teams can retain rights to RFAs by making one-year qualifying offers.
Naming Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams inactive Sunday gives both San Francisco 49ers wide receivers extra time to heal for the playoffs.

The 49ers seemingly could have bought additional time for Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis, but they made him active for the first time since Willis suffered a hamstring injury Dec. 4. That presumably means the team feels confident Willis is at no additional risk for further injury.

With Ginn and Williams out, the 49ers will rely upon less proven players, not just on offense but in the return game.

Brett Swain starts opposite Michael Crabtree at receiver, where the 49ers have only three players active -- an unusually low number that includes undrafted rookie Joe Hastings, signed Saturday from the practice squad. Ginn and Williams were the top two returns specialists. With Delanie Walker also inactive, the 49ers are very thin on pass-catchers. With two fullbacks active, we can expect plenty of "22" personnel with two backs and two tight ends, it appears.

This means we could see safety Reggie Smith returning punts, with rookie running back Kendall Hunter serving as the primary kickoff returner. The 49ers did not make a formal announcement on a change at punt returner, but coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Friday that Smith could get the call.

With a victory at St. Louis or a New Orleans defeat against Carolina, the 49ers' injured players will gain another week to heal by virtue of a first-round playoff bye. There were no surprises among the Rams' inactives Sunday. Quarterbacks Sam Bradford and A.J. Feeley remain out, leaving Kellen Clemens as the starter.

Bengals drop game and opportunity

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
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Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
CINCINNATI -- Who Dey? No, the Bengals' rallying cry today was: Where Dey?

The Bengals played before 43,363 at Paul Brown Stadium, their smallest crowd for a home opener in 30 years. And the Bengals failed to convince football fans in Cincinnati to change their minds in a 13-8 -- wait, a yawn -- loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

It's hard to generate a buzz in the community when the home team fails to score a touchdown. It's difficult to build excitement when the team produces more punts (seven) than offensive points (six).

This was the Bengals' chance to make a strong first impression in front of the home crowd with their young quarterback and wide receiver. Instead, they threw away the opportunity more times than Andy Dalton threw a fourth-quarter pass to the 49ers (which was twice).

A solid on-field performance was required after such an embarrassing week off of it. Starting wide receiver Jerome Simpson had a drug bust at his home, and running back Cedric Benson received a three-game suspension from the NFL, which he plans to appeal.

But the Bengals' mistake-filled loss in front of more than 20,000 empty seats only added to their miserable week.

[+] EnlargeCincinnati fan
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanA Bengals fan takes a photo just before Sunday's game against the 49ers. The Cincinnati crowd was sparse in the upper deck.
"We can’t control fans coming to watch our game," Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga said.

Actually, Rey, you can. It's about winning. It's about finishing games. It's about responding to adversity like the rest of the AFC North.

The Steelers rebounded from a rout in Baltimore by shutting out Seattle. The Ravens shook off a deflating loss at Tennessee by stomping St. Louis. And the Browns moved past a fourth-quarter breakdown against Cincinnati to reel off two wins.

The Bengals, though, looked like a young team that had gone through a week filled with distractions -- something coach Marvin Lewis wouldn't agree with.

"It had nothing to do with it," he said. "I don't think any of that can keep us from converting a third down."

Third downs have become a nagging problem. The Bengals converted once on 10 chances a week after going 1-for-11 on third downs.

The real trouble spot is finishing games. A week after Cincinnati couldn't complete the comeback in Denver, it was like a repeat alongside the Ohio River.

There were three plays in the fourth quarter that caused the Bengals to drop to 1-2 on the season:

  • The biggest error by the defense came with about five minutes left when they didn't cover tight end Vernon Davis -- the only player on the 49ers offense that consistently hurt Cincinnati -- which resulted in a 20-yard pass into the red zone and led to a 7-yard touchdown run by Kendall Hunter to put the 49ers ahead 10-6.
  • One play after the touchdown, Dalton threw a bad pass right to Carlos Rogers even though the San Francisco cornerback had better position on the sidelines than intended receiver Andre Caldwell. The 49ers turned Dalton's first career interception into a field goal, extending the lead to 13-6.
  • On the Bengals' final drive, Dalton connected with tight end Jermaine Gresham for 22 and 17 yards to move into San Francisco territory with under two minutes left. But Gresham didn't look for the throw to his back shoulder on the third pass of that series, and it was intercepted by San Francisco's Reggie Smith.

"We’re almost there," Maualuga said. "We don’t happen to have that finish that we’re looking for. We have all the qualities of having a good team. We’re just not finishing."

Dalton was nearly perfect on the opening drive of the game, completing 5 of 6 passes for 61 yards. After that, he was 12-for-26 for 96 yards and two interceptions.

"We started fast, which is what you come out to do," Dalton said. "We were flat after that. We couldn't do the things we wanted to do."

Dalton didn't resemble the rookie quarterback who threw for 332 yards at Denver last Sunday.

"In the fourth quarter, Andy did some things we [knew we] might go through at some point," Lewis said. "But he will come back out of it and be fine."

Other issues can't be as easily dismissed. The Bengals allowed Simpson to play, and he managed one pass for 6 yards.

Still, his status for future games is uncertain because the investigation involving 2.5 pounds of marijuana shipped to his house is ongoing. Simpson was not made available to reporters in the locker room.

"Whatever course of action is taken when the time comes will be dealt with accordingly," Lewis said.

Meanwhile, Benson is appealing his three-game suspension from the NFL on Tuesday and has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against the NFLPA, saying he shouldn't be subject to discipline for conduct that occurred during the lockout. He had been arrested in July for allegedly punching a former roommate in downtown Austin and later served five days in a Texas jail.

"There were some things in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that we were not made aware of, which is really no surprise," Benson said. "That falls on the PA [Players Association]. You would think that they are here to support you and have your back. That's what a union does. I guess in my case that it's different."

These aren't exactly the headlines that the Bengals want to see when they're trying to win back fans. It's been an ongoing problem when you lead the NFL in arrests since 2000 and your starting quarterback takes an early retirement in the offseason.

Players acknowledged noticing the empty seats. It would be hard not to. Only about one-quarter of the upper deck had fans in it.

"We’re going to keep playing hard if it’s one person out there or 70,000," cornerback Leon Hall said. "There’s a lot of things to get excited about with this team. I have a good feeling about this team."

The challenge for the Bengals now is to make their fan base believe that.

Gallery, Hawthorne, Rice miss for Seattle

September, 11, 2011
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Seattle Seahawks will be without three starters for their regular-season opener against San Francisco.

Two came as little surprise. Guard Robert Gallery (knee) and receiver Sidney Rice (shoulder) did not practice all week. A third, linebacker David Hawthorne, was limited during practice, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had sounded optimistic about Hawthorne's chances.

Rookie K.J. Wright will start at middle linebacker in Hawthorne's place. Carroll has lauded Wright as being ready to play as a rookie, but Hawthorne's experience would have carried value.

James Carpenter will start at left guard for Gallery. Breno Giacomini starts at right tackle, where Carpenter had played during preseason.

Seattle inactives: quarterback Josh Portis, receiver Kris Durham, Rice, Hawthorne, Gallery, tackle Jarriel King, defensive tackle Al Woods.

San Francisco inactives: quarterback Scott Tolzien, receiver Kyle Williams, free safety Dashon Goldson, offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore, offensive lineman Mike Person, nose tackle Ian Williams and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs.

Veteran safety Madieu Williams will start in Goldson's place, as expected. Reggie Smith is also active among safeties after missing time to injury over the summer. He's expected to play on special teams as well as on defense.

San Francisco 49ers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
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Check here for a complete list of the San Francisco 49ers' roster moves.

Surprise move: Releasing veteran backup quarterback Josh McCown was a mild surprise, not a shocking one. The team sought veteran depth behind Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick. McCown was on the roster for those purposes and could conceivably return if needed down the line, but the 49ers want to upgrade there if they can.

Keeping sixth-round safety Colin Jones seemed odd on the surface after Jones played sparingly on defense during preseason. He played extensively on special teams, however. Keeping Jones could qualify as a victory for assistant head coach/special teams Brad Seeley. Veteran guard Tony Wragge was let go after the team drafted interior linemen and developed Adam Snyder as an option at center. Keeping only two tight ends on this initial roster was a mild surprise but also a reflection of Nate Byham's season-ending injury. Rookie Konrad Reuland will presumably wind up on the practice squad.

No-brainers: Rookie receiver Ronald Johnson was a draft choice with ties to the coaching staff from his days at USC, but he didn't do enough during preseason to warrant releasing a superior player. Johnson appears to be a candidate for the practice squad. Keeping safety Reggie Smith despite injury concerns also was a smart, predictable move. He was in line to start entering camp and should factor at the position eventually. Backup running backs Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter made it, with Hunter as the apparent favorite for the No. 2 role.

What's next: The 49ers will want to add a veteran backup quarterback at some point in the near future. Smith has durability and performance-related concerns. Kaepernick, though talented, does not appear ready to step in as a starter in the near term. McCown knows enough of the offense at this point to come back in a pinch, but the team could sign another veteran for Week 1.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The sights and sounds of the typical NFL training camp aren't quite the same with Jim Harbaugh running things for the San Francisco 49ers.

The digital timers commonly used to break practices into periods do not exist there. The air horns NFL teams traditionally fire to signal transitions between periods never sound. Staffers generally responsible for managing such things can focus their attention elsewhere.

Harbaugh tracks it all himself, keeping the time in his head, sometimes without even consulting a watch. The only whistle at practice belongs to him. Harbaugh blows it when he's ready for a new period to begin. If there's a bad snap or miscue, too bad. It's on to the next play. Corrections can wait until the end of practice.

The devices teams have traditionally used to ensure practices move along on schedule would actually make it tougher for Harbaugh to push the tempo to his liking. In interviews right after practice, Harbaugh sometimes comes off as distracted, as though his mind is racing through the two-minute scenarios that helped him earn the nickname "Captain Comeback" as a player. Practice ended 12 minutes early Wednesday.

"There is no wasted time," said left tackle Joe Staley, a first-round draft choice in 2007. "I think that is carrying over to the mindset. This isn't just fun. This is our job."

Players accustomed to two-hour camp breaks at midday under other coaches now scarcely have any down time at all. They're in the building by 6:30 each morning and out by 9:30 each night. They do not leave the premises in the interim.

There's no more whining to a wife or girlfriend over lunch about the rigors of camp. Cupcaking, as Harbaugh calls it.

"You are always thinking football," said tight end Delanie Walker, who has been with the team since 2006. "That is what we needed. We needed to think football because we have a young team and they don't understand that this league is tough and if you lose focus on what we have to accomplish, that can hurt you."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeJim Harbaugh and Alex Smith
AP Photo/Paul SakumaCoach Jim Harbaugh elected to bring Alex Smith back as the starting QB despite his less-than-stellar track record.
1. Can Harbaugh fix Alex Smith? It's a tantalizing question for those still hopeful Smith might develop into a viable starter. There's no doubt Harbaugh brings more offensive expertise to the job than his recent predecessors did. Smith has embraced learning from a coach with Harbaugh's understanding of the position. One veteran player said Smith never lost the locker room, in part because teammates knew the deck was stacked against him. "It's hard to describe what it's been like in the past as far as schematics go and how difficult it is to deal with, the situations we're put in as players," the player said. "I think with this new coaching staff, they want to put you in position to be successful. It's not just, 'We're going to run power because we're physical and we don't care if they have nine guys in the box.' Look at all the weapons we have, put them with our coaching staff and I think he's going to be productive." As always, though, it comes down to whether Smith can get it done during games. He's usually said the right things and taken the right approach during the offseason.

2. Why so many changes on defense? The 49ers absorbed criticism early in free agency as players departed and the organization took a measured approach to lining up replacements. Defensive starters Takeo Spikes, Aubrayo Franklin, Manny Lawson and Nate Clements did not return. Another defensive starter, Dashon Goldson, lingered on the market before taking a one-year deal to return. Where was the urgency? It's helpful to remember the team's general manager, Trent Baalke, experienced firsthand the risks associated with aggressive free-agent spending while working for the Washington Redskins from 2001-04. And with a new defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio, priorities changed. Franklin was a pure two-gapping nose tackle. His replacement, Isaac Sopoaga, might be better suited for Fangio's slanting 3-4 scheme featuring fire-zone tactics in doses. The 49ers see the middle of their defense as even stronger following free agency. They love their depth at safety and are expecting a breakout year from NaVorro Bowman at inside linebacker next to Patrick Willis.

3. Can the 49ers 'buy in' yet again? The 49ers are on their third head coach and seventh offensive coordinator since 2005. Most recent seasons have begun with fresh promise, followed by disappointment and even disillusionment. Here comes Harbaugh, full of energy, pumping up hopes once again. I wondered whether players would be too jaded to invest fully from the beginning. "It's not about Harbaugh getting me to buy in again," Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis said. "It's not about him. It's about the team wanting to win games. ... There is nothing anybody can do to get me to be involved. I am going to be involved whether they like it or not, because that is what I do. You go through adversity, but you have to keep believing."

BIGGEST SURPRISE

[+] EnlargeDashon Golson
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireDashon Golson re-signed with the 49ers for a one-year deal after testing the free-agency waters.
Dashon Goldson's return. The 49ers suddenly have options at safety after Goldson, a 2010 starter, returned on a one-year deal for $2 million. The situation played out perfectly for the team. San Francisco signed Donte Whitner and Madieu Williams in free agency while Goldson tested a soft market. Reggie Smith was having a good camp before suffering a knee injury that will keep him out for at least a couple of weeks. The team still has Taylor Mays as well, at least for now. Whitner (strong) and Goldson (free) project as the likely starters unless Reggie Smith can get healthy enough to make another run at the job before the season. Goldson has plenty of motivation entering a contract year. Whitner started quickly and wore down with Buffalo last season. The 49ers' offense can help him out by sustaining drives and giving the defense some rest.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Michael Crabtree's injury. This marks the third lost offseason in three years for the player San Francisco drafted 10th overall in 2009. Crabtree missed camp and the first six regular-season weeks of his rookie season during a contract dispute. A neck injury prevented him from playing in a single exhibition game last summer. A foot injury has prevented Crabtree from practicing even once at camp this season. The 49ers protected themselves by signing Braylon Edwards to a one-year deal, but they need more in return from their investment in Crabtree.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • As much as the 49ers valued Spikes, they were ready to go with Bowman next to Willis on the inside. Bowman came on strong late last season, particularly in a Week 17 game against Arizona. The 49ers hope he can become a Jon Beason type. If that happens, they'll have one of the best inside linebacker combinations in the league.
  • Right guard Chilo Rachal has been inconsistent to this point in his career. His weight is down from the 330 range to about 310 and has dipped closer to 300 after practices. Has Rachal matured and become more serious about his craft? It's too early to say, but at least he reported to camp at a promising weight.
  • Increasing roster limits from 80 to 90 players has helped Harbaugh transition from college, where programs can bring 105 players to camp. It's common for Harbaugh to send the starting offense against the No. 2 defense on one field, with the backup offense and starting defense on another. That would be unusual in the NFL in the age of 80-man rosters.
  • In retrospect, it's pretty clear the 49ers were never serious about adding Nnamdi Asomugha, Chad Ochocinco or other big names in free agency. They've given great weight to dynamics within the locker room when deciding which players to pay handsomely.
  • Running back Frank Gore's brief holdout quickly became a non-story when the team promised to revisit his deal in good faith as the season progresses. Gore appeared in terrific spirits during my visit to camp. At one point during practice, Gore spotted ESPN analyst and former 49ers teammate Trent Dilfer standing near the sideline. He came over to greet Dilfer and then noticed Baalke, the GM, standing nearby. After embracing Dilfer, Gore turned to Baalke and extended a hand. They shook hands and shared a few laughs before Gore returned to his teammates. Gore, upon hearing adoring cries from a fan attending the same practice, broke away to hug her.
  • The 49ers are banking on a strong relationship between Harbaugh and Baalke. The two became close during the lockout. They are also competitors on the racquetball court, where Harbaugh's competitive edge comes through. Harbaugh has come back from 13-0 and 18-7 deficits to beat his GM. The coach typically begins his comebacks by dropping subtle comments designed to unnerve his opponent. He then changes up his approach, becoming less predictable. Consider it a metaphor for his coaching style. Gone are the days when lining up in a certain formation precipitated running a certain play.
  • The 49ers are fortunate Harbaugh agreed to retain defensive line coach Jim Tomsula from the previous staff. The bond between Tomsula and players at the position is uncommonly strong. Defensive end Ray McDonald re-signed without even testing free agency. The team made bringing back McDonald a priority, given the premium teams place on defensive linemen in the draft. Losing McDonald might have forced the team to more strongly consider drafting one early.
  • Edwards' addition at receiver gives the team needed size at the position while Crabtree is unavailable. "The first time I saw him work out here, I thought he was a tight end," safety Curtis Taylor said.
  • Rookie second-round choice Colin Kaepernick is getting high marks from Harbaugh to this point in camp. Kaepernick's mobility and arm strength stand out during practices. He also has a longer delivery, as advertised. I watched closely to see whether the delivery allowed defensive backs to jump pass routes more ably. That did not appear to be the case in practice. Kaepernick's lean frame made me wonder about his ability to take a hit to the legs. At Harbaugh's direction, quarterbacks are wearing braces on their left knees, which tend to be most vulnerable when right-handed quarterbacks deliver the ball.
  • Kaepernick will likely get on the field one way or another even if Smith remains the starter. There are no indications Kaepernick will start in Week 1, but Harbaugh isn't making any public declarations.
  • Fangio has been pushing first-round pick Aldon Smith hard in practice even though Smith flashed plenty of ability early in camp. Smith is grinding a bit while absorbing the defense. He seems to be taking Fangio's criticism in stride.
  • Harbaugh strongly emphasizes practicing within the context of situations, more so than I would have expected during the early stages of installing the playbook. Some fans attending a recent practice laughed when they saw punter Andy Lee take a snap from center and spike the ball to stop the clock. Count Harbaugh as one of the coaches, Bill Belichick among them, who favor sending on the punt team following third-down plays during two-minute situations when it's not clear whether the offense got a first down. If the offense gets a new set of downs, the punter spikes the ball. If not, the regular punt call remains.
  • It's not unusual for the 49ers' first-team offense to execute four or more two-minute drills in one day, up from one in the past. Harbaugh frames most practice reps within down, distance and time. Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith: "Things are a lot more detailed. Every coach at their position is pretty well near the top. Everything we've heard from them has been right on point."
  • The quote of camp so far came from another Smith, Alex, when asked about changes on offense: "Obviously, what we were doing wasn't working -- all of us, me included. That is the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing and expecting a different result."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Dashon Goldson's one-year contract agreement with the San Francisco 49ers shines more light on the safety position as training camp continues.

Goldson, Donte Whitner, Madieu Williams and Reggie Smith give the team veteran depth at the position. All started games last season, as did Taylor Mays, whose future with the 49ers remains clouded as the team solicits trade offers for him. Curtis Taylor, C.J. Spillman, Chris Maragos and Colin Jones are also safeties on the roster for San Francisco.

Why so many safeties? The 49ers needed to improve their pass defense this offseason. They've rounded up a long list of safeties, creating a competitive situation as the exhibition season approaches. Options are better than no options.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. foreshadowed the 49ers' experience with Goldson this offseason, writing in June: "You might tell him, 'See what you can get, let us know,' and if he can get a big number he goes, but if he comes back, you get him back at your price and everyone is happy."

That is exactly what happened for the 49ers, a big win for the team. Goldson should return supremely motivated and possibly humbled. The team hasn't committed to him unnecessarily. The sides can revisit the situation one year from now. If Goldson plays well, the 49ers will be in better position to work out a long-term deal during the season, with Goldson having learned free agency isn't always such a fun experience.

Note: The flight I caught to San Jose early Monday was boarding just as news of Goldson's $2 million agreement was circulating.

Under the microscope: 15 little things

December, 9, 2010
12/09/10
5:27
PM ET
Fifteen little things I noticed while watching NFC West teams play in Week 13:
  • Rams defensive end James Hall pushing Cardinals tackle Levi Brown back far enough to affect Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson. Anderson's hurried pass bounced off Beanie Wells' shoulder, setting up third-and-11.
  • Sam Bradford having plenty of time to complete a 15-yard pass to Brandon Gibson. Left tackle Rodger Saffold handled Joey Porter. Right tackle Jason Smith scrapped with someone on the Cardinals after the play. That's what the Rams want from their tackles: solid pass protection on the left side and a nasty attitude on the right side. Later, Smith ran over to Steven Jackson when it appeared the running back might be in danger following a play.
  • Cardinals tight end Ben Patrick making a couple key blocks on successful running plays. He moved out Rams linebacker Na'il Diggs on Wells' 16-yard run. He did enough to turn Rams defensive end Chris Long inside during Tim Hightower's 23-yard run.
  • Porter celebrating Kerry Rhodes' sack on Bradford. Rams center Jason Brown had decked Porter with a left jab moments earlier. Porter flopped as if trying to draw a penalty. Are players trying to take advantage of heightened awareness over personal fouls? The Packers' Desmond Bishop raised my suspicions when he went cartwheeling after 49ers guard Chilo Rachal shoved him as a play was winding down.
  • Dockett practically taking the snap from Bradford after knifing into the backfield past Rams right guard Adam Goldberg on second-and-goal from the 2. A similar breakdown led to an intercepted shovel pass against Atlanta.
  • Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck and Marshawn Lynch colliding in the backfield. Tight end Cameron Morrah couldn't hold his block, creating a logjam in the backfield.
  • Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson giving another NFC West right tackle problems. Johnson was the one who knocked out 49ers quarterback Alex Smith this season. He threatened Hasselbeck a few times Sunday.
  • Hasselbeck getting hit before throwing an interception on a deep pass intended for Ben Obomanu. This play might have resulted in a touchdown if the Panthers hadn't hit Hasselbeck. Left guard Mike Gibson had problems on this play.
  • Hasselbeck completing a 36-yard pass to Morrah right after the team honored retired left tackle Walter Jones. Inspiration?
  • Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung blasting the Panthers' Captain Munnerlyn following an interception. Okung likes hitting people. A week earlier, against Kansas City, Okung had nothing to do as a play neared its end. He turned and decked Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel with a violent shove.
  • The 49ers failing to fool the Packers with a pass play on third-and-1. San Francisco and Alex Smith in particular have made big plays by throwing in these situations, often to a tight end. Troy Smith could not connect with Michael Crabtree. Will these plays work as well without Frank Gore in the backfield?
  • Troy Smith making a play Alex Smith would never make, in my view, when he threw to Vernon Davis for a 25-yard gain while two defenders were about to sack him. Davis made an acrobatic catch. There was nothing textbook about this play. It was a sandlot play.
  • Troy Smith holding the ball too long and taking sacks in the red zone on consecutive plays soon after the strike to Davis. Alex Smith has been better in the red zone. Might the 49ers have gotten a touchdown here instead of a field goal? Troy Smith missed a red-zone throw to Crabtree late rin the game.
  • 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis forcing and incomplete pass with pressure up the middle. Willis could be a concern for Seattle in this manner Sunday.
  • 49ers safety Reggie Smith missing a tackle on Packers receiver Donald Driver at the San Francisco 27, then coasting while Driver eluded another tackle and ran to the end zone. Ahmad Brooks and Nate Clements hustled their way into the play. Smith never factored after his initial whiff.

I also watched (and charted) the San Francisco 49ers' game against Green Bay, but my notes weren't as good (had some time constraints).
Veteran strong safety Michael Lewis, reportedly in danger of losing his starting job, might not accompany the San Francisco 49ers to Atlanta in Week 4.

Coach Mike Singletary cited "personal reasons" for Lewis' absence from practice Friday, and he would not elaborate when pressed by reporters.

So, is Lewis tending to a family matter, or is there something more at work here?

The latter seems plausible given all the tumult surrounding the 49ers following their 0-3 start. If Lewis' absence really were unrelated to football, the 49ers could make that clear without breaching any confidences. The fact that they're being so vague seems telling. The team already slashed Lewis' pay, used a second-round choice for safety Taylor Mays and lauded another safety, Reggie Smith, for strong play during camp.

"As far as if he will make the trip or not, I’m not sure at this point," Singletary said. "It depends on if things get worked out or not. Once again, it’s personal reasons and that’s on Mike. I don’t talk about that. You have to talk to Mike about that."

Lewis' mysterious absence is the latest surprising development on Singletary's watch. Kentwan Balmer forced a trade. Glen Coffee retired. Singletary fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye after three games -- one day after saying Raye would stay all season.

If Lewis is absent for reasons unrelated to the team, it's no big deal for the 49ers. If his absence reflects a rift with Singletary or other coaches, consider it another consequence of the 49ers' 0-3 start and another test for Singletary's leadership.

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