Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
David (Folsom, CA)
Why can't the Niners receive help with their new stadium, yet since the Vikings stadium collapsed, they will get the help that the Niners desperately need. Seems like the West Coast is so hated by the league. Any request seems to be rejected or ignored. From stadiums to east coast start times to length of travels to media coverage, and the list goes on. What is the deal?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
A league spokesman told me the league has made no special offers to the Vikings, and that stadium funding is contingent upon a new labor agreement, plus approval of three-fourths ownership.
supninerfan (ft. lauderdale, fl)
I know a lot of players are working out and staying in shape but what percentage do you think are taking advantage of the lockout and using it as vacation time?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
Those things are not necessarily exclusive. A player could stay in shape and also get extra downtime. I suspect lots of players are enjoying the down time. They've felt for a while that offseasons were shrinking. We've heard players occasionally say they're not sweating the lockout. I bet conditioning will be a problem if the lockout drags through June.
Armen (Winter Park, FL)
Let's play "You Be The Rams' GM." If the Rams could sign one, and only one, of the followng players, who would you sign and why? (1) Barry Cofield, (2) Davin Joseph, (3) James Anderson, or (4) Darren Sproles.
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Cofield would be a nice addition with Fred Robbins already on the team. Joseph is intriguing, but I don't know enough about what he offers beyond strong guard play. How would he fit with the line? Would he give the line what I perceive to be a needed edge on the personality front? Those are things to consider at that spot.
Dusty McGoo (lax)
What were the 49ers thinking picking up Carr last season? I never liked that guy. Will he be back this year? Troy Smith seems to be the better option there for a backup.
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
That seemed to be a front-office move. Carr never fit into Mike Singletary's plans. I do not expect Carr or Troy Smith to return.
Steve (San Jose)
Hey Sando, Thank you for pointing out the scheduling issue with NFC/AFC West Teams. We have complained for years about how this is a proven disadvantage and the league does nothing. The east coast teams complained once that they had to play both Western Divisions, so now any east coast teams that play the NFC or AFC West in a season will not have to play the other. Also they will schedule both road trips (ie to Oakland / San Diego) back to back so teams can stay here for that week. How convenient, since they did nothing for the same situation West Coast teams are in. The West Coast is geting the raw deal while the leagues bend over backwards for the East Coast. Sando, can you please press on how hypocritical the NFL is, because this blatantly shows how biased they are toward the East Coast Golden Boy teams.
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Sometimes I feel like a one-man army on this subject. It starts to sound like whining, but I think it's important to keep the issue alive. It is a real issue to the teams out here on the West Coast. Their thinking is logical. Teams out here share your feeling that the league favors East Coast teams. There's a perception the league office is filled with Giants fans.
Dusty McGoo (lax)
Mike, love the blog and the constant facebook/twitter updates. I am a 49ers fan. Since Steve Young left the team, who do you think has been the best QB for the 49ers? To name a few: Grbac, Garcia, A. Smith, T. Smith, D. Carr, S. Hill,...I would say Garcia. Is there any chance they would consider Garcia as a backup or has his time passed?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
Thanks, Dusty. Jeff Garcia would be my choice as the best, but not my choice to join the team as a backup right now. Garcia hasn't been in the NFL lately because he hasn't been willing to serve as a backup. He's not the type to bring in as a mentor.
Keep seeing Marc Bulger's name come up in connection with the Cardinals' starting job. Why is that? I like the guy, and he still can play, but shouldn't he be WAY down on Whisenhunt's wish list?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
These things come down to price sometimes. How much would the Cardinals be willing to trade for a younger option? If they see Kevin Kolb as significantly more appealing than Bulger, perhaps they go that direction. But if things do not workout with Kolb or other quarterbacks on their list, Bulger could have some appeal. The interest Arizona has in any one quarterback depends to a degree on factors beyond their control, notably market forces.
Dan Grimm (Ojai, CA)
Mike, what do you make of the Mebane situation playing out for Seattle? I understand he's not worth big big franchise type of money, but is there any viable options if he walks? I was surprised that he threw teammates under the bus when talking about his own production and stated that he wasn't in the plans for the team.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Brandon Mebane's situation is a classic example of what happens when new leadership takes over. The new leadership values inherited players only to a point. The new leadership hears about how great Mebane can be, shrugs a little bit and says to itself, 'We'll be fine either way.' Seattle values Mebane more after not addressing the defensive tackle position in the draft, but the team isn't going to back up the Brinks truck, either.
Aaron (Elma, WA)
Mattie H. has received a playbook from teammates to get acquainted with the new offense (the running game in particular) and is practicing with John Carlson and Justin Forsett. The playbook in particular would seem to make him a lock to return back to Seattle. Am I making too much of it, and what are the odds right now of him being back in Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
I tend to think Matt Hasselbeck will return, but getting a playbook through a teammate doesn't affect the situation at all, in my view. Hasselbeck already knew the passing game portion of the playbook, inside and out. Tom Cable is installing the running game, and some of that terminology is new. Having a playbook could help Hasselbeck learn that aspect of the offense. But that will not be a significant factor in whether Hasselbeck re-signs.
Ryan (Austin, Texas)
How much of an improvement are you expecting from our running back corps? Would a good year for Marshawn mean Beast Mode goes back on the market?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
The running backs appear unchanged. Their production should improve through renewed emphasis on the running game (Pete Carroll through Tom Cable) and through personnel upgrades. The offensive line will be better this season, most likely, and the run game will benefit.
cardsblackout (phoenix, az)
Even thought the Cardinals drafted Rob Housler, will they still go after free-agent tight end?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
I do not see that as a huge priority. They'll need a blocking tight end. Steven Spach seems like a good candidate there. Housler would be more of a receiving threat.
Chris (phoenix, az)
Hey Mike, long-time reader, first-time asker. Let's say the Cards get Kevin Kolb or Carson Palmer. Would they still try to sign Marc Bulger? And if they do, does that mean Max Hall and Richard Bartel are out?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Thanks for calling the program. I'm seeing Bulger as more of a fallback in case the team doesn't find a better option. But there have been longstanding questions about what Bulger wants from football at this stage of his career. Would he jump at the chance to sign with Arizona and become a starter? And would the Cardinals still want him if they had other, younger options? To answer the last part of your question, I do not think Bulger would come to Arizona as a backup.
Ken (Scottsdale, AZ)
What are you thoughts on Larry Fitzgerald and his contract status with the Cards? He doesn't strike me as someone who will pack up and leave over money.
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
It's a given that Arizona must make a huge offer to keep Larry Fitzgerald. If that happens, as expected, Fitzgerald will weigh the Cardinals' situation -- coaching, quarterback and so on -- against whatever opportunities exist elsewhere. If he becomes a free agent, though, I think the Cardinals will probably lose him.
Stephen (Ann Arbor, MI)
Mike, in your eyes, who is the better linebacker, Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis.
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Lewis has had the better career, based on production over time. Willis is the better player right now and it's not all that close. I'd consider Willis among the top couple defensive players in the entire league. We'll be voting on that for power rankings that come out next week. Willis will be very high on my ballot.
Joey (San Jose, CA)
If the 49ers can sign Nnamdi Asomugha, would Nate Clements be released (Once the lockout if over of course)?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Nate Clements will be released either way unless he agrees to a pay reduction.
Does Amendola become the new Wes Welker (100+ catches a year) in STL with McDaniels? Everyone that Eddie Royal would in DEN, but that never happened.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Seems like "the new Wes Welker" candidates crop up everywhere. Amendola fits the profile exceptionally given that he's smaller, plays the slot effectively and is coming off an 85-catch season. A.J. Feeley was calling him a Welker clone in camp last summer. Amendola is a little taller than Welker, but they are both 185-pounders with the ability to catch lots of shorter passes. Welker, before his injury, was much more productive than Amendola has been, but some of that comes down to opportunities. With Sam Bradford having a year of experience, with Josh McDaniels taking over the offense, with the Rams having more depth around Amendola at receiver, yes, I could see Amendola approaching 100 receptions in 2011.
Jason (Sacramento, CA)
Hey Mike! It seems all but a done deal that Alex Smith is coming back to San Francisco. But could you see Seattle or Arizona making a play for him? One of those moves that could improve you and weakens your rival.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
It's a foregone conclusion Smith is re-signing with the 49ers. I see zero chance Smith goes to another team. He has given Jim Harbaugh his word. Harbaugh has given Smith his word.
Ciscoskid (San Francisco)
Sando, love you work. First, I can't believe the 49ers were not on the list of best helmets, but the Browns were. Really? Next, I don't feel like Michael Crabtree is a good fit for the 49ers. I also don't really see him staying with the 49ers long term. I get the feeling he will wait for free agency and bolt to Dallas if he can. Would the 49ers entertain trading him or is it too soon?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
On helmets, to each his own. I don't have strong opinions on that subject. Crabtree's situation will be fascinating to watch, I think. He showed up as a rookie eager and willing to learn. He seemed less engaged last season and I'm not sure what was going on there. The little tiff with Vernon Davis seemed weird. Watching the games, Crabtree sometimes appeared like something wasn't sitting well with him. Jim Harbaugh is going to require full engagement from his receivers. He'll require them to block. This is a subject I'd like to investigate a little more. Maybe I'll reach out to Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. for some thoughts. Thanks for the idea.
Bryan (New Mexico)
Do you think the Rams should go after Sidney Rice when the lockout is over? Which Rams receivers will not be back next year?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
There is no separation at the position right now. This is what I wrote previously on the blog: Danny Amendola appears safe as a slot receiver. Rookies Austin Pettis and Greg Salas were drafted early enough -- among the first four rounds -- to qualify as likely keepers. They would have to struggle beyond reasonable expectation for the team to risk placing them on waivers before their rookie seasons. Veterans Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton will likely figure into the mix prominently if sufficiently recovered from injuries. Those are the five leading candidates for roster spots at this point, at least in my view. I would place Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander, Laurent Robinson and Mardy Gilyard on notice for that sixth spot. But if Dominique Curry bounces back strong from a knee injury, his value on special teams could come into play. The final wide receiver generally must contribute on special teams to justify a roster spot. He almost certainly must do so to factor on the 45-man game-day roster.
Gregg (Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii)
Aloha Mike. Do you think the Seahawks are lobbying the NFL and Roger Goodell to make sure the free agency rules do not include the 'Final Eight' clause? I know this has been talked about, but it has the potential to ruin any opportunity the Seahawks have to improve their offensive and defensive lines via free agency. Also, since Matt Hasselbeck is a UFA, are the Hawks restricted in signing him under that rule as well? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
I don't think the NFL is far enough down the labor road for the Seahawks to affect the discussion, and I doubt whether they could affect it along those lines, anyway. If the Final Eight rules went into effect, they would not affect what Seattle could pay to any of its own free agents. The rule would affect only what the Seahawks could pay to free agents from other teams. And even then, it is possible the team could be allowed one highly lucrative addition without losing any of its own players.
Hurting Heart (I just don't know)
If the season simply does not happen, what is the draft order next year? Or how would they come up with it?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
There is not yet a draft scheduled for 2012. The 2011 draft took place under provisions made in the previous collective bargaining agreement. There were no such provisions for 2012.
greg (Tracy, Morgan)
What will happen to Brian Westbrook next season? Will he stay with the 49ers? He didn't seem to have much of an impact last season.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Westbrook is not part of the team's plans.
Paul (Palm Beach, FL)
Hey Mike. Curiously, the Rams neglected to draft a backup RB again, though their reasoning is understandable. However, should Jackson get injured early in the season, the Rams -- specifically Bradford -- could be in for a world of hurt considering the schedule. With Toston and Washington as the backups, the dropoff in talent - and subsequently, production - should be of great concern to Devaney and Spagnuolo. What do you attribute their reluctance to bring in a quality back to be? And do you think it's a primary concern in free agency this year?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
They've had greater needs in other areas and haven't felt good about diverting resources to a position that remains one of the strongest on the team as long as Jackson is healthy. I agree that they need to address the position. They have acknowledged this. If they do not get it done this offseason, they'll be criticized, and justifiably so. They've had time to figure out something.
Attn Cardinal fans (or anyone else who cares). Max Hall is done. It was a failed and admitted mistake. He will be lucky to make the practice squad.
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Yeah, that could be the case. Last season was very damaging to his prospects.
Do you think with the addition of McDaniels and the draft picks, the Rams will be able to throw the ball down the field more in order to create more running room for Jackson?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
How they used second-round tight end Lance Kendricks could be key in this regard. I still do not see great vertical options, however.
Did you see Brandon Lloyd as a vertical option before last year started, probably not right?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Yeah, I had him listed among the very elite. Haha. Great reminder there, Jordan. Josh McDaniels did get great downfield production from Lloyd last season. It's something we've discussed periodically. Can the Rams count on discovering the next Lloyd? No. But with McDaniels and Bradford working together, there's an increased chance the Rams get unexpected production from one of their many wideouts.
The Whiz (Tempe Training Facility)
What do I do with Beanie Wells and who should I start in the backfield this year??
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Start the best guy. We'll know by the end of preseason which running back should start. The lockout could make it tougher for a rookie to learn the ins and outs of the position, particularly in terms of protection, so Ryan Williams will be at a disadvantage there.
Thanks for the chat as always!! I've been waiting for awhile for the Rams to reclaim their throne in the NFC West. Is this the year they break through, and if so could it be in large part because of the "Greatest D on Turf"... Something tells me with a couple FA signing on that side of the ball we could see great things. What's your thoughts?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
I like the mix they're putting together up front on defense. Let's see what the Rams do filling some of the gaps at defensive tackle, outside linebacker and safety. If they make a couple moves there, you could be right about the defense really taking the next step.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. My pleasure as always.
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