NFC West News and Notes - 8/22/05

NFC West News and Notes - 8/22/05

All of the week's NFL news was overshadowed by the shocking death of San Fransicso 49ers guard Thomas Herrion. Everyone at Seahawks.NET would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to his family, and to the entire San Francisco 49ers organization.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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The Cleveland Browns have completed a trade with the New England Patriots for wide receiver Andre Davis. The Browns negotiated over the weekend with both the Seattle Seahawks and the Patriots, before finally dealing the oft-injured receiver to New England. Seattle will be looking at Jerome Pathon and D.J. Hackett as their deep threats, but NFL sources say that the Seahawks' interest in Davis was longstanding and up to the last minute.

--Coach Mike Holmgren thinks the Seahawks' front-office communication has improved under new president Tim Ruskell. The next big test comes when the team trims its roster at the Aug. 30 deadline for reducing to 65 players, plus NFL Europe exemptions.

Holmgren remains the most dominant personality in the organization, but Ruskell has the power to make roster moves without the coach's approval. So far, the team hasn't had to make many tough decisions.

"The good part about it as far as I am concerned is that he and I communicate very well," Holmgren said.

Ruskell pledged to open the lines of communication upon his hiring in February. "I believe one of the keys that maybe does not get talked about enough is unifying and people working together," Ruskell said at the time, "where there are no walls, where there are no agendas, where everybody has a common focus on the goal."

Owner Paul Allen also spoke out strongly in favor of unity.

"There is going to be a very much more collegial or refreshing change in the total work environment of the Seahawks," Allen said. So far, so good. Holmgren and Ruskell seem to communicate frequently.

"We have a fair amount of meetings, but they are short and to the point," Holmgren said. "I think both of us listen to the other guy. That always makes for a healthy situation.

"He does a good job with it... Tim is a very structured guy and has been doing this a long time." Holmgren's contract runs through the 2006 season. Ruskell signed a five-year contract.

--Ray Rhodes has kept a low media profile since his hiring by the Seahawks before the 2003 season. That is beginning to change a bit as Rhodes becomes more comfortable in the team's direction.

In his third interview of training camp, Rhodes repeatedly expressed delight in the diligence of Tim Ruskell. Rhodes and Ruskell are both known to grind away in the film room, a change from the days when Seattle's top executive focused on other duties. "The process Tim goes through on a daily basis will really help our football team," Rhodes said.

Ruskell watches each practice at least twice, first from the sideline and later in the film room. He has been paying particularly close attention since the start of training camp. "This was great for me," Ruskell said. "I wasn't comfortable going through the draft just going off the tape. I have gotten to know their personalities, their work ethic, who are the loud guys, who are the rah-rah guys, who are the quiet guys.

"So now I am starting to really get a feel for the team."

Former Seahawks president Bob Whitsitt was a longtime NBA executive who left player evaluation to football types. Ruskell spent 17 seasons in personnel with Tampa Bay before spending last season with Atlanta. He eats, sleeps and breathes football, much like Rhodes. "With Mr. Ruskell grading players on a daily basis, that is big for us," Rhodes said. "It really helps you keep your best football players."

Coach Mike Holmgren served as general manager from 1999 through the 2002 season. Rhodes arrived in 2003. Ruskell arrived in February. "I like the process we are going through right now," Rhodes said. "To get other members of the organization doing the same thing (in terms of player evaluation) really helps out."

As Rhodes becomes more comfortable, he is considering a move to the sideline during games. He previously watched from the press box high above the field, a view that helped with strategy but not when it came to connecting with players. "I approached Mike (Holmgren) about coming down and trying to be a little closer to the players, get a better feel with the game situation live down there," Rhodes said.

He is trying the field-level view during the exhibition season. A decision probably won't be made for another couple weeks. "I'm just going to try again and see what happens with it," Rhodes said, "but I felt comfortable."

Rhodes has the potential to be a fiery leader, something Seattle lacked on the field once Grant Wistrom succumbed to injury last season. The team has subsequently added a few more players with leadership potential, starting with DT Chuck Darby and MLB Lofa Tatupu. "The attitude is better," Rhodes said. "Guys are speaking up now more and making other guys accountable, and I like that. Because really, a lot of the pressure for guys to get a solid foundation on defense or offense comes from the players."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp broke Aug. 20.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Holmgren shocked players and coaches by giving the team a day off during training camp. The announcement came after the Seahawks were sluggish during a morning workout. "I've been very, very pleased with this group and how they have conducted themselves at training camp," Holmgren said. "Call this a feel thing or whatever, because I don't do this normally. (But) we had a very sluggish practice and that is not their nature. This group, they go hard. I'm just trying to help them a little bit that way."

--Teammates sometimes compare LG Steve Hutchinson to a caveman because of his approach to the game, so it was no surprise when he played all of last season with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Hutchinson then waited until after the Pro Bowl before undergoing surgery. He then reported to training camp in the best shape of his life. "He is stronger now than he has ever been," strength coach Mike Clark said. "The total stability might not be there in the shoulder yet, but everywhere else - his back and hips and all that - all that plays into the shoulder as well."

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"He is one of those guys who is going to ball his fists up every Sunday and go fight. He is fearless." - Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, on CB Kelly Herndon.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
Lofa Tatupu vs. Niko Koutouvides for the starting MLB job -- Koutouvides had the upper hand when Tatupu was sidelined by a hamstring injury, but the race is only beginning now that Tatupu is back on the field. Tatupu, a rookie second-round pick from USC, is expected to win the job if he stays healthy.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS:
DE Bryce Fisher is tightening his grip on a starting job as he becomes more comfortable following off-season ankle surgery. DE Antonio Cochran had been starting early in camp... WR Jerome Pathon appears unlikely to wrest the No. 2 job from WR Bobby Engram, although Pathon has played a more prominent role in multiple-receiver sets... P Leo Araguz handled five of the team's six punts in the opener. If rookie P Chris Kluwe doesn't get more reps in future exhibition games, it would strongly indicate that Seattle has settled on Araguz as its punter this season... TE Itula Mili is starting to play better as the season approaches. That has been his approach in the past. The team still likes what it has seen from TE Jerramy Stevens. Both will play extensively this season.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: CB Marcus Trufant. He's getting more comfortable on the right side. He was impressive in breaking up a few passes to 6-foot-7 TE Jerramy Stevens.

ROOKIE REPORT:
C Chris Spencer continues to work with the second unit, as planned... LB Lofa Tatupu is almost always in the right place at the right time, uncanny for a rookie... OLB Leroy Hill could miss another week after suffering a sprained MCL in his right knee... FB Tony Jackson remains slowed by a shoulder injury. Fellow rookie FB Leonard Weaver has had the upper hand in camp.

INJURY REPORT: DT Rashad Moore (shoulder) and DT Cedric Woodard (knee) are having a tough time returning from their surgeries. Both players have undergone tests to determine whether additional surgeries are necessary. Nothing is scheduled so far... FS Ken Hamlin (shoulder) is increasing his participation in practices. He hopes to return in time for the third exhibition game... OLB D.D. Lewis (concussion) is taking extra time to recover. He could return this week... LB Leroy Hill (knee) and LT Wayne Hunter (knee) could miss another week. CB Michael Harden (concussion), RB Jesse Lumsden (hip), FB Tony Jackson (shoulder), DE Christian Mohr (leg) and WR Alex Bannister (clavicle) also remain sidelined.


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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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The Cardinals first-team offense was embarrassing at Kansas City, where the Chiefs have dedicated themselves to rebuilding their defense.

But there may be better days ahead for the Big Red with the return of receiver Anquan Boldin and running back Marcel Shipp from injuries.

Boldin missed the preseason opener because of a broken nose, but came back against the Chiefs to snag two passes for 27 yards. It was the first time that new Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner has had his three top receivers on the field together.

Shipp, working mostly with the second unit, averaged an eye-opening 8.0 yards a carry (7-56) in his return from a lower-leg fracture and dislocated ankle that required surgery a year ago and wiped out his entire 2004 season. That answered questions regarding whether he could still hit a hole and take a hit.

Shipp had been the team's rushing leader in 2003 and 2002. His future appeared uncertain after the Cardinals drafted J.J. Arrington in the second round in April.

Arrington has played like a rookie in his first two games with the first team. After gaining 12 yards on four rushes and fumbling against Dallas, he gained 24 yards in nine carries and fumbled against Kansas City. The man who gained 100 yards in every game at California last year and was the only collegian to rush for 2,000 yards has yet to average 3 yards a tote as a pro.

That's not totally unexpected and the team is anything but disappointed in Arrington, whose job it remains to lose despite Shipp's strong comeback.

Youth at tight end, where no one has more than a year of experience, and injuries in the offensive line have caused the first unit to leave the gate slowly.

Starting center Alex Stepanovich is out with a broken hand for a couple more weeks. His backup, Nick Leckey, suffered a hand injury at Kansas City. It is not known yet how serious that might be. The team signed veteran center Bill Conaty for depth. Conaty, depending on the severity of Leckey's hand injury, might be in the lineup this week against Oakland.

Right tackle Oliver Ross (knee) has yet to make his preseason debut. He was signed to be the run-blocking stud of the line. Rookie right guard Elton Brown made his first start. While he appears to have a ton of upside, he's still learning.

So, at the midpoint of the preseason schedule, the Cardinals are undefeated, but have been considerably less than the high-scoring, explosive unit they believe they will be when it counts.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Cardinals continue training at their makeshift camp in Prescott, Ariz. The team was forced to move to Prescott from their longtime training headquarters in Flagstaff at Northern Arizona University following an outbreak the week before their scheduled arrival of a virus that produced flu-like symptoms and forced several people staying in dorms that the Cardinals were to use to be hospitalized. The Cardinals break camp in Prescott on Wednesday, Aug. 24.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Although Aaron Galloway started at TE (he was on the Chiefs' practice squad last year and knows their defense), un-drafted rookie Adam Bergen appears to be the team's best receiving tight end among a very inexperienced group.

"I think Adam has started to separate himself from a receiving standpoint," QB Kurt Warner said. "When Eric (Edwards) went down, Adam got more opportunities and really has emerged as a guy that we think can be successful for us and do some things from that position for us, from a receiving standpoint."

--TE Eric Edwards opened camp with the first team, but he has been out the past two weeks with a torn pectoral muscle.

--RB J.R. Redmond is close to locking up the punt-return job. He followed a 15-yard average (2-30) in the preseason opener with a 16-yard runback in his only try against the Chiefs. "I think J.R. Redmond showed that he can do a lot of different things," Green said. "The more things you can do, the better chance you are going have to help the ball club. He is a kickoff guy, a return guy, a cover guy and obviously he can still run the football. We're looking for guys that are multidimensional and that are going to be able to help us in a bunch of different ways."

--CB Antrel Rolle, after breaking up an end-zone pass with the second unit to save a TD in the preseason opener, was promoted to first team, where he was expected to play all along. The eighth pick in the draft fell behind after missing the opening 15 practices during contract negotiations.

--CB Robert Tate, who kept the spot warm for Rolle, becomes the nickel back.

--MLB Gerald Hayes had a scope job on a knee and is out eight weeks. He was the projected starter.

Veteran James Darling, the team's 2004 tackles leader as a starter outside, becomes the starter in the middle until Hayes returns.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The thing that was frustrating was the mental mistakes. I don't mind if I've got a guy in my face if I get the ball off. It's frustrating when you can't even get back and get set up. Those are things we need to clean up as a unit." -- QB Kurt Warner, following the first-team offense's dismal showing in the second preseason game at Kansas City -- although Cardinals quarterbacks did not suffer a sack nor an interception in the win over the Chiefs.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
After veteran David Macklin was flagged three times for pass interference with the first team and rookie Eric Green intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown against Kansas City with the second team, the battle was on. Macklin was the starter last season. Green is a third-round draft pick. The other cornerback spot will be manned by a rookie, first-round pick Antrel Rolle.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Tight end remains a jumbled mess. The group was young and inexperienced to begin with, but after first-teamer Eric Edwards suffered a pectoral muscle tear that has him shelved indefinitely, no one has taken ownership. Adam Bergen, the first-game starter, appears to be the best receiver of the group. Aaron Golliday, the second-game starter, appears to be the best blocker. Bobby Blizzard, an all-NFL Europe pick, appears to be the biggest disappointment. The job opened when the Cardinals declined to offer veteran Freddie Jones a new contract and subsequently did not place great emphasis on finding a replacement.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DE Calvin Pace made two sacks and forced a fumble that sealed a win in the second preseason game at Kansas City. Pace also had two sacks in the preseason opener. It is quite a comeback for the 2003 first-round pick, who lost his job and nearly was cut in 2004. He remains on the second team behind Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor.

ROOKIE REPORT:
The class is beginning to show up in a big way. CB Antrel Rolle, the first-round pick, is on the first team after breaking up an end-zone pass to save a score in the preseason opener... RB J.J. Arrington, a second-round pick, remains on the first team, although through two games he is not yet averaging 3 yards a carry (13-36) and has fumbled twice... CB Eric Green, a third-round pick, returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown in the second preseason game and is pushing veteran David Macklin hard for the starting job... RG Elton Brown, a fourth-round pick, was promoted to first team last week and is expected to hold the job. He was regarded as the best guard in the draft.

INJURY REPORT:

-- LB Gerald Hayes (knee surgery) is out 8 weeks... C Alex Stepanovich (hand surgery) is out at least 2 more weeks... TE Eric Edwards (torn pectoral muscle) is out another week or two... T Oliver Ross (knee), S Robert Griffith (thigh), DT Kenny King (wrist), K Neil Rackers (ankle), C Nick Leckey (hand), RB Troy Hambrick (foot), T Adam Haayer (hip), RB James Jackson (shoulder) and TE Bobby Blizzard (back) are all day-to-day.


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ST. LOUIS RAMS
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Eyebrows raised when rookie tackle Alex Barron practiced for the first time Aug. 15 after signing a five-year contract three days before. Drafted with hopes he would be the starting right tackle, Barron lined up on the left side, and worked with the second unit as Orlando Pace's backup.

Rex Tucker and Matt Willig, for the time being, remained the first- and second-unit right tackles.

"The whole reason he is out there on the left is not because he was late to training camp," coach Mike Martz said. "That's where he is most comfortable, so we're letting him learn this offense where he is most comfortable. Once he learns, then you can teach him the skills to move to right tackle. If you are trying to get in a right-hand stance when you're used to being in a left-hand stance and trying to learn a new system at the same time, it's difficult.

"He's got a long ways to go to learn how to play. When he gets to the point where he can play, and he's ready to play, then we'll make a decision on what he does."

Martz said Tucker is adapting well to right tackle, after starting camp at left guard and being a guard during his previous six NFL seasons

"We've got two right tackles over there, two veterans that are ready to play," Martz said. "They're both playing well. Rex has the ability to be a fine right tackle." After a few days of practice, Martz was pleased with what he had seen of Barron.

"I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of things with Alex," Martz said. "I think the toughness and the resolve that he really came to camp with was evident after I looked at practice tape. I'm very pleased with that."

After Barron signed the day of the Rams' Aug. 12 preseason game against the Bears, the rest of the team was off for two days. But Barron wasn't off. He spent those days being tutored by line coaches John Matsko and John Benton, as well as Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater, who helps out in training camp. "It helped out a great deal," Barron said of the hours spent alone with the coaches. "This caught me up on some of the things that had been going on in camp, new plays and different techniques and stuff. The other guys were off; they deserved to be off."

During his first practice, Barron went at it in one-on-one drills with defensive end Anthony Hargrove, and at one point, the rest of the team joined the battle.

"I like him if he has got a chip on his shoulder," Matsko said. "Mentally, he was very sharp when he was here. The challenge that he had came when he was on the right side was being dominant with the left hand when he was in pass protection."

During their private time, Matsko worked for an hour with Barron on pass protection, Benton did the same on run blocking and Slater then spent 60 minutes on technique.

Only a thunderstorm that knocked the power out ended the sessions one day.

"It was all right for a while and then it started getting dark," Barron said. "When it got dark there wasn't anything to do about it so we had to leave."

Barron made his preseason debut Sunday against San Diego and had some rough moments. He played the entire second half at left tackle. "He didn't do very well," Martz said after the loss to the Chargers. "He had some blown assignments, but he missed all that time."

Martz said Barron "is a long away from being ready".

NOTES, QUOTES

--Adam Archuleta made his debut at free safety against the Chargers, after sitting out the preseason opener. Archuleta struggled throughout the 2004 season, playing despite a back injury. "The back feels pretty good and I think the plan is to get in there and get some action," Archuleta said before the game against San Diego. "We'll just see how it goes. It just depends on the tempo of the game. I could be in a quarter and not get any action or I might be getting in the mix quite a bit. I guess it comes down to the tempo of the game on how much action I'll get." Archuleta played most of the first half, and had some trouble with angles in run support.

--After struggling during the first two weeks of training camp, quarterback Jeff Smoker had his best week of practice. Coach Mike Martz said he had Smoker do little for a few days so "he could catch his breath a bit," and it seemed to help. Martz noted that the ball didn't touch the ground during one practice.

Asked if there was concern for his job because of the performance of rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick, Smoker said, "I wouldn't say worried. It's just a little frustrating sometimes having to stand and watch. It's something I'm not used to. It's harder to learn watching and not getting the reps. But, being the third quarterback, that's what you have to do when the season starts."

As for his relationship with Fitzpatrick, he said, "He's a young guy who is easy to talk to, and he has a good personality. We get along well. He's a good player. He wants to make this squad, too. Competition brings out the best, you know. It feels good to get in there and get some reps and make a couple mistakes here and there and be able to learn from them. One day you can do good and the next day you can do bad again. I'm just trying to steadily improve."

Has the light come on, in terms of being comfortable with the team's large offensive playbook?

"Let's just say it's flickering," he said.

Smoker played most of the second half against the Chargers, but only attempted three passes, completing one for 17 yards. Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, entered the game late in the fourth quarter, and on his one attempt, connected with wide receiver Kevin Curtis on a 78-yard touchdown play.

--Third-round pick Richie Incognito remains unsigned, mostly because of a knee injury he is rehabbing in Arizona. His agent, Jack Scharf, claims the Rams are offering what equates to a fourth-round signing bonus, and that Incognito could sit out the season and re-enter the draft next April. The Rams project him as a guard.

"We didn't ask the Rams to draft him," Scharf said. "There were plenty of other teams calling the morning of the draft that were interested in drafting Richie Incognito. My whole argument is you knew what you were getting. You knew he was hurt. He did nothing to prompt this. He didn't hurt himself jumping out of an airplane. He didn't hurt himself riding a motorcycle. He's been working out and rehabbing eight hours a day, six days a week. Richie wants to be there. This isn't a holdout situation."

Even though Incognito likely won't be able to play this season, if signed he could be learning the Rams' system. "That's the whole issue -- the calls, the adjustments that we want," coach Mike Martz said. "He's probably never even thought about that. If he thinks he's going to pick it up in the first couple of weeks he's back, it just doesn't work that way. I feel bad for him because this was a good opportunity for him."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The traditional camp in the NFL is long gone I would think. It is for us. You've got to get this football team ready to play in the opener the best way you can. And one of the best ways to do that is to make sure you have all the information you need to be a good player, and that you're healthy." - Coach Mike Martz on holding training camp at the team's year-round facility.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
Rex Tucker vs. Matt Willing for starting RT - Willig played left tackle in the Rams' first preseason game while Orlando Pace rested a sore quad. But Pace played the first half against San Diego, and Willig became the backup to Tucker. Tucker allowed a sack, and left the game in the first half because he was "gassed," according to coach Mike Martz. Willig seemed to hold up better against the Chargers' pass rush. Tucker then returned to play a good part of the second half at right tackle. "It's just a matter of Rex getting his technique down," coach Mike Martz said. "We're going to play him as much as he can." Tucker has been a guard throughout his NFL career before moving to tackle early in training camp.

OTHER BATTLEFRONTS:
Reggie Hodges vs. Bryan Barker for punting job - Neither stood out against the Chargers. Hodges averaged 38.7 yards on three punts with a 32.3-yard net, while Barker averaged 39.0 with a 25.0 net. That net was misleading because Barker dropped a perfect punt inside the 5-yard line, which was illegally touched by Mike Furrey. That made it a touchback, and went against Barker's net. However, on his other punt from the Rams' 30-yard line, it went just 37 yards and was returned for eight yards.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Kevin Curtis - Curtis finished the 2004 season with four consecutive 100-yard games and had a reception of at least 34 yards on each game. Against the Chargers, Curtis got open at the back of the end zone for a 13-yard score from Marc Bulger, and then adjusted well to a slightly underthrown ball from Ryan Fitzpatruck and turned it into a 78-yard score. Curtis had four receptions for 127 yards in the game.

ROOKIE REPORT:
OT Alex Barron (first round) made his debut against the Chargers and played the second half against San Diego. ... CB Ronald Bartell (second round) continued to play as the nickel back in the second preseason game against San Diego. ... LG Claude Terrell (fourth round) has played virtually every snap in the first two preseason games. ... FB Madison Hedgecock (seventh round) saw extensive action against San Diego, and coach Mike Martz noted his play as "very good."

INJURY REPORT: TE Roland Williams suffered what is believed to be a sprained knee on the opening kickoff against San Diego, but it is not believed to be serious. ... QB Jamie Martin did not play against San Diego, partly because of a groin injury, but also to give playing opportunities to Jeff Smoker and Ryan Fitzpatrick. ... LB Brandon Chillar got good news on his shoulder injury, when there was concern he had a damaged rotator cuff. It turned out to be inflammation. "We going to hold him out past what he would like, I'm sure," coach Mike Martz said (about 2-3 weeks). I want to sure the strength in that shoulder is back up to where it needs to be."

NT Ryan Pickett is being held out as a precaution to rest a back injury. ... CB Corey Ivy is practicing and playing with a cast on his arm to protect a sprained wrist.


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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
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The 49ers are in mourning after learning of the death of reserve guard Thomas Herrion, who collapsed in the locker room moments after the team's exhibition game Saturday night in Denver. He was 23.

"This is a colossal tragedy for the 49ers and the entire NFL community," 49ers spokesman Aaron Salkin said. "We still do not know all of the details. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Herrion family."

Coach Mike Nolan informed the team of Herrion's death prior to boarding a plane for the flight back to the Bay Area, Salkin said. "He went down in the locker room," Nolan said before learning of Herrion's death. "The medical staff immediately went to him at that time. And they were the only ones who were around him. So, really, no one knows other than the medical staff as far as what went on."

Herrion, listed at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, was surrounded by team physicians, the athletic training staff and paramedics as he was loaded into the ambulance just outside the team's locker room underneath Invesco Field. The medical personnel continued cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Herrion as he was rushed to St. Anthony Central Hospital.

Herrion, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, was originally signed to the 49ers' practice squad in December. The 49ers signed him for the '05 season on Jan. 3 and allocated him to NFL Europe, where he started 10 games for the Hamburg Sea Devils. He originally signed with the Dallas Cowboys in May 2004 as an undrafted rookie free agent. Herrion, who was listed as the team's No. 3 left guard on their depth chart, was on the field for the 49ers' final drive of the game Saturday night against the Broncos - a 14-play scoring drive that included two additional plays wiped out by penalties. The drive lasted 2:26 minutes of game action.

A standout at Utah, where he was teammates with No. 1 pick Alex Smith, Herrion was named a team captain and was selected to the 2003 Utah Football Leadership Committee. He transferred from Kilgore (Texas) Junior College after being named honorable mention All-American. While in college, Herrion was nicknamed "Big T," "Train," and "The Meal Ticket."

Herrion aspired to pursue a career as a counselor after his playing career, according to his biography in the 49ers' media guide.

He signed with the 49ers on Jan. 3 and was allocated to the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europe. He started 10 games for the Sea Devils this spring.

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes at the team's Santa Clara, Calif, practice facility on Wednesday.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Eric Heitmann, a fourth-year pro, who played every snap for the 49ers at left guard last season, has taken over for Newberry at center. Heitmann got off to a rocky start Saturday night against the Broncos when he rolled a shot-gun snap on the first possession of the game that running back Terry Jackson recovered.

--The 49ers' first-team defense looked overmatched against the Broncos' starters. Denver rolled up 146 yards against the 49ers' starting defense in the first 13 minutes of the game. "We have to start faster," 49ers linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. "I know personally I have to start faster, play better technique. I think once we settle down, we show some great potential. The key to winning in this league is starting fast and sending a statement."

--Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young gave a 45-minute motivational talk to the 49ers last week during a meeting at the team hotel. "It was great," receiver P.J. Fleck said. "He talked about the tradition of the 49ers and some of the things those teams went through to get to the top. It got everybody fired up." Young collected three Super Bowl rings with the 49ers, one as the team's starting quarterback. On Aug. 7, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

"I've heard Steve, many times, talk about team and how important this team was to him. It followed-up when he was giving his speech at his induction to the Hall of Fame, how important the team was and what it meant," Nolan said.

--Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, whose career was derailed because of a drug addiction, was the first person to speak to the club early in training camp. He talked about making good choices in life. Fox TV's James Brown spoke to the club about media issues, and Nolan also had game officials speak about rules changes."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is a colossal tragedy for the 49ers and the entire NFL community." - 49ers team spokesman Aaron Salkin on the death of offensive lineman Thomas Herrion.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
Alex Smith vs. Tim Rattay at QB -- The 49ers' QB dilemma is not going away, as Smith struggled and Rattay played well in the 49ers' loss to the Broncos. Smith looked unsure of himself while playing the first four possessions of the game. The 49ers managed just three first downs, with two coming on penalties. Smith completed just 2 of 7 passes for 18 yards and was sacked three times. Rattay threw for 91 yards on 7-of-11 passing, including a 58-yard scoring pass to Arnaz Battle.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Kevan Barlow, who gained 36 yards and a touchdown on eight carries against the Broncos, vs. Frank Gore, who returned to action with 27 yards on three tries, at RB; Anthony Adams, considered a better fit for DT in a 4-3, vs. Isaac Sopoaga, whose strength and size makes him a factor, at NT; Jamie Winborn, who batted down a pass and had a sack, vs. Andre Carter, who is struggling after switching from DE, at OLB.

ROOKIE REPORT: QB Alex Smith struggled again in his second start. Smith was under a lot of pressure from the Broncos' pass rush, but he also was guilty of holding the ball too long at times. G David Baas is out another week or so with a hamstring tear. G/T Adam Snyder is taking snaps at RG and could be in line for a starting job for the regular season. LT Patrick Estes returned to a backup role behind Jonas Jennings. Estes has impressed the coaching staff after making the transition from TE, where he played at Virginia. WR Rasheed Marshall, a converted quarterback, caught a 21-yard pass and also returned his only punt 17 yards. RB Frank Gore returned to action after missing a game with a shoulder injury. He carried three times for 27 yards and looks ready to challenge starter Kevan Barlow for playing time. WR Marcus Maxwell, perhaps the most physically gifted of the wideouts, returned to action after missing a week with a heel injury. He did not catch a pass against the Broncos. CB Derrick Johnson recorded his third interception of the exhibition season. Un-drafted rookie Fred Amey caught two passes for 21 yards and also has reliable hands as a punt returner. CB Daven Holly sustained a left shoulder stinger but returned to action. He recorded three tackles. NT Ronnie Fields did not see any action in the first half and did not finish the game with any tackles.

INJURY REPORT: Tight ends Eric Johnson (right foot) and Steve Bush (left shoulder), receivers P.J. Fleck (left shoulder) and Derrick Hamilton (left knee), offensive linemen Jeremy Newberry (right knee), David Baas (right hamstring) and Paul Zukauskas (back), and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (left hamstring) did not play in the 49ers' game Saturday night due to injuries. Newberry, Baas and Hamilton are on active/physically unable to perform. Newberry might come off that list this week to practice. Baas is still a week or so away from being able to practice, and Hamilton is likely out for the season after tearing his ACL in May. TE Billy Bajema left the game with a concussion. Reserve FS Dwaine Carpenter left the game in the third quarter with a deep thigh bruise. Rookie CB Daven Holly sustained a left shoulder stinger but returned to action.

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