NFC West News & Notes: 6/18/06

NFC West News & Notes: 6/18/06

In today's News & Notes: Seattle looks for a veteran quarterback and develops a rookie cornerback, the game of musical chairs in the 49ers' secondary continues, the Rams round their new offense into shape, and the Cardinals learn that their new digs are very ESPN-friendly.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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The Seahawks still want to sign a veteran backup quarterback, but they aren't particularly optimistic. Seattle has committed to quarterback Seneca Wallace as the No. 2 passer. It's the No. 3 role that has the team a bit concerned. David Greene, a third-round pick in 2005, simply hasn't convinced the team of his readiness to take the next step. The team figures it might as well have a more experienced player in the No. 3 role if Greene isn't going to develop as desired. Wallace has lots of athletic ability, but he lacks game experience.

"We are still looking for a veteran quarterback if possible," coach Mike Holmgren said. "It's getting almost past the point of no return, though, because he would have to be in here a little longer."

Holmgren left little doubt that Greene will have to enjoy a strong training camp to engender much confidence. "I don't think it has been an easy transition for David," Holmgren said. "He was such a successful collegiate player, and what you learn when you play that position and come in to the NFL is that it is quite different. He is a great young guy and he's working hard, he's trying real hard.

"I hope this training camp now he does make the progress we need to see to feel comfortable."

The team would like quarterback Gibran Hamdan to challenge for a roster spot, but Hamdan suffered a broken ankle while becoming offensive player of the year in NFL Europe. Hamdan might not be ready for training camp. "It's just hard, but he is a courageous guy and he is a good football player," Holmgren said. "As soon as he can get back doing some things, we'll get him back doing it."

PLAYER NOTES

--Holmgren isn't employing any of the tactics he used to motivate the Packers after their Super Bowl appearance capping the 1996 season. That's because the Seahawks are a different group entirely. "When we won the Super Bowl, I had a much more veteran team and I talked to them about different things," Holmgren explained. "I think you win a Super Bowl with a veteran team you run the risk of everyone is writing a book, and everyone wants to be a television star and all of that kind of stuff.

"You have to battle that, you really do. Our guys, we're still hungry. We were very disappointed that we couldn't win the game, so you talk to them differently. The feeling is different."

--RB Shaun Alexander was a no-show for the second week of Seattle's recent voluntary minicamp. Attendance was otherwise strong. Alexander appeared on a national cable television show in Los Angeles while his teammates were sweating it out at team headquarters. "He was doing the Best Damn Sports Show," Holmgren said. "As long as they talk to me about it ahead of time, which is what they do, then sometimes things happen and I'm OK with it.

"Shaun was also very involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and he had some speaking things in that regard in North Carolina. Our attendance and our offseason this year has been excellent. We've had a lot of people participate. That's what happens when you have a good season the year before, and you go to the Super Bowl and you're close."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

First-round CB Kelly Jennings got plenty of work with the starting defense during the team's recent minicamp. Jennings was starting on the left side opposite 2003 first-round choice Marcus Trufant.
Jennings made quite a few plays in coverage, showing improvement from the post-draft camp. "I've made a big step since then," Jennings said. "I'm still thinking and there are still a lot of things I'm trying to get together so I can just play, but I'm far along from where I was."


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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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Team organized workouts have ended and the July 30 opening of training camp is now squarely on the Cardinals radar. There were only two teams that finished in the NFL top 10 in offense and defense last year, the team Edgerrin James used to play for and he one he plays for now. But the difference between the Indianapolis Colts' and Arizona Cardinals' fortunes has been as different as night and day.

The Cardinals believe simply getting their league-high list of Injured Reserve players back will close that gap, enhanced by strategic additions like James through free agency and the draft. It will be Year 3 of the Dennis Green era and the Cardinals will be playing in a sold-out, state-of-the-art new stadium.

There are no more excuses. They are expected to significantly close the gap with the league's elite franchises. It may be an overstatement to term 2006 as make or break for Green, but if he doesn't win, he's got some 'splainin' to do.

There is talent on both sides of the ball now. "When you are going out there and running plays, you expect everybody to be in the right place and to make the right adjustments," said quarterback Kurt Warner.

"Last year at this time, you still weren't sure. As a quarterback, you were holding the ball a bit longer to see if they were in the right spot. Now you don't have that hesitation."

PLAYER NOTES

--NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue came away impressed after his first look at Cardinals Stadium, which opens in August in Glendale, Ariz. It is to host the 2008 Super Bowl. "It's going to be not just a fun place but an iconic place and a wonderful place to play the Super Bowl," Tagliabue said.

--Ben Roethlisberger may have altered history and Charlie Batch could become the first quarterback to take a snap under center in the new Cardinals Stadium. The Super Bowl champion Steelers visit in the debut game, the preseason opener, on Aug. 12 at 1:05 p.m., when the temperature will be in triple digits and the roof closed. Roethlisberger was injured seriously when he crashed his motorcycle and may not be able to return in time to play in the opener. Backup Batch is the likely starter for the Steelers if not, and likely will take the first snap in the building if the Steelers win the coin toss.

"It's a tough deal and I think he is very fortunate that he wasn't hurt more seriously," Cardinals coach Dennis Green said. "You always have a few accidents during the season and it's never about whose fault it was, but accidents do occur. I am glad to see that everything as far as his head, neck, body, all spinals, that there is not an issue with them. Players just have to always be a defensive driver, whether they are in a car and obviously on a motorcycle."

According to Green, the Cardinals have nothing expressed in player contacts about riding motorcycles, but Green says that common sense should accompany their decisions in what they do off the field.
"I think that you always want your players to know that anything they do off the field whether it be skiing, water skiing, skydiving, motorcycling, there is a certain amount of judgment that has to be used on whether a not a guy should do those things."

--The first full roll-in of the 17-million pound field tray which holds the natural grass playing surface for the new stadium went off without a hitch for assembled members of the new media. In previous testing, the tray had been moved in only halfway. Engineers and construction workers were ecstatic over the first complete roll-in of the only retractable field in North America. The natural-grass playing field is contained in a single tray measuring 234 feet by 403 feet. The field tray is powered by 1 hp electric motors mounted on 76 of the 542 steel wheels riding on tracks embedded in the concrete floor. It takes just under an hour to move the field in or out.

--ESPN's Monday Night Football technical crew gave the new stadium a thumbs up after an initial visit. "They did it right," said Steve Carter, ESPN remote operations manager. "I liked everything I've seen here. There are spaces for our trucks to park. There are good camera angles. They made it easy for us to do our job."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--Coach Dennis Green said he won't have a depth chart at quarterback behind Kurt Warner until well into preseason. Veteran John Navarre and first-round draft pick Matt Leinart are competing for the backup job. "We'll share reps from the start," said Green. "We probably won't do a depth chart until someone goes in second against Pittsburgh (in the preseason opener). The other guy will go in second against New England (preseason Game 2) and then we will go from there.

"Both guys are working real hard and we want to be able to have a good look at both. It's important because the Number 2 guy is one snap away from being the Number 1 guy. The good news is I think we have three guys that can play."

--Green says Leinart seems to be picking up the system after a mini-camp, rookie camp and team organized workouts. "I think for a first-year player he is farther along than most first-year quarterbacks would be," Green said. "He has worked with the two-minute offense and he has done a lot of the things we are doing. Part of that is that he comes out of a good pro passing system and part of it is that he was a very talented player when he was in that system. But he is a quick study."

--RBs coach Kirby Wilson says the benefit of having Edgerrin James in team organized workouts is far greater than just James fitting into the new offense. Wilson said it has a ripple effect, benefiting young players such as RB J.J. Arrington, a second-round pick in 2005 who suffered through a tough rookie year, losing the starting job. "J.J. is like a lot of players -- talk is good but doing is much better, and he learns from watching and doing," Wilson said. "So it's good to have the older guy back here to show him some of the tricks."


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ST. LOUIS RAMS
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The Rams have finished their minicamps and OTAs for the off-season and won't have players and coaches together until the July 26 reporting date for training camp. But count new coach Scott Linehan among those pleased with what has transpired in the off-season.

"I was surprised with what we were able to accomplish," Linehan said. "We stayed simple to a certain level, but we've added so many new things that you can't move on until you are comfortable with it.

"We are a whole lot more comfortable with things (now). If you don't teach it now, it can be a free for all for a while so we got some confidence in it. I feel like we got a lot of things done."

While talk of chemistry is usually confined to players, it is equally important for a coaching staff to come together. Linehan believes that is happening. "Everybody wants to help out," Linehan said. "The biggest thing is making sure everyone's got a logical assignment. And making those adjustments now is crucial."

As poor as the Rams were on defense last season, Linehan is guardedly optimistic about that unit. He said, "We're much more talented (on defense), I think. That's a good place to start. But we're also more veteran-like. There's just a good feeling over there."

Some time off will allow everyone to recharge and for many of the coaches to complete their moves to St. Louis. "A lot of (the coaches) have got to still get moved," Linehan said. "I've got to get back to Washington at some point and see my mom. We've got to have that (off) time. If you don't take it, it starts to wear you down. And I don't think that's good. So we all need to get away for a little bit.

"The main thing now is that we all take care of our business until we come back. We feel we are accountable. If you can't accomplish that, then you start taking (that time) back. We need it as a staff. The break is necessary."

PLAYER NOTES

--Despite frequent rumors that Dexter Coakley would be a post-June 1 salary-cap casualty, there was the Rams' veteran linebacker running around at minicamp following his recovery from a broken leg that ended his 2005 season. Coakley worked hard during the off-season, and dismissed talk that he considered retirement. "Obviously, when you have two young kids at home, you give it some thought, but I didn't want to go out like this," Coakley said. "They brought me here when the old coaching regime was here to help this ball club win games. We didn't do very much of that last year. It never really crossed my mind to just lay it down and leave the game.

"I wanted to show that I was still capable of playing the game and helping a team win ball games." Coakley is ticketed for a backup spot, so it will still be the team's decision whether to keep a highly-paid player who isn't a starter. But he is just concentrating on showing what he is still capable of doing.

"It's going well," Coakley said during the recent minicamp. "I'm able to get out there on the field and compete. I'm able to get out there and do everything that everyone else is doing. I feel pretty good. I'm still not 100 percent, but I'm very encouraged by what is going on."

--After getting accustomed to the team's new offense, and the early growing pains that can come with that, quarterback Marc Bulger is enjoying his off-season. Said Bulger, "It's so much more relaxed in the offseason. The tempo is less, the coaches are in a better mood, and there's not any pressure. You're just enhancing your skills and learning the system."

--During the minicamp, watching the team's offensive line do wind sprints was a frequent occurrence after workouts. It turns out line coach Paul Boudreau is instituting consequences for false starts. During one practice, Boudreau let out a string of expletives when he was unhappy with what the line was doing. "I've always thought that it was a good thing within the group to have some kind of a penalty," coach Scott Linehan said, when asked about the line running. "One thing we've really addressed is the pre-snap penalties that were a problem for this team a year ago. We're really putting the hammer down when we don't do a good job."


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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
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The 49ers have taken their time working safety Tony Parrish back onto the practice field. They're taking no chances because Parrish accounts for the 49ers' really only proven commodity in the defensive backfield. Parrish returned to the practice field June 12 for the final week of the 49ers' OTAs at their practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif. It was the first time he stepped on the field with his teammates since sustaining a broken left ankle Nov. 13 against the Bears.

Parrish's return is a key for a 49ers defense that is thin at safety. He is coming back after sustaining a broken ankle, a separation between his tibia and fibula, and a spiral fracture that ran approximately six inches up his fibula. Before the injury, Parrish had started the first 121 games of his career, the longest streak by a defensive back since Herman Edwards, who began his career in 1977 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 49ers have been deliberate in getting Parrish back on the field, but Parrish said he wanted to get out there before training camp opens in late July so he could establish a baseline for his physical health.
"Once I was put on (injured reserve), I wasn't racing anything," Parrish said. "It's not like I was trying to beat the clock to get back."

Parrish was not the only 49ers player who has seen an increased workload in the non-contact practices. Running back Kevan Barlow returned to the practice field last week after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, and running back Frank Gore saw more action Monday as he returns from surgeries to repair torn labrums in both shoulders.

Also, backup quarterback Trent Dilfer, acquired this offseason in a trade with the Cleveland Browns for Ken Dorsey and a seventh-round draft pick, got more snaps in the 7-on-7 portion of practice. Dilfer underwent February surgery to repair a partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee.

PLAYER NOTES

--In 2004, the 49ers rewarded cornerback Ahmed Plummer with a hefty free-agent contract that included $11 million in guaranteed money. This week they received a letter officially notifying them of his retirement from the NFL. He played just nine games for the 49ers after the big contract because of injuries, but people in the organization believed Plummer lost his desire to play after signing the big contract. He played six games in '04 because of a neck injury. Last season, he missed the final 13 games after having bone chips removed from his ankle.

Plummer was a first-round draft pick in 2000, and he spent his entire career with the 49ers. The club released him in February.

--Safety Tony Parrish was a hot-shot youth soccer player, but then he made the decision as a freshman in high school (Huntington Beach, Calif.) to go with American football. "It's been the catalyst for the weight gain," Parrish said, "but other than that, I can't complain." Yes, results have been pretty good for Parrish, who has played eight seasons in the NFL. But after his football career concludes, he plans to get more involved in soccer.

"When I'm done playing, the World Cup is on the top of my list of places I want to go," Parrish said.

--The 49ers waived receiver P.J. Fleck, but 49ers coach Mike Nolan said he would like to keep him in the organization, possibly as an entry-level coach. Fleck spent most of 2004 on the 49ers practice squad after being signed as an undrafted free agent from Northern Illinois. He played one game with the team. Fleck sustained a shoulder injury last summer, and was placed on injured reserve. Nolan said Fleck was waived because of the 49ers' depth receiver, where 11 players remain on the roster.

--Tight end Trent Smith and quarterback Bryson Spinner remain in Birmingham, where they are rehabilitating injuries sustained in NFL Europe. Smith has a torn rotator cuff, and Spinner had an abdominal condition during the season and also has a sore shoulder.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL


The 49ers have much better depth at tight end than last season when that position accounted for just 20 receptions. The club selected Vernon Davis with the No. 6 overall pick, and Eric Johnson, who caught 82 passes in '04, is back after missing last season with a foot injury. Also, the club has shifted draft pick Delanie Walker to tight end after initially listing him as a fullback. Currently, Chris Hetherington and Moran Norris are the top candidates for the fullback position. Hetherington is more versatile than Norris, who is primarily a punishing blocker.

--S Marcus Hudson has signed with the 49ers. Terms of the dead were not announced. He joins Melvin Oliver, Vickiel Vaughn and Delanie Walker as 2006 draft picks who have signed with the 49ers. In all four of the nine draft choices have signed.

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