Around the NFC West

Catching up with the 49ers' three divisional rivals with loads of news, notes and quotes from the training camps of the Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks.


THE CARDINALS ARE USED to adversity, a position in which coach Dennis Green thrives.

So when the Cardinals were forced to changed venues for their training camp on only a few days notice last week, it played right into the us-against-the-world attitude that Green loves.

An outbreak of norovirus, which produces flu-like symptoms that often require hospitalization of the victim, caused the team to move training camp from Flagstaff, Ariz. to Prescott, about 80 miles away.

It took quick work to arrange a patchwork of lodging facilities, meeting rooms and fields - and use of an armory in the event of rain.

Secretly, Green must love this rallying behind an unexpected quick change, the sort of situation his team is almost certain to face on many occasions as it attempts to live up to preseason prognostications as a favorite to win the NFC West.

"We are underdogs and anytime you are an underdog you have to (thrive on the situation)," Green said. "You don't just win with the facility, you win with the mind-set, you win with whatever it takes, with the coaches and players hitting the field and having one agenda and that agenda is to be a playoff team and be the top team in your division.

"This is not something anyone foresaw happening. We got a call and we had to react to it. We went up there on a bus trip, everyone was with us, from video to equipment managers, trainers, marketing, you name it, because when it comes to training camp we want it to be very efficient, we want everyone to get what they need so they can do their job and then we had to divvy up what was there so it fit for everyone."

The Cardinals have trained at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff since moving to Arizona in 1988. Flagstaff, in the cool pines in the mountains, is located at 7,000 feet elevation. The thin air was a nightmare for those who reported out of shape, or for newcomers who had never experienced intense activity in it.

Prescott is at roughly 5,000 feet and will offer some relief for the 110-degree days common at this time of year in the Phoenix area at the team's headquarters.

The Cardinals conducted their final four days of training camp in Prescott last year because the return of students at NAU forced them out of their dormitories there.

They were scheduled to complete their camp at Prescott for four days later this month after leaving NAU.

The team's contract with the university expires this year, and the unexpected turn of events coupled with Prescott's greeting the Cardinals with open arms could cause the team to take a look at making Prescott its new permanent training camp site.

Prescott officials have said they will bid to land the Cardinals on a permanent basis. Flagstaff and Northern Arizona University are expected to make an attempt to retain the Cardinals, as well.

The training camp in Prescott will be headquartered at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for the first half, and then at Prescott Quality Inn & Suites following the first preseason game vs. Dallas. The Quality Inn hosted the Cardinals during their four-day stay in Prescott last year. The team will break camp on Wednesday, August 24.

--- THE "SOD GOD," CARDINALS turf manager Tim Peterson, and crew quickly faced new challenges in preparing fields in Prescott, Ariz., on short notice after the team's training camp was moved from Flagstaff, Ariz., following the norovirus outbreak.

Peterson, to his relief, found the fields in Prescott to be in workable condition. He had only to spruce them up to NFL standards.

The biggest job: spreading about 400 tons of sand on the fields following aeration to provide a layer between the grass and the clay base underneath. Peterson says that should aid traction.

--- TWENTY-NINE GAMES, NINE starts in three seasons, one sack. Sad, sad commentary on Wendell Bryant, a first-round pick in 2002 (12th overall).

The team cut its losses by cutting Bryant, who was selected high in the draft because he'd had 24 sacks and 41 tackles for loss with the Badgers.

With the Cardinals, he was a lengthy holdout as a rookie, later had a brush with the law on suspicion of driving under the influence, and simply did not perform on or off the field commensurate with the draft position.

"When you look at the numbers and who we have along the defensive line, we just didn't see a role for Wendell," Green said. "We added Chike Okeafor as a starting end opposite Bertrand Berry and behind them you have a pair of veterans who have been starters, Calvin Pace and Peppi Zellner.

"Inside we have Kenny King returning which is a big plus. (King) missed all of last year but is back at full strength and ready to contribute. With King, Russell Davis, Darnell Dockett, and Ross Kolodziej you have a strong veteran presence at tackle, as well. Add in prospects like Antonio Smith, who was the defensive player of the year in NFL Europe, and Wendell just did not fit in for us."

The bleeding doesn't yet end, though. The Cardinals will take a salary-cap hit of $1.1 million in 2005 and 2006 on Bryant.

--- A CRITICAL JOB OPENING is punt returner following the departure of veteran Karl Williams.

Among the parade of those likely to audition: first-round pick Antrel Rolle, recently signed J.R. Redmond and seventh-round pick LeRon McCoy.

--- WIDE RECEIVER ANQUAN BOLDIN, who made the Pro Bowl after setting an NFL rookie record with 101 catches in 2003, signed a contract extension through 2010. A knee injury limited him to 10 games (nine starts) last season. Still, he caught 56 passes for 623 yards and one touchdown.

--- ALL EYES ARE ON running back Marcel Shipp, who missed all of last season after suffering a fractured lower leg and dislocated ankle in the intra-squad scrimmage (the intra-squad scrimmage has been eliminated this year as a result). Shipp was the team's rushing leader in 2003 and 2002. Not only does he face the uncertainty of coming back from surgery, he now also faces a challenge from rookie RB J.J. Arrington, a second-round pick.

--- EXPECTED BATTLE OF THE WEEK: At free safety, Quentin Harris, a young player who initially was handed the job in camp last year and wasn't ready for it, this time is expected to give a strong push to Ifeanyi Ohalete, who was signed during camp in 2004 and became the starter, as well as Robert Griffith, a veteran signed during the off-season who has played for Green at Minnesota.

--- OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Right guard is wide open but rookie Elton Brown was regarded as the best at his position in the draft. He'll battle Fred Wakefield, a converted defensive end, and Jeremy Bridges, a part-time starter in 2004. ... While first-round pick Antrel Rolle is all but penciled in at one corner, the other shapes up as a battle between veteran Robert Macklin and another rookie, third-round pick Eric Green. ... At tight end, veteran Freddie Jones was not offered a new contract and there are no experienced players in the fold. The edge going into camp belongs to Bobby Blizzard, an All-NFL Europe selection who has honed his receiving skill but still is not regarded as the stoutest blocker.

--- ROOKIE REPORT: All but first-round pick Antrel Rolle were under contract as players began reporting to Prescott, Ariz., last Sunday. Rolle is not expected to be a lengthy holdout, if he holds out at all. There were no problems signing any of the team's other rookies and the team has decent salary-cap space to accommodate Rolle, an expected starter. ... The first four picks - Rolle, RB J.J. Arrington, CB Eric Green and G Elton Brown - are strong candidates to crack the starting lineup.

--- QUOTE TO NOTE: "Time moves on. Nobody is going to say to the Arizona Cardinals -- too bad. It doesn't work that way. We don't want our players thinking that way, we don't want our fans thinking that way. (Training camp) revolves around three hots and a cot and a whole lot of football, a whole lot of practice." - Cardinals Coach Dennis Green, on being forced to move training camp from Flagstaff, Ariz. To Prescott, Ariz., the week before scheduled opening because of an outbreak of norovirus at the Northern Arizona University dormitory in which the team was to be housed.


AS TRAINING CAMP OPENED, it is almost like starting over for safety Adam Archuleta. He is returning from a 2004 season seriously affected by a back injury, and he is switching positions from strong safety to free safety.

Said Archuleta, "I have to prove myself to me, to my teammates and everybody. ... I had a down year last year. There were a lot of things going on - on and off the field. So I have a pretty fresh attitude, and I feel good physically. I think this is going to be a great year."

There are those that consider pass coverage Archuleta's weakness, but he points out he hasn't been asked to do it much.

"I embrace the idea," he said. "I don't think people understand that in the years past, the way we did our defense - even in training camp - I never worked deep. I never worked coverage. I was always underneath because we knew no matter what that Aeneas (Williams) was not going to go in the box."

Coach Mike Martz said, "For Arch to be a strong safety, we're going to ask him to be around 225 pounds. They are down in the (box) a lot more than the free safety. There's a lot more pounding to the body. He's at his best weight when he's at 205 pounds. That's when he is his strongest, his fastest. He has that great speed and agility to be a free safety. He just needs to get back there and play to learn to take the proper angle, break on the ball and recognition, those kind of things.

"But he's ahead of where I'd thought he'd be now. It looks like he's been there for a while."

Archuleta noted that in many instances, the two safeties are virtually the same.

"Free safety, strong safety -- the terminology means different things depending on who you talk to, and really it doesn't mean anything," Archuleta said. "You look at teams like the Ravens, Ed Reed is considered a strong safety, but he plays the deep ball most of the time.

"In the past, you used to see me up in the box a lot and Aeneas back deep. Now we have two safeties who are more interchangeable, and we are going to be able to disguise things more."

The biggest question was how Archuleta would be physically after an offseason recovering from his back problem.

"I'm moving around pretty good," Archuleta said after the second day of practice. "I'm a little stiff here and there, but it feels pretty good. I'm not worried about it by any means. Obviously, being out on the field and practicing during two-a-days, it's a big burden. I seem to be reacting pretty well with it. It's a lot of different movements, and I'm using a lot of different muscles that I haven't used - that you can't use during the rehab process. So all those things are getting strong."

EVIDENCE OF WHERE RAMS running back Steven Jackson is in the second year of his career occurred when he was handed a yellow jersey for the start of training camp.

"I didn't know if it was for a photo shoot or something," Jackson said.

What it meant was that Jackson and backup Marshall Faulk are hands off in running drills.

"You get guys flying around, bumping into guys and we don't want to take a chance with them," Martz said. "The other guys get tagged. Steven and Marshall just get touched. They have to get their run reads down, but we know what they are. The contact will come in the preseason (games)."

Jackson enters camp as the starter, and looks primed to have a huge season.

"Steven is going to be a big workhorse for us," left tackle Orlando Pace said. "We are going to get him the ball, hopefully open up some big holes for him and he should have a big year."

Said quarterback Marc Bulger, "He has that attitude of all good backs that he wants the ball every time. Even in practice he is starting to be a lot more vocal in the huddle and it's great to have that."

That confidence is nothing new.

"He's been that way since he got here," Martz said. "He has that aura about him of a guy like Marshall and Isaac (Bruce). He has that special way of carrying himself, and that quiet confidence that makes him special. I just have visions of him doing great things. I really do. I think Steven's capable of being a dominant back, ultimately. Obviously, he's not there yet.

"He has the quickness, the agility of that little guy. And he's that power runner as well. He can run through those arm tackles and be very physical. We can play power football with him down after down. He can take that punishment."

Jackson recalled the day in February he learned that Martz had named him the starter ahead of Faulk.

"I was on vacation at the time and I saw it come across on ESPN and when I did see it come across, the phone started ringing off the hook," Jackson said. "It was one of those things I was pleased to hear. I didn't expect it as soon as it was, but at the same time it gave me time to prepare mentally coming into this (camp).

"It's one of those things where now I feel I'm ready to start and pursue my dream."

But Jackson still respects the man behind on the depth chart.

"I will never forget who the starter was," he said. "People around here love him, you are going to see 28 jerseys around the stadium, around the city so I am never going to forget who I replaced, but at the same time I am going to keep moving forward.

"You can never know more than the teacher. I am going to keep watching him, keep asking questions. I'm only in year two, he's in year 12. I still have a lot of things I can learn from him. He's the master right now."

Early in camp, Martz has sounded like a coach who might be not quite as fast and furious as he has been in the past.

"We've retooled a lot of what we are doing in that running game from a personnel standpoint," Martz said. "It's going to be a brand new factor in our offensive effort in a major way."

And Jackson will be the focal point.

--- CAMP OPENED WITHOUT FIRST-ROUND pick Alex Barron, who remained unsigned.

"I know his agent (Roosevelt Barnes) has got an awful lot of guys he's trying to do," Martz said. "I know Alex wants to be here. I think he's a little bit of a victim of an agent with a lot of top players, so it might take a day or two for Alex to get in here. There's really nothing that we can do about that. I'm not concerned about it."

However, three days later and Barron still absent, Martz was singing a different tune. "It's really unfortunate," Martz said. "This is my first experience with somebody not in camp and I'm not very pleased. Guys around him have signed. I believe these guys get a lot of bad advice.

"Every practice that he misses he's light years behind. He can't come back and recover that. It's just impossible. Anybody who is out of camp now is not just hurting himself, but he's hurting the football team."

--- RAMS SECOND-ROUND PICK Ron Bartell was on the practice field Friday morning (July 29), after missing one day of camp and then signing a four-year, $2.879 million contract Thursday evening.

Bartell might have missed the practice had the Rams still been training in Macomb. With camp at Rams Park, it was an easy trip from his St. Louis apartment to the practice facility.

"Sitting out was tough for me," Bartell said, even though he missed just two practices. "I couldn't sleep the last two nights. I was real anxious."

Bartell said he has bought a Hummer, but other than that, he said money is not what he's about.

"I played street ball growing up and it wasn't about the money then, so it's not about the money now. I'm happy I got a fair deal, and now it's time to go to work."

Bartell's deal includes the minimum salaries for four years -- $230,000; $310,000; $385,000 and $460,000 -- plus a signing bonus of $1.494 million. His salary-cap figure for this year is $603,500.

--- JUST BEFORE THE START of training camp, the Rams surprisingly cut offensive lineman Scott Tercero, who underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason. Tercero filled in at several positions last season, and coaches liked his promise.

However, while rehabbing from his shoulder injury, Tercero was down to about 260 pounds, and wasn't able to gain it back. Tercero's release came two days after the Rams re-signed guard Tom Nutten, who came out of retirement to sign with the team last August. Nutten underwent offseason reconstructive toe surgery, and after working out most of the offseason, thought he was healthy enough to play another season.

The Rams also signed kicker Remy Hamilton to take some of the preseason kicks from Jeff Wilkins. Hamilton was in the Bears' camp last season, and has been in the Arena Football League for seven seasons. This past season, he was named the league's kicker of the year while with the Los Angeles Avengers. Hamilton set league records for consecutive field goals with 12 and season field-goal percentage with 74.4.

--- FOR THE RAMS' OFFENSIVE line, the presence of left tackle Orlando Pace when training camp opened July 28, was a welcome sight.

This is the first camp for Pace since 2002, when he was entering the final year of his rookie contract. For the next two years, he was designated the team's franchise player, and didn't report to the team until just before the start of the regular season after signing the 1-year tender.

This year, Pace signed a long-term contract and has been present throughout the offseason program.

While no veteran relishes training camp, Pace said he is glad to have the contract situation behind him.

"Yeah those (holdout) days are over, and it's a relief," Pace said on the first day of camp. "Right now, I'm excited to be in camp. I don't know whether I'll be able to say that in six weeks."

Still, his attendance wasn't without incident. As the team gathered for stretching exercises at the start of the first practice, Pace suddenly left the field. A few minutes later, he was back.

Explained guard Adam Timmerman, "He said it was a 'medical emergency.' "Yeah, right. 'Medical emergency'? Oh, please. O had to go to the bathroom. ... And so The Streak still lives."

At the start of camp, Pace and defensive left end Anthony Hargrove have had some royal battles in one-on-one drills. Pace usually wins, but just the experience has to help Hargrove, a second-year player who is starting on the right side.

Concluded Pace, "I'm happy to be here, happy to be playing, happy to get ready for the season."

--- INJURY REPORT: CB Jerametrius Butler suffered a bruise on his knee at the end of practice on the second day (July 29) and was expected to miss about one week of work. ... RB Dusty McGrorty injured his knee in the morning practice July 29 and was also expected to be out about a week. ... RG Adam Timmerman does drill work, but is being held out of team drills as he continues to recuperate from offseason foot and shoulder surgery.

--- CAMP CALENDAR: There will be a night scrimmage Aug. 6 at Washington University and camp "breaks" on Aug. 19.

--- BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Rex Tucker vs. Claude Terrell for starting left guard - Tucker opened camp as the starter, but was demoted by the fourth day of practice. "He's been struggling," coach Mike Martz said. "He did a nice job this morning (Sunday), but he's struggled. He has to learn our system and our practices are different than he's used to. But it's very competitive." Terrell (6-2, 345) is the team's fourth-round pick and according to Martz, "has a physical presence inside." But Terrell has to improve his pass protections.

--- OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: DeJuan Groce, Terry Fair, Shaun McDonald and Dante Ridgeway for the punt return job. All have worked in practice catching punts, but it is unknown who will be the first to get a chance when the Rams open the preseason Aug. 12 against Chicago. ... The job of nickel back remains wide open. Cornerbacks competing include Groce, Dwight Anderson, Kevin Garrett, Fair and Corey Ivy. It was notable that with starter Jerametrius Butler nursing a bruised knee, Anderson took his place with the first unit.

--- PLAYER OF THE WEEK: TE Roland Williams - After being re-signed in the offseason to a one-year veteran minimum contract, Williams has taken on a leadership role and moved past starter Brandon Manumaleuna when camp began.

--- ROOKIE REPORT: CB Ronald Bartell reported one day late, but made a nice interception in Sunday's morning practice. ... S Jerome Carter was named a starter entering camp and was holding the job through the first few days of practice. ... FB Madison Hedgecock is also getting reps at tight end. ... Reggie Hodges remains the only punter on the team's camp roster. ... QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is being given every chance to win the No. 3 job from Jeff Smoker. When three quarterbacks work together in practice, Fitzpatrick is with Marc Bulger and Jamie Martin, while Smoker does the work usually associated with the No. 4 quarterback or "camp arm."

--- QUOTE TO NOTE: "When I got here for camp and I got into the meetings they told me I was the starter. I didn't come into this situation ruling anything out. I just told myself whether I get a starting job or I am a backup, I am going to come in here and work hard because that is all I can do. It is all a learning experience; I am taking it one day at a time. I am pleased on where I am. I am not where I need to be but I am going to work hard and give 100 percent. If I do something wrong, I want to be doing it wrong 100 percent." - Rookie S Jerome Carter on entering training camp as the starter on the strong side.


IMPROVING TEAM CHEMISTRY WAS a primary goal for the Seahawks once the team found a way to retain QB Matt Hasselbeck, LT Walter Jones and RB Shaun Alexander.

New president Tim Ruskell, a longtime former personnel man under Rich McKay, has continually preached attitude as a means to overcoming deficiencies in talent. His work is not yet finished.

WR Darrell Jackson, who set a franchise record with 87 catches last season, remains miffed about his contract. Specifically, Jackson wants Ruskell to honor financial promises allegedly made by former president Bob Whitsitt. The Seahawks have been reluctant to comply for fear of establishing a dangerous precedent.

The result is an uncomfortable situation that could become a distraction as the season progresses. Ruskell keeps emphasizing the importance of full participation in voluntary offseason programs. Jackson keeps refusing to attend unless Ruskell sweetens his contract.

So, while team chemistry has improved with the departures of WR Koren Robinson, LB Anthony Simmons and RT Chris Terry, the Seahawks still aren't quite where they want to be.

Ruskell met with Jackson on the eve of training camp. Their relationship remains in its formative stages. Ruskell is more familiar with Jackson from his days in the SEC than with Seattle.

"I remember Darrell from his Florida days, always a happy guy and loves playing football," Ruskell said. "We just want to get him back to that. I think we can do it... That's a goal, to get him in the fold, happy and productive. It is better for everybody."

Jackson is playing under the six-year, $25 million deal he signed in 2004. The deal made Jackson among the higher-paid receivers in the league. But Jackson has claimed that Whitsitt, the former president, pulled a bait-and-switch scheme right before the deal was signed. Jackson said he signed the deal anyway because his ailing father, who has since died of cancer, wanted him to finish his career with one team.

"That's silly," Whitsitt told the Tacoma News Tribune. "I've never promised Darrell anything. He signed the largest contract in the history of the franchise at that time and we were all happy to do it."

Jackson has stood by his version of events. "We made a couple deals with Bob Whitsitt and he kind of shorted us when we went to sign the contract," Jackson said.

The bottom line is that Jackson is earning great money for a player who still drops the ball too frequently. For $25 million, the Seahawks should get in return a player fully committed to Ruskell's vision.

--- THE PRE-CAMP SIGNING OF Alexander, even to a one-year deal, was huge for the Seahawks. Now the team can focus on football without the distraction of another high-profile contract dispute.

"We didn't need the distraction," coach Mike Holmgren said. "I thought this would happen from the beginning, anyway."

Conventional wisdom said Alexander would sign in time to collect his weekly regular-season paychecks. But most thought Alexander would miss all or part of training camp in the interim. Instead, Alexander missed only the first few days, and then only because his wife recently gave birth to the couple's second child.

"My advice to him was always to come in and sign the tender," Holmgren said. "Then it's yours and then we can keep trying to do something for the future."

But the Seahawks still aren't sure whether they want to sign Alexander for the long term. The front office has yet to offer a long-term deal, and Ruskell sounds reluctant to do so until he watches Alexander up close.

"We will talk again," Ruskell said. "I know their people (agents) real well and they are going to stay in touch with me and we will just see how that goes. You can't put a timeline on that."

Alexander's production is unquestioned. He set a franchise record with 1,696 yards rushing last season. He has never missed a game to injury. He is the only player in NFL history to score at least 15 touchdowns in four consecutive seasons.

And at age 27 - he turns 28 later this month - Alexander probably has a few more productive seasons.

The Seahawks just aren't sure whether they want to pay top dollar for a player who might not be a perfect fit for the organization.

Ruskell has emphasized selfless team play, criticizing those who put individual stats ahead of the team. The comments seemed to be directed at Alexander for his outburst following Seattle's victory over Atlanta in the regular-season finale.

Alexander famously accused Holmgren of stabbing him in the back for failing to help win the league rushing title (Alexander finished a yard behind Curtis Martin after Holmgren called a QB sneak for a TD in the final minutes).

The Seahawks would also like Alexander to polish his pass blocking. The team replaces him in obvious passing situations.

Ruskell will be watching closely this season to see if Alexander fits into his vision. The evidence so far suggests Alexander will be elsewhere next season. Why else would Seattle promise not to name him its franchise or transition player in 2006?

"I am going to take some time and evaluate that, not just Shaun, but obviously the whole team," Ruskell said. "The fit, the scheme, what we are trying to do and going into the future."

A first-round pick from Alabama in 2000, Alexander has carried 1,347 times for 5,937 yards and 62 touchdowns in five seasons. He has also scored 10 touchdowns receiving.

--- QUARTERBACK MATT HASSELBECK IS adjusting to life without QB Trent Dilfer, who was traded to Cleveland. The two were best friends and legendary pranksters during their time together in Seattle.

"It is strange," Hasselbeck said. "He screens my phone calls, he doesn't call me back. I called him recently and told him I hit our local coffee shop the people that work there were asking about him.

"He called me right back and said, 'Did they really ask about me?' I said, 'No, I made that up.' "

--- THE SEAHAWKS DID NOT take a veteran backup QB to camp. As a result, they lack experienced depth behind Hasselbeck. Number two QB Seneca Wallace impressed coaches during spring minicamps, but is he ready to step in if needed? That's hard to say. Seattle has five QBs in camp: Hasselbeck, Wallace, rookie David Greene, Brian Wrobel and Gibran Hamdan. The four backups have a combined zero NFL starts.

--- THE SEAHAWKS HAVE MOVED CB Marcus Trufant from the left to right side. The team wants to protect Trufant's surgically repaired right shoulder. Moving him to the right side will allow Trufant to make his left shoulder dominant in tackling.

"I'm feeling good and everything is full go," Trufant said. "There is no holding back."

Trufant has undergone two surgeries on the right shoulder since coming to Seattle as a first-round pick in 2003. He has yet to miss a start, but the shoulder has been a concern.

"For Marcus, it seems to be an OK adjustment right now," Holmgren said. "We will see. We have to feel good about it during preseason."

--- FORMER UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON coach Keith Gilbertson is helping Bill Laveroni with the offensive line. The move should help because line play is a Gilbertson specialty. "The more I thought about it, the more I thought he could be a tremendous resource for us," coach Mike Holmgren said. "He is a good coach with a lot of experience and he knows the game. I always thought he was put in a tough spot during his last head coaching position."

--- INJURY REPORT: CB Marcus Trufant is back from shoulder surgery and practicing. Also back from injuries were LG Steve Hutchinson (shoulder), TE Ryan Hannam (knee), S Marquand Manuel (wrist) and DT Rashad Moore (shoulder). FS Ken Hamlin (shoulder) hopes to return for the third exhibition game. He is not yet practicing. Others missing practice include P Ryan Dutton (shin), CB Kevin House (arm), DE LB Cornelius Wortham (hamstring), WR Alex Bannister (collarbone) and DT Cedric Woodard (knee).

--- BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Andre Dyson vs. Kelly Herndon for starting LCB -- Dyson is the favorite because his cover skills are superior. Herndon has a chance because he's a battler who plays physical for his size. They are playing on the left side after CB Marcus Trufant moved to the right. Dyson and Herndon are more comfortable on the left side.

--- OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: The MLB situation should get interesting now that second-round choice Lofa Tatupu has signed and reported to camp. Tatupu and second-year pro Niko Koutouvides will slug it out this summer. Both are expected to play. ... WR Bobby Engram is holding onto the number two wide receiver spot so far. WR Jerome Pathon and even WR Jerheme Urban might push him for the job. ... DT Cedric Woodard isn't practicing because of injury. He seems likely to lose his starting job to DT Chuck Darby, while DT Marcus Tubbs could unseat DT Rashad Moore.

--- PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DT Marcus Tubbs -- He's looking like a new man after a disappointing rookie season. Seattle's interior linemen are having trouble blocking him. Tubbs needs to prove he can sustain his solid play for an entire training camp, let alone a season. "He did come in camp in better shape," Holmgren said. "He is a talented man. Now he has to stay with it and prove that he is worthy at where we picked him. I believe he is."

--- ROOKIE REPORT: C Chris Spencer has yet to report. ... LB Lofa Tatupu got a late start after signing three days into camp. ... FB Leonard Weaver looks like a keeper. He could be the backup to Mack Strong this year. ... FB Tony Jackson has ground to make up because Weaver is playing so well. ... LB Cornelius Wortham tweaked a hamstring one day before camp opened. He has been watching practices.

--- QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are using three guys now to do what maybe two guys did last year. Dyson clearly is an excellent cover guy. Herndon is a battler, a very physical guy for his size. I am pleased with that group right now." -- Holmgren on replacing CB Ken Lucas, who left in free agency, with Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon.

Niners Digest Top Stories