Around the NFC West

Everything you want to know - and more - about what's going on in the training camps of the 49ers' three divisional rivals.


EVERYONE KNEW EARLY THAT Anquan Boldin has a nose for the ball. His NFL rookie-record 101 grabs in 2003 landed him on the Pro Bowl, the only rookie on either squad that season.

But during the first week of Arizona Cardinals training camp, there was a collective gasp as Boldin, fresh off signing a four-year contract extension that will set ownership back millions, took a shot that resulted in a broken nose. It comes a year after Boldin suffered a knee injury during training camp that required surgery and wiped out the first half of his season.

He had minor surgery on his nose at a Prescott, Ariz. hospital and is expected to miss most of the preseason, a minimum of three games.

In the long run, it probably will help the Cardinals, who know who their top three receivers are going to be -- Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson - but need to establish Nos. 4 and 5.

While Boldin still is a relative novice in the NFL, a veteran of only 26 games, he has caught 157 passes and has seen a variety of schemes designed against him.

What this latest injury will do is rob Boldin and new Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner of initial game experience together.

They'll now go into the Sept. 11 opener against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands with essentially no game experience together.

"I'm alright," said Boldin. "I'm feeling better than I thought I would. As opposed to last year, I'm doing a lot better. But I don't need any more setbacks.

"It is a little frustrating to not be out there, especially after going through went I went through last year, but you just have to roll with the punches."

If he becomes too depressed, Boldin can always count his money. The four-year contract extension that Boldin signed on the eve of training camp gave him a $5 million signing bonus now, and will give him another $5 million in an option bonus early next year. His salary for this season quadruples, to $1.5 million from $380,000. Next season, he will receive $1.75 million to replace the $450,000 he was to make on his initial contract. That's a golden goose of nearly $14.5 million in the first three years.

Now if only Boldin can stay on the field.

THE GOOD NEWS AT running back is that Marcel Shipp was activated from the PUP (physically unable to perform) list early in the opening week of camp, and the leading rusher of 2003 and 2002 was anxious to compete with rookie J.J. Arrington for the job.

The bad news is that Shipp suffered a hamstring strain almost immediately and had to back off, giving Arrington the early edge for the position.

The Cardinals also want to get a good look at recently acquired James Jackson, a former third-round pick by Cleveland, and J.R. Redmond, who helped New England win a Super Bowl four years ago. While Shipp recovers they are getting more work.

The team also wants to know what it has in youngsters Larry Croom and Josh Scobey, who register high on the potential scale, but have yet to do anything productive in a game.

That committee of backs more than likely will make Troy Hambrick, the No. 2 back a year ago - and the only one among them who has approached a 1,000-yard season (972 in 2003 at Dallas) - the odd-man-out.

Hambrick has not disguised his unhappiness and likely will not make the roster. He skipped off-season workouts with the team and his foot injury the opening week of camp did not help him.

The Cardinals last had a 1,000-yard rusher in 1998, Adrian Murrell. It is no coincidence that that was their last playoff season.

"I can't think of San Francisco or Minnesota where we had a successful season and we didn't have a 1,000 plus rusher," Green said. "It just doesn't happen very often. That's our goal. We want whoever is going to start to be that 1,000 yard rusher. We didn't have it last year, and we are going to press for it again this year."

Arrington, a second-round pick from California, has awed the coaching staff with his speed and quickness. "And speed can really be a good thing with this offense when you can spread people out," Green said. "Kurt (Warner, the new Cardinals quarterback) looks sharp when he's throwing to guys, so that puts the pressure on the defense to defend the pass, and then you can get a guy popping through it."

THERE WAS NO INTRA-SQUAD scrimmage this year. Instead, there was a "mock game," essentially a tribute to flag football - and appropriate for an organization that has been "mocked" for three decades now. But there are signs that that is changing under the direction of Green.

Green's call to dump the intra-squad scrimmage this year is understandable. A year ago, the Cardinals lost their leading rusher of the previous two seasons, Shipp, to a season-ending leg and ankle injury in the intra-squad scrimmage. But that was on the grabby artificial surface of the Walkup Skydome at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

This year, their camp is outdoors in Prescott, Ariz., moved on short notice two weeks ago because of an outbreak of a virus at NAU that produces flu-like symptoms and sometimes causes victims to be hospitalized. So, on the natural turf of a hurriedly converted softball field in Prescott, the Cardinals had their "mock game," and 2,000 people came to see it.

Unfortunately, it was not, as designed, injury-free, even without pads. Starting C Alex Stepanovich (hand) and DE Peppi Zellner (knee), who has lost his starting job to Chike Okeafor, left the game.

GREEN ENJOYS THE MOCK-GAME format, he said, because it helps the players get into a rhythm. "It makes our guys understand how you have to play a game, the time frame, and how much you have to respond to it," Green said. "We also have the referees, and that helps out because that can frustrate the guys a little bit and they have to respond to it, because officials can make some bad calls."

One of the "referees": Dennis Green, who deliberately made some poor calls to see how the players would deal with the adversity.

A wise guy might suggest Green could benefit from a visit to Axis Eye Institute, the newly announced "Official Laser Eye Institute of the Arizona Cardinals." The firm, headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., uses a bladeless laser vision treatment that offers vision beyond 20/20 without cutting into the cornea called Advanced Custom Cornea. Might be a thought for some of the receivers who dropped balls during the mock game.

THE CARDINALS ARE LOOKING for a punt returner after they did not re-sign veteran Karl Williams.

WR Bryant Johnson, the No. 3 receiver, and RB J.R. Redmond, who is vying to become the No. 3 running back, were auditioned during opening week. So was long-shot undrafted rookie Dan Sheldon, nicknamed "Seabiscuit" in college. At Northern Illinois, the 5-foot-8 Sheldon led the nation three years ago with a 22.7-yard average.

CORNERBACK ANTREL ROLLE, THE team's first-round pick and the projected starter, remains unsigned and out of camp after one week. The holdup is presumed to be over guaranteed money, since the players chosen before and after him in the draft are signed, and thus the draft position - eighth overall - is essentially slotted. No. 7 pick Troy Williamson of Minnesota got $13.3 million in guaranteed bonuses and $1.5 million in an easily obtainable bonus. No. 9 pick Carlos Rogers of Washington got $11.3 million in guaranteed money.

WHAT'LL IT TAKE TO put you into a winning season? Even the slickest car salesman would be taxed to help the Cardinals solve that one, given that they've had only one since moving to Arizona in 1988 (9-7, 1998).

But the Cardinals and Arizona Ford Dealers are offering the "Drive for Season Seats" SUV/season ticket promotion. Anyone who buys a 2005/2006 Explorer, Sport Trac, Escape, Expedition, Excursion or Freestyle through Sept. 5 gets two season tickets for the final season in Sun Devil Stadium and priority seating in the new retractable-roof facility that opens next year in Glendale, Arizona.

THE 63,000-SEAT CARDINALS Stadium is 80 percent complete, according to Charlie Prewitt, project manager for Hunt Construction.

"So far, we've hit every major milestone," he said. "Two years of construction under our belt and we've had no real surprises." Prewitt said that by securing steel and concrete in advance, he avoided cost increases and delivery problems in the current tight market for both. The exterior of the stadium should be complete by Christmas, and grass will be installed in the field tray by mid-April. The construction schedule calls for the building to be complete Aug. 1, 2006.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Cardinals continue training at their makeshift camp in Prescott, Ariz., rotating on four fields offered by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute and the city of Prescott... 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.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I love this. We're marvelous and we're going to be a great defense. Last year nobody knew what I could do. I believe if you come out here and work hard it will all come naturally. Just play and it will all come to you." -- DT Darnell Dockett, a rookie starter in 2004 on coming back for more with upgraded teammates in several positions.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Marcel Shipp vs. J.R. Redmond and James Jackson for Nos. 2 and 3 at RB -- It's way too early to form any solid opinions about anything. The battle is wide open. Shipp, if he remains healthy, figures to land the backup spot to rookie J.J. Arrington, and could even challenge Arrington for the starting position. But Shipp, after missing all of last year with leg and ankle injuries, already is slowed by a hamstring strain and is behind. Josh Scobey and Larry Croom have been in the system a year, but have virtually no game experience. Newcomers Redmond and Jackson, who've been successful with other teams, are going to be hard to keep off the roster. Look for one of them; if not both of them, to make it Veteran Troy Hambrick, No. 2 last year and a 900-yard rusher in Dallas three years ago, is a sure bet to be cut.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: TE Adam Bergen, an undrafted rookie, suddenly is on the first team. TE Eric Edwards, who was on the first team, has a pectoral injury that will sideline him at least two weeks. Bobby Blizzard, an All-NFL Europe pick, has not stepped up to take ownership of the position. It is a very inexperienced group.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: CB Robert Tate, rescued by Coach Dennis Green off the NFL scrap heap, intercepted a pass and took it back for a touchdown in the team's "mock game," a pad-less endeavor that replaced the intra-squad scrimmage this year to avoid losing players to injury. It capped a strong opening week by Tate, who is working with the first unit in the absence of first-round pick Rolle, who has not come to terms on a contract and is not in camp.

ROOKIE REPORT: CB Antrel Rolle is not yet in camp. He has not come to terms on a contract. RB J.J. Arrington, the second-round pick, has been everything the team imagined with his speed - at least in drills against his own team. A more valid assessment will be forthcoming after his initial action in preseason games. The job is Arrington's to lose. CB Eric Green, a third-round pick, is slow out of the gate because of a hamstring injury. He is expected to push veteran David Macklin for a starting job.

INJURY REPORT: C Alex Stepanovich (hand) left the mock game. The severity of the injury is still being evaluated. He started all of 2004 as a rookie. DE Peppi Zellner (knee) was carted off from the mock game. The severity of his injury is still being evaluated, as well. He started all of last season, but has been eased off the first unit by the signing of free agent Chike Okeafor. Zellner is being counted on for high-quality experienced depth in the rotation. WR Anquan Boldin (broken nose) will miss at least the first three preseason games following minor surgery. He missed the first six games in 2004 following surgery on a knee during training camp after catching a rookie-record 101 passes in 2003. TE Eric Edwards (pectoral) is out at least a week, likely two. He was running with the first team. RB Marcel Shipp (hamstring), DE Chike Okeafor (hamstring), DT Kenny King (wrist), CB Eric Green (hamstring), RB Troy Hambrick (foot), DE Antonio Smith (thigh), DT DeVone Claybrooks (knee), WR Lawrence Hamilton (back) all are day-to-day.


THERE WAS A CERTAIN LEVEL of confidence entering training camp that things would be different on the offensive line than they were last summer when there was constant shuffling in training camp.

However, the absence of first-round pick Alex Barron, along with some injuries, has resulted in some shakeups that have put Rex Tucker at right tackle and rookie Claude Terrell at left guard. Terrell's play prompted the move of Tucker, who was moved to tackle when Grant Williams was sidelined by a back injury.

Tucker had struggled at guard, and was actually close to being cut before Williams was hurt. But in his first few days at tackle, coach Mike Martz was pleased.

"We moved Rex Tucker to right tackle which is probably where he belongs," Martz said. "We had to wait and see if a rookie was going to transpire the way we hoped. (Terrell) has been the biggest surprise (of camp). He's doing so well, allowing us to move Rex Tucker now and see if we can't get him situated at right tackle."

Tucker has been a guard during his career with the Bears, and hadn't played tackle since college.

"It is an adjustment, but that's part of this game, you have to do it," Tucker said. "There are a lot of things: the stances, the timing, the playing in space. There are a lot of differences, but the bottom line is you have just got to go out, work the best you can and learn to block those guys."

Oddly, when Tucker's brother Ryan was with the Rams, he was moved from center to tackle, and played right tackle on the 2001 Super Bowl teams.

"He has Ryan's kind of ability," Martz said of Rex. "We felt like he was going to have to play for us at guard, but having Claude come in and do what he's done is a bonus for us. Now we can take Rex and put him outside and groom him to be a right tackle. We'll see."

Tucker will get a lot of pointers in camp with the Rams having two line coaches - John Matsko and John Benton - along with the presence of Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, who helps the team's linemen during the summer.

After his first practice at tackle, Tucker and Slater were on the field for an extra 20 minutes.

"What can you say, he's the best right tackle that ever played and to have him show you things that work is a big help," Tucker said. "It's great to have him give you that extra time and coach you up on things that you need to learn, things that will help you block people."

THE RAMS WERE CLOSE to concluding their second week of training camp without Barron, and Martz doesn't like it.

Barron struggled in the offseason with his technique and learning the Rams' system, so it was important for Barron to report to training camp as early as possible. But Barron remained unsigned entering this week, and Martz proclaimed it almost "impossible" for him to contribute early this season.

"It's impossible for him to get ready to play in the opener," Martz said. "There's no way. There's no way in the world in this offense, with the high level at which these guys out here now are playing.

"We've moved on. To have a chance to play, he needs to get in here. I know Alex well enough to know that he wants to be here. We're at midseason in terms of what we have in, which is a first for us. So Alex is not going to come in and get caught up. He's just not. To think that he's going to start ... I'm not going to say he can't necessarily, but if he does, then he's a phenom. But he's going to have to prove that.

"The preparation for him, to get him ready, he's got to come in the right way. To come in the right way, you've got to come in when you're learning your stance. Your first step. Your dropback. All that stuff. He missed all that. All the foundation of what we do. The (line) calls. Look at all the blitz periods and the 9-on-7s that he's missed. How do you make that up? I don't know how you do that."

At that point, Martz went after Barron's agent, Roosevelt Barnes, intimating that Barnes doesn't have Barron's best interests in mind.

"Let me just say this about this agent," Martz said. "This is not about the player; this is about the agent. Because what the kid is going to get out of his contract, the difference (in money) is insignificant. What this agent is doing is recruiting other players by doing this stuff.

"He's thumping his chest out there. It's bad for professional football. It's bad for agents, you know, just the business of being an agent. It's just wrong. He's not taking this kid's best interest at heart. I want you to print that ... What he's doing is promoting himself as an agent and that's just not right."

In response to those comments, Barnes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I know Coach Martz is a little frustrated. I wish we could have the deal done, too. I would've preferred him to be in camp on time, also. But, we're not there yet. You know, there's always two sides. I don't control the checkbook. We just want what's best for the team and what's best for Alex. I don't think we're asking for anything that's unfair. We're just asking for a market deal, really. "If the difference in offers is insignificant, instead of attacking me, what he should do is go to his people and say, 'This is insignificant. Let (Barron) have it, so he can come on in.'"

Martz believes the league should have a rookie wage scale similar to the NBA.

"To me that's the best way," Martz said. "They are going to make their money on what their value is in the league on their second contract. To me that makes the most sense. It takes all of the stress out of it for the kids. They can prove now their worth in the league. I have always felt like that's the fairest way to do it. Their real value hasn't been established yet. It's guesswork more or less."

THE RAMS AGREED TO terms with tackle Matt Willig, a former 49er who started nine games for the Carolina Panthers last season, and defensive tackle John Parrella, who played 16 games for the Raiders.

"I have been on a mission to somehow get John here since we played him when he was at San Diego," Martz said. "It's kind of like Marc (Bulger). When you have coached against somebody or played against somebody and it's somebody that really leaves an impression, you do what you can to get them on your team. That's the case with both of these guys. These guys will both be good, solid additions for us and I am very pleased with it.

"He has that motor and physical aspect inside that ...I remember when we had to play him, we had to account for him in the running game. He is very disruptive. Disruptive is probably the best term for him. He will define his own role, whatever that is. That's the type of player he probably is. Anytime you can add a player like that to your roster, I think it's a good deal."

As for Willig, who was a backup with the Rams for part of their 1999 Super Bowl season, Martz said, "Playing against Matt at San Francisco and at Carolina, I think Matt has got something left at the right tackle position. He has been at left tackle most of the time, but we'll see. He has got a chance to come in and compete and we'll see what he does."

MARTZ IS PLEASED WITH the transition Adam Archuleta has made from strong to free safety. At free safety, he is responsible for calling the defense's signals.

"We've challenged him with that," Martz said. "It's not enough to know what you do; now you've got to have a grasp on everything going around you. That's the next level for Adam ... I think it's fun for him, the mental part of it. He's up to the challenge. He's never studied in the past the way he needed to. Now he's all over that stuff." As for leadership, Martz added, "He's gotten to be very verbal, which in the past he wasn't. I think that comes with his confidence level and the fact that he's in a position now that's challenging for him."

THE RAMS HAVE HAD just one practice a day in pads, and there is extra time between practices. In addition, when some injuries hit the offensive line and running back, the team was out of pads for three days. A practice attended by more than 4,500 fans Saturday night was also done without full pads. The team then had two days off. Most of the injuries are not considered serious, and Martz is pleased that total injuries is down.

"It's cut way down on our injuries, and the attention and the focus is way better than it's ever been," Martz said. "They're not just trying to survive practice now. We've gotten more complicated at a higher level than we've ever done (in camp) before.

"It's better than what I thought it'd be. Now ... let's just see how we play."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "His agent said to keep him out of (rookie camp), which is absolutely ridiculous. That really hurt him. So I'm not upset with the kid, I'm upset with the agent. I just think it's not right." - Coach Mike Martz on Roosevelt Barnes, the agent for unsigned first-round pick Alex Barron.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Jeff Smoker vs. rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick for No. 3 quarterback - Fitzpatrick has caught coach Mike Martz's eye and took unexpected reps with the second unit at Saturday's night's practice. Fitzpatrick wasn't told until five minutes before practice started that he would work with the second team. "He was outstanding," Martz said. "We gave him a lot of things to think about and didn't really prepare him for this. I was very pleased with his demeanor and his control of the situation ... very pleased." As for Smoker, Martz was asked the day before Saturday's practice whether he was pleased with last year's sixth-round pick. His terse reply was, "No." After Saturday's practice, Martz said, "I'm not pleased with Jeff's mental preparation. We'll see what Ryan can do."

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: P Reggie Hodges vs. himself - The rookie is the only punter in camp, and struggled in the Saturday night practice after doing well earlier. Coach Mike Martz said, "He has to do a better job. We'll see what he's got in the preseason."... WR Dante Ridgeway vs. Brandon Middleton for sixth receiver spot - Ridgeway is a rookie, while Middleton has bounced around several camps and was on the Rams' practice squad last season. Middleton has done well in camp and has a chance to make the roster if the Rams keep six receivers.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DE Brandon Green - There are open jobs for defense end depth behind Leonard Little and Anthony Hargrove, and Green has made a move. While coaches knew he had a high motor, they have been pleased with other aspects of his game. "When we brought Brandon in, we felt like that was the type of guy we were getting, but I think he is probably a little more athletic than what we anticipated," coach Mike Martz said. "In discussions on him as a staff, we have all been very pleased so far."

ROOKIE REPORT: After a shaky start of camp, TE Jerome Collins has begun to make an impression as a receiver. He played just one season at tight end at Notre Dame... Undrafted free agent CB Duvol Thompson is competing for a roster spot, and has been given an opportunity on special teams. He looks to be at least a candidate for the practice squad.

INJURY REPORT: Starting CBs Jerametrius Butler (knee) and Travis Fisher (groin) remain sidelined as a precaution... LT Orlando Pace is resting a hip flexor... TE Erik Jensen, who missed his rookie season in 2004 because of a knee injury, is out with a back injury... DT Brian Howard has missed valuable time because of a hamstring injury.


THE SEAHAWKS STILL CAN'T be sure whether their pass rush will improve significantly this season.

The team has struggled to hold fourth-quarter leads in part because the pass rush hasn't been strong enough. The problem was seen as a priority going into the off-season, but Seattle made only minor changes to its pass-rushing personnel.

Grant Wistrom is healthy again and his presence at right end will provided needed energy. Wistrom is generally good for six or eight sacks, but his impact goes beyond the stats.

"This is probably the healthiest and best I have felt in two or three years, honestly," Wistrom said. "I feel great right now and hopefully I can feel this great throughout the season."

Wistrom missed seven games to injury last season, his first in Seattle after six with St. Louis. He finished with 3 1/2 sacks.

"I am out here to play football and unfortunately, I didn't do enough of it last year," Wistrom said. "I love competition. We get to come out here and it was just a scrimmage, but it was fun and competing in front of fans always makes it a little bit better."

Seattle lost left end Chike Okeafor to Arizona in free agency. Bryce Fisher, who matched Okeafor with 8 1/2 sacks last season, is the new starter on the left side. Fisher spent the last three years with St. Louis after one season in Buffalo. The Rams viewed him as a third DE, however, and now Seattle needs him to produce like starting material. That might be a lot to ask a guy who entered the league as a seventh-round draft choice.

Some criticized the Seahawks for failing to land a big-time pass rusher in free agency or the draft. The Seahawks seem to think their pass rush will benefit from a younger, more active group of linebackers. DT Marcus Tubbs and DT Chuck Darby appear ready to provide some pressure up the middle.

There is no question, however, that Seattle lacks the kind of dominant edge rusher teams often need to win playoff games.

THE SEAHAWKS ARE ONLY beginning to sort through a muddled receiver situation in the wake of Koren Robinson's release two months ago.

Darrell Jackson is a lock as one starter. He set a franchise record with 87 catches last season. Bobby Engram is looking like the favorite to start in the spot Robinson vacated. The rest of the receivers need strong camps to emerge with prominent roles.

"That pile of wide receivers will sort itself out, but it won't be until late," coach Mike Holmgren said. "You pick any one practice and one guy will stand out over another. It has been that way. It is going to be a tough call."

The Seahawks generally keep six receivers. Holmgren has said he'll hold one spot for Alex Bannister, a receiver best known for his play on special teams. Bannister is expected back from a broken collarbone in time for the regular season.

Keeping Jackson, Engram and Bannister would leave only three open spots if Seattle keeps no more than six receivers.

Joe Jurevicius enjoyed a strong start to camp before returning to Seattle for undisclosed personal reasons. He was not expected to return until the team arrived back from its Aug. 12 exhibition opener at New Orleans. The time off might benefit Jurevicius by helping him avoid some of the injury problems that sidelined him in 2004.

"He is a very, very good receiver," Holmgren said of Jurevicius. "He has good hands. The ball does not hit the ground. He has a good feel for things and he is big.

"Even if it is close with a defensive back, his body - if he can get it in there between the defender and the ball - usually he catches it."

The team seems unlikely to release D.J. Hackett, a second-year pro who spent much of last season on injured reserve. Hackett was raw coming out of Colorado, but he has shown signs of becoming the deep threat Seattle thought it had in Robinson. Hackett has too much upside to release, it would seem.

"He has had a great camp," Holmgren said. "He has caught the ball very well and he is a legitimate deep threat. He gives us something there that we need."

If Jurevicius and Hackett earn roster spots alongside Jackson, Engram and Bannister, there's a chance only one spot could remain for either Jerome Pathon or Jerheme Urban. Pathon would be the safe choice given his experience as a receiver and kick returner. Urban has enjoyed a mostly solid camp, however, and he earned a roster spot in 2004. "Don't write anything on the numbers yet," Holmgren cautioned, "because it will probably change."

There is some overlap with Jurevicius and Engram. Though vastly different in physical stature -- Jurevicius is seven inches taller at 6-5 -- both are adept at working the short stuff underneath. If Engram starts, Jurevicius could fill the prominent third-down role Engram has played in recent seasons. It's too early to say exactly how those duties might be delineated, however.

"We are still working through how we are going to use them," Holmgren said. "I think it is clear that Bobby has been very productive for us. We know what he can do in our offense and he is going to continue to do those things. "Now, it is our job to take advantage of their skills if they are on the field at the same time. That is the main thing. That will take some thought. They are both different looking athletes. But they are both very good at kind of the same stuff."

VETERAN JOSH BROWN STANDS 6 feet and weighs 202 pounds, not bad for a kicker. But he won't be mistaken for a linebacker, even though he'd like to hammer a return man someday. "I love playing football," Brown said. "Any chance I get in there without getting my head pushed back into my shoulders, I'm probably going to do it - to the dissatisfaction of coach (Mike) Holmgren, for sure. I love to play the game. My head's on a swivel, but yeah, we do get excited (as kickers)."

HOLMGREN LIKES TO LIVEN up training camp by having linemen try to field punts. With his teammates watching, free-agent OL Andy King secured an extra hour of curfew for the team by making a diving grab of a boot from P Leo Araguz. "We have fun with that," Holmgren said.

HOLMGREN SAID HE EXPECTS rookie C Chris Spencer to have multiple Pro Bowls in his future. "He has great mobility and strength for a guy playing that position," Holmgren said. "You talk to people that know offensive linemen around the league and it is pretty unanimous on his potential."

THE SEAHAWKS EXERCISED ADDITION by subtraction when they shipped CB Kris Richard to the Dolphins for DE Ronald Flemons.

Richard never became the player Seattle envisioned when the team invested a third-round draft choice in 2002. Injuries were part of the problem, but there was also a sense that Richard wasn't aggressive enough.

Flemons probably won't make the team, so it's not as though the trade netted much in return. This was just a chance to move on.

"Kris was on the bubble for us and (Miami) had inquired about him several times," Seahawks president Tim Ruskell said. "We always want to keep looking at the defensive linemen and bring them in to see who can be a fit."

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR RAY RHODES thinks the defensive leadership could be improved this season. "I like the leadership up front with Grant Wistrom (injured last season) and now Chartric Darby coming in from Tampa," Rhodes said. "He is a leader. He is a guy that is not going to do a lot of talking, but it's by example. And if somebody is going to talk negative around him, he's going to make them shut up."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He is a typical Cinderella story, if you will. He is a guy who comes in and knows he doesn't have the size of like a Marcus Tubbs or the speed and strength of Rocky Bernard and some of the higher draft picks. But he has his nose in the (play)book and is never going to make a mental error. And from the time he steps onto the field, he gives it all he's got, every play. That's how he has hung around." -- Pro Bowl LG Steve Hutchinson, on second-year DT Craig Terrill.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Jerheme Urban vs. Jerome Pathon for a spot among the WR corps -- Urban has been better in camp, but Pathon might be more valuable because he returns kicks, too. Urban can't afford many missteps after dropping a pass in the end zone during the team's recent scrimmage. Pathon caught a 30-yard TD pass in the same scrimmage.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: DE Bryce Fisher has overtaken DE Antonio Cochran as the starter on the left side. Cochran needs to play extremely well in exhibition games to win back the job... QB Gibran Hamdan had made a run at the No. 3 job, but rookie David Greene has the edge as a third-round draft choice... P Leo Araguz has been more consistent than P Chris Kluwe, but Kluwe has the stronger leg.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: LB Leroy Hill. The rookie has gotten additional playing time because of injuries, and he has not disappointed. The third-round pick has enough speed and play-making ability to become part of the rotation at linebacker this season.

ROOKIE REPORT: C Chris Spencer has gotten limited reps with the first unit, but veteran C Robbie Tobeck will be the starter this season. MLB Lofa Tatupu is resting a hamstring injury. DE Jeb Huckeba has a shot at earning a roster spot as a fifth-round pick.

INJURY REPORT: FS Ken Hamlin has started practicing a bit for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery. LB Jamie Sharper (knee) is getting some rest as a precaution. RB Jesse Lumsden (hip) could return in two weeks. RB Shaun Alexander and RB Maurice Morris are resting sore hamstrings. Neither situation is serious. MLB Lofa Tatupu (hamstring) and LB D.D. Lewis (concussion) have been held out recently. DT Rashad Moore (shoulder), WR Marque Davis (hamstring), P Ryan Dutton (shin), CB Kevin House (forearm), OL Jerry Wunsch (ankle), WR Alex Bannister (collarbone), DT Cedric Woodard (knee) and DT Ron Smith (calf) remain sidelined.

Niners Digest Top Stories