NFC West: Preseason Roundup
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
--The 49ers were curious to see how David Baas, who last played center in college, would fare in relief of injured Eric Heitmann (broken leg).
Baas ended up being the star of the offensive line last week against the Colts, getting a good push on inside runs and snapping the ball cleanly.
"There was a lot of comfort in that," Mike Singletary said.
--Trading Kentwan Balmer in the division was perhaps the loudest statement the 49ers made that they didn't think much about their former first-round draft pick.
--Alex Smith finished the Colts game with a lousy 7.4 passer rating, but offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye warned it would be silly to read too much into that number.
"I think it would be asinine to judge the quarterback in the exhibition season based on the variety of people that he plays with and the changes that are in and out of the game-plan situation," Raye said. "To make a judgment on the statistical analysis of what the quarterback does, for me in the preseason, would not be wholesome at all."
--Wide receiver Dominique Zeigler appears to be winning the battle to win the fifth and perhaps final WR spot.
"It seems that every time he goes in, he knows what he's doing," Alex Smith said. "He doesn't let the game get too big. He just goes in there. He's a guy in the huddle who I think everyone has confidence in when he steps in."
--Offensive tackle Russell Okung, drafted No. 6 overall and paid a maximum $58 million contract to be the team's left tackle of the future after Walter Jones retired, injured his right ankle on the first series of the game against Green Bay.
He went to the locker room to be evaluated by team trainers and did not return to the field.
Okung reported to camp eight days late and was dinged up in Seattle's first exhibition game against Tennessee. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said X-rays on Okung's ankle came back negative and he is likely to miss 2-4 weeks.
The Seahawks dealt with rash of injuries along the offensive line last season, cycling through four offensive tackles and starting six different offensive line combinations as they attempted to replace Jones. So Carroll understands the importance of getting Okung back in a timely manner.
"It's pretty significant," Carroll said about the Okung injury. "We made it as big of a priority as we can make it in getting him. We'll have to see how it goes. (Mansifeld) Wrotto played the whole game just about. We'll see how we did and all. That's a big loss if he can't come back. We put a lot of time and effort in getting this guy right. He's done everything we can ask of him, and we'll see how it is and how long it's going to take."
--Rookie safety Earl Thomas continued to struggle in making the jump to the NFL. In Green Bay's first drive of the game, Thomas bit hard on quarterback Aaron Rodgers' play-action fake and was beaten over the top of the defense by receiver Greg Jennings for a 56-yard gain.
"He thought he had the play made, but the ball was amazingly thrown," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. "And he made a great catch as well. He was there. We could have played it better. There should have been two guys on it."
On Green Bay's second drive of the game, Thomas and veteran Lawyer Milloy appeared to get crossed up, with both players covering the middle of the defense, leaving tight end Jermichael Finley wide open in the end zone for a 12-yard score.
Carroll took blame for the miscommunication on the field, saying the coaches didn't get the call in on time on the headphones.
--Running back Leon Washington got his first playing time since suffering a scary, compound fracture that ended his 2009 season. He played the second quarter against Green Bay, carrying four times for 19 yards, including an 11-yard scamper for a score.
Washington said he never doubted he would make it back to the field.
"Not one bit," Washington said. "Because first of all I have the ultimate faith, and second of all I have faith in my preparation. How hard I work in practice, coming out to the game if you take care of business in that aspect it becomes easier in the game."
--The Seahawks confirmed this week that they were granted permission by the San Diego Chargers to enter into preliminary contract talks with San Diego restricted free agent receiver Vincent Jackson, but it appears nothing is imminent in terms of the two sides reaching a deal.
It's not known if Sunday's transaction -- the Seahawks signed Brandon Jones -- impacts their interest.
There's no word yet on what type of compensation the Seahawks would have to provide to the Chargers in return for Jackson's services. But bringing Jackson into the fold would give Seattle the big, explosive receiver they were looking for when they went after Brandon Marshall in free agency.
San Diego appears committed to trading Jackson, who is believed to be seeking a long-term contract worth more than $9 million per season, because the team expects that he will not report at all this season.
The Broncos received a pair of second-round picks as compensation when they dealt Marshall to Miami.
Jackson reportedly wants a contract that will pay him more than the four-year deal with $24 million guaranteed that Marshall got from the Miami Dolphins in March.
Jackson certainly looks the part of a big-time playmaker. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds the 27-year-old would be the down-the-field threat Seattle is looking for. Jackson has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in receiving and scored 16 touchdowns over that period.
Jackson also has to serve a three-game suspension to start the season for violating the league's policy on substance abuse.
--Seattle Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill's domestic charge case will be dismissed if he complies with stipulations handed down by the Issaquah Municipal Court for the next 18 months.
Hill entered into a stipulated order of continuance during a hearing recently. That action avoids a trial slated for later this month on a misdemeanor count of fourth degree assault/domestic violence regarding an April arrest at his Hill's home in Issaquah involving his live-in girlfriend at the time.
According to the agreement, Hill must complete a one-year state-certified domestic violence treatment program, 26 weeks of weekly therapy and counseling, followed by monthly sessions for six months. Hill also has to do 25 hours of community service.
Further, Hill must have no other criminal law violations and possess no weapons during the period.
The only contact Hill is allowed with his alleged victim is on the telephone, pending his progress in the domestic violence treatment program and a judge's review of the limited-contact order.
Hill already received a game suspension without pay, along with missing an additional game check for violating the league's substance abuse police.
Hill was arrested in January of last year in Georgia on misdemeanor marijuana possession, receiving 12 months probation through a plea agreement. A league spokesman said Hill's latest court issue will be reviewed under the league's personal conduct policy, so he could receive additional punishment by the league.
Hill is currently out with a sprained knee that head coach Pete Carroll said is expected to keep him out a few weeks.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
--The NFL is holding a special meeting Wednesday in Atlanta, and all indications are that minority owner Stan Kroenke will be approved as the team's majority owner.
In April, Kroenke exercised a right of first refusal on the 60 percent of the team owned by Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez. Kroenke already owns 40 percent of the franchise.
The league appears poised to allow Kroenke to become the majority owner while he still owns the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. His specific intentions aren't known yet, but Kroenke reportedly plans to "sell" those teams to his wife and son.
It is also believed that for now, Kroenke will buy half of the 60 percent owned by Rosenbloom and Rodriguez and purchase the remaining half at a later date.
Meanwhile, rumors have surfaced that former Rams coach Dick Vermeil will join the organization in either a consultant's role or a larger position once Kroenke is in control.
Vermeil recently claimed he hadn't been approached by Kroenke, but said if it happened he'd listen.
"Oh yeah, I'd listen," Vermeil said. "There's nobody in the United States more prepared to be an owner as Stan Kroenke. It'd be a crime for him not to end up with this football team."
As for Kroenke's wealth, Vermeil said, "(That's) a plus. But he would spend it wisely. And the other thing is -- I've said this many times -- he's made enough money to be any kind of man he wants to be. And he's selected just to be a great human being. He really is. I feel strongly about him."
--QB Sam Bradford completed just 6 of 14 passes for 24 yards against Cleveland. Coach Steve Spagnuolo called Bradford's performance "a little but up and down."
Bradford was victimized by a couple drops, and the wet ball didn't help matters.
He said, "Obviously, I would have liked to have a few more completions out there tonight. I felt like I struggled a little bit early, but once I settled down I made some smart decisions. I feel like, for the most part, I was in the right place with the ball tonight."
--After allowing six sacks the week before, there were none against Cleveland.
"Pass protection was great tonight," Bradford said. "I think I only got hit one time and they actually brought a blitz we couldn't pick up at that time. Other than that, our offensive line played great tonight."
With OG Jacob Bell back, the Rams played the unit that will start the season as long as they stay healthy. From left to right, that's LT Rodger Saffold, Bell, C Jason Brown, RG Adam Goldberg and RT Jason Smith.
"It's good to have that group playing together," Spagnuolo said. "They are getting used to each other."
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