Behind Enemy Lines – Camps take a toll

Only one full week into training camp and attrition has reared its ugly head as several key players within the NFC West have gone down with injuries that could cost them significant time.

Arizona – Bad news came when fourth-year RB Marcel Shipp suffered a broken and dislocated left ankle during a scrimmage on Saturday.

"It will be 8 weeks to maybe 12 weeks," said head coach Dennis Green. "We think maybe he's going to need some pins in there too. We were hoping that wouldn't be the case but it looks like it will be."

While veteran RB Emmitt Smith had been named the starter heading into camp, most insiders expected Shipp to see a significant amount of time during games.

"Even when I was named starter, I said the kid is like a brother to me," lamented Smith. "Watching him go down was like watching my little brother go down. He took a bad spill and it doesn't look good right now. I'm praying for him like everyone else is on this team. No one wants to see a comrade go down. It is tough."

In a bit of "good" injury news, CB Duane Starks and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch both are making strides in their returns to from knee injuries that ended their seasons almost a year ago.

Both were held out of a scrimmage on Friday and Saturday's "Mock Game" as precautionary measure, but neither has any concerns heading into the preseason schedule.

"I don't have any hesitancy," said Starks. "I don't think about my knee when I'm in there. Afterwards I'll think about it maybe, but not during."

"It swells so I have to keep icing it or wrapping it but that is part of the deal," said Vanden Bosch. "My knee feels good. It seems like the more I practice the better my knee feels and that is what I needed. I needed to test it with pads on."

First Preseason Game: @ Minnesota on August 14th

San Francisco – It goes without saying that being a rookie in the NFL is tough on the mind as well as the body.

Rookie CB Shawntae Spencer is finding out in a trial by fire in a 49er secondary that has some playmakers, but will be challenged more this season as new defensive coordinator Willie Robinson's new 3-4 scheme.

Spencer will battle third-year CB Mike Rumph for the spot opposite veteran CB Ahmed Plummer and so far he has made a name for himself according to head coach Dennis Erickson.

"Spencer's been quite a surprise for us," Erickson said after practice. "If you look at all the guys we've drafted so far, as far as where we are at right now, he's jumped out. He's got great athletic ability. He changes direction and he's a good cover guy. It's going to be a battle."

Making the transition easier for Spencer are the presence of three former University of Pittsburgh teammates – RB Kevan Barlow, P Andy Lee and Khiawatha Downey – who are all on the roster as well.

"It's comforting," Spencer said. "It's good to be somewhere where you know somebody. When you're down you've got someone to talk to now. I've known Kevan for a while so it's good that he's around."

Even if Spencer loses the battle for the starting spot, he is likely to see lots of time as the nickel corner.

The Niners on Friday signed free agent DT Riddick Parker who is a noted run-stuffer. Parker is a seven-year veteran who has had stints with Seattle, New England and Baltimore. Last season, with Baltimore, he recorded eight tackles in six games. Parker's presence helps solidify the inside spot along the line and his abilities as a NT will allow the 49ers some flexibility when they go with either a 4-3 scheme or a 3-4 alignment.

Injury news came fast and furious last week as TE Eric Johnson and rookie S Keith Lewis injured their hands during workouts. Johnson missed three practices, but returned later in the week to take his place with the first unit.

Lewis broke a bone in his right hand but did not miss any time after having a cast placed on the appendage.

First Preseason Game: vs. Oakland on August 14th

St. Louis – The Rams are crossing their fingers that RT Kyle Turley's trick back stops acting up and allows the veteran to return to their lineup.

Turley flew to California at the beginning of the week and sought out second opinions on the back that was surgically repaired over the offseason and is now acting up after he tweaked it on August 1st.

"Obviously we're all disappointed that his back is still a problem," head coach Mike Martz said. "Until we get all the facts in medically there's really no sense in talking about 'what if' or any of those things."

Turley is worried the condition may be career-threatening.

More bad news came down on Thursday when 2003 first-round selection DT Jimmy Kennedy broke a foot in a non-contact pass-rushing drill during the Rams' practice with the Chicago Bears.

Kennedy is expected to miss three or four months after his surgery this week, thus effectively ending his season.

"He had improved over last year, but he was still a ways away from where we hoped he was going to end up," said defensive line coach Bill Kollar. "On the play he got hurt on, it was a pass rush, was probably the best move he had made since he'd been here. He came in clean and went right by the guy and planted on the foot and ended up breaking it. It's obviously a real unfortunate situation, but hopefully he'll stay in shape and come back and help us out next year."

The likely starters at defensive tackle will be Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett. Kollar mentioned that rookie DT Brian Howard out of Idaho had really stood out in workouts and that the acquisition of Bernard Holsey, who has been unable to practice, will help solidify the position.

First Preseason Game: vs. Chicago on August 12th

.NET Reporter Scott Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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