NFC West News & Notes - 11/11/05

The Rams welcome back their defensive linchpin, the Niners learn more about attrition, Arizona extends their scoring machine, and the Seahawks respond to player complaints in a positive fashion in today's NFC West News & Notes.


Score a victory for the Seahawks' players after management reversed the release of WR Jerheme Urban on Thursday. The team then placed Urban on injured reserve, thereby reinstating his salary.

The moves were made after players became angry about how the team handled Urban's situation.

Urban is a popular player in the Seattle locker room. He beat the odds by making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He beat the odds again by earning playing time in recent seasons.

Urban made critical catches during a 13-10 victory over Dallas last month. He added a 46-yard catch Sunday in Arizona. Urban reinjured his left foot against the Cardinals, however, and the Seahawks released him Tuesday by invoking an injury waiver.

Urban missed the end of last season with a stress fracture in the same foot. He signed the waiver so that Seattle would not be liable should Urban re-injure the same foot. The latest injury did involve the same bone in the same foot. The team then released Urban, apparently because the organization feared setting a bad precedent by tearing up the injury waiver.

But when players revolted, management reversed course. "I think it was good for all parties involved," fullback Mack Strong said.

Urban will now be paid about $70,000, which represents the "split" value of his $305,000 contract. He could miss several months after undergoing surgery to repair the foot.


--SS Michael Boulware (hamstring) returned to practice. He remains questionable.

--LB D.D. Lewis missed practice Thursday with a sore knee. He remains questionable but Seattle expects him to play Sunday.

--S John Howell missed practice Thursday with a sore neck. The team put him on the injury report as probable.

--DT Marcus Tubbs missed practice Thursday with a calf injury. He remained questionable.

--LT Wayne Hunter missed practice Thursday with a hamstring injury. He remained questionable.


The health of the team suffered another blow in Thursday's practice when receiver Bryant Johnson suffered a sprained shoulder while trying to catch a pass.
Johnson was elevated to the No. 2 receiver slot last week because of Anquan Boldin's bruised knee. Johnson is listed as questionable for Sunday's game in Detroit, and if he can't play, the Cardinals are in big trouble.

Not that Johnson has proven himself worth of being a first-round pick, which he was in 2003. But without him, the team has one experienced receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, who is only in his second year. Moving up to take Johnson's spot would be Reggie Newhouse, who was signed last week after being cut at the end of training camp, or LeRon McCoy, a seventh-round pick this year.

Most likely it would be Newhouse, who is much more polished than McCoy. Newhouse doesn't have great speed, but he won't make many mistakes and he has decent hands. McCoy is the fastest player on the team but he drops too many passes.

It's also possible that Johnson could play Sunday.

Boldin is out at least another week. He'll have an MRI Monday to see how the injury has healed. If doctors are satisfied, he could play the following week in St. Louis.


--RB Marcel Shipp has gone 26 games without scoring, a streak that dates to 2003. He's touched the ball from scrimmage 421 times in that span. It's not all Shipp's fault. The offensive line hasn't played well, and he's rarely had room to run.

--K Neil Rackers has made 26 straight field goals, a team record, this year, so it's no wonder the team was eager to re-sign him. Rackers signed a four-year contract extension Monday that will pay him an additional $6.75 million. He received $2.25 million in guaranteed money and he'll make a salary of $1.8 million in 2006.

--QB Kurt Warner will start his second straight game, and his fifth overall for the Cardinals, Sunday in Detroit. Warner was intercepted three times last week in his first start after missing four games with a torn groin. He made some decent throws, too, but he'll be hindered by injuries at receiver.

--DE Bertrand Berry will miss at least five weeks, and likely the rest of the season, after suffering a torn pectoral muscle last week. He won't need surgery and he hopes to make a quick recovery. The team isn't putting him on injured reserve, just in case Berry is a fast healer.

--DE Antonio Smith, a fifth-round draft pick in 2004, probably will start his first NFL game Sunday, replacing Berry. It's a huge drop-off in talent, and veteran K-Ral Truluck, signed this week, is likely to play in passing situations.


While most of the talk around the Rams this week concerns the return of key players on offense, there has also been a huge lift for the defense. Defensive end Leonard Little, who missed two games after the murder of his brother Oct. 17, returned to St. Louis from Tennessee during the bye week and has been back on the practice field this week.

"It's been great to see him back," linebacker Trev Faulk said. "It's been kind of quiet next to me, because our lockers are right next to each other. So, it's definitely been different, because we're always going at each other about something.

"He got a chance to get away and spend a lot of time with his family and go through the whole grieving and mourning process. I'm sure it's not something that you just wake up one morning and are OK with. It will still be a gradual process, but it's good for him to be back with us."

Little leads the team with four sacks, and practiced with enthusiasm. Asked how important it is to have Little back, interim coach Joe Vitt said, "What do you think? The guy's a playmaker. He presents problems for anybody's pass protection. They have to account for him every time. He's great in pursuing the run. So it's huge."

Said safety Mike Furrey, about having Little back, "I think emotionally it will be great. I think having him back and knowing he's back there to help us on the pass rush and help get back the depth at the defensive line is going to be great for us. We're glad to have him back. It was unfortunate what happened to him, and we're supporting him, but from a standpoint of him being back, we're very happy to have him back."

While away, during his difficult time, Little lost some weight, but most has been put back.

"He's just down a few pounds," defensive line coach Bill Kollar said. "We thought initially that he had dropped more (weight) than he did. He's really only down a few pounds; not too bad at all."


--TE Jeff Robinson was officially off the roster Thursday, after he filed a letter with the league and was placed on the reserve/retired list. Robinson was disappointed with his role in the offense.

--TE Darius Williams, an undrafted free agent with the Giants during training camp who was released Sept. 4, was signed Thursday. Williams, 6-6, 270, is considered a good blocker who has to work on his receiving.

--LG Tom Nutten missed practice Thursday after waking up with a stinger in his neck and was being evaluated. If Nutten can't play Sunday, rookie Claude Terrell would be his replacement.

--QB Marc Bulger looked sharp Thursday and threw the deep ball well. "He had good zip, and read coverages well," interim coach Joe Vitt said.

--WR Torry Holt ran better Thursday than he did Wednesday, according to interim coach Joe Vitt, who is pleased with Holt's progress.

--WR Isaac Bruce is getting closer to playing, and ran better in practice Thursday than he did Wednesday. Bruce hasn't played since Sept. 25 because of a toe injury.


Center Jeremy Newberry, the 49ers' only offensive player with a Pro Bowl on his resume, probably will not play in Sunday's game against the Bears. Newberry has been hobbled by a chronic problem with his right knee. Newberry has no cartilage in his knee, causing a painful bone-on-bone grind. He has required painkilling injections to play in games. But the last three weeks the pain had gotten so significant that Newberry has had the option of sitting out a game in order to heal. "It's getting to the point where I need some time to rest," Newberry said.

If Newberry takes a week to rest, it will give an opportunity to some of the 49ers' younger players to get on the field. Second-round draft pick David Baas and third-round pick Adam Snyder have yet to see significant playing time as rookies.

If Newberry sits, guard Eric Heitmann could see time at center, too. Baas could see time at center, and Snyder would also rotate in at guard.

"I think they're all getting better," Newberry said of the young offensive linemen. "I think Eric would be fine at center. In one-on-one drills and pass protection, they're definitely making strides. They need to play. They need to get out and see more game time. That's the best way to become a better player."

The 49ers' offensive line has been one of the club's many problem areas. Left tackle Jonas Jennings is out for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right labrum. Anthony Clement will start his sixth consecutive game at left tackle. The 49ers have also started to give Snyder work at left tackle, where he played one series last week against the Giants in place of Clement.


--CB Ahmed Plummer did not practice Thursday and will not start Sunday's game against the Bears. In fact, it appears as if he has lost his job to second-year player Bruce Thornton. Plummer might have to start playing special teams if he does not regain his starting job.

--WR Brandon Lloyd was removed from the injury report on Thursday. Wednesday, he was listed as questionable because of a stomachache. He returned to practice on Thursday.

--RB Kevan Barlow, who missed Wednesday's practice with a left quadriceps bruise, returned to practice and is no longer on the injury report.

--WR Rasheed Marshall returned to practice with a thigh bruise, but is still listed as questionable. The team has not decided whether Marshall or Otis Amey will return punts on Sunday against the Bears. Top Stories