The Seahawks' ability to succeed with a pair of 35-year-olds on the offensive line has a lot to do with continuity that has built up in recent seasons. Center Robbie Tobeck and right guard Chris Gray won't show up on anybody's Pro Bowl team, but they have been good enough for the offense to lead the league in total yardage.
"The whole offensive line is a product of them staying together," coach Mike Holmgren said Thursday. "I think that's a big deal."
Four of the five starters have been together since 2001. Right tackle Sean Locklear has been a nice addition this season. Tobeck and Gray are both 35. Left tackle Walter Jones and left guard Steve Hutchinson are perennial Pro Bowl choices.
"You can play maybe with a little bit older lineman and maybe not the biggest lineman, but if he's smart and the guy next to him trusts him and they know each other, that makes a big difference," Holmgren said.
Gray will make his 100th consecutive regular-season start Sunday. That ties the franchise record, set by defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy. "Chris' value, aside from being a solid starter at guard, is he can play center," Holmgren said. "He has played center, and he has played it pretty well."
--WR Darrell Jackson has rejoined the team after visiting his orthopedist in Florida earlier in the week. Coach Mike Holmgren was expected to address Jackson's rehab after practice Friday. Jackson will not play this week, but there's a chance he could be ready for the Nov. 27 game against the Giants. Seattle is 5-0 without Jackson, who is recovering from surgery on his right knee.
--LB Jamie Sharper is out indefinitely with a staph infection in his right knee.
--DT Marcus Tubbs missed practice again Thursday. He was expected to test his injured calf Friday. He remained questionable on the injury report.
--LB D.D. Lewis was added to the injury report Thursday after missing practice to rest a sore knee. He is probable.
--DT Chuck Darby was added to the injury report late Wednesday after missing practice. He returned to practice Thursday. Darby is probable with a sore knee.
Receiver Anquan Boldin expects to play Sunday in St. Louis after missing the past two games with a right knee bruise. Boldin practiced without any pain or swelling Thursday. His return is obviously a huge boost for the Cardinals, who last week started rookie LeRon McCoy, a seventh-round draft pick from Indiana (Pa.) University.
McCoy played well, catching six passes for 70 yards. He'll likely play a big part in the offense Sunday as the No. 3 receiver, playing in place of Bryant Johnson, who is out with a sprained shoulder. But McCoy is no replacement for Boldin, one of the league's better receivers when he's healthy. Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald could give the Rams' secondary some problems.
The Cardinals don't waste much time trying to develop a run game. They usually get away from it early and let Kurt Warner start winging the ball. That's because the offensive line can't open holes, but it does do a decent job of protecting the quarterback.
--RB Marcel Shipp will start again despite gaining just 3 yards on four carries last week in Detroit. Shipp's father had passed away the previous Sunday, and he had attended the funeral the previous Friday.
--K Neil Rackers has made 28 straight field goals, a team record, this year, but not all them have been chip shots. Over the past two years, Rackers has made 10 of 14 attempts from 50 yards or more.
--QB Kurt Warner will start his third straight game, and he could pass for more than 300 yards for the third straight week. He played well last week in Detroit, but again had trouble getting the Cardinals into the end zone.
--G Alex Stepanovich will switch from the right side the left, replacing Reggie Wells, who is out for the year with a fractured and dislocated ankle.
--G Jeremy Bridges will start at right guard after being signed Tuesday for the third time this season. Bridges likely will lose the job when rookie Elton Brown returns from a knee injury in a few weeks.
--C Nick Leckey will get his third straight start. He's played fairly well but he has had trouble handling large, physical tackles.
--DE Antonio Smith, a fifth-round pick in 2004, probably will start his first NFL game Sunday, replacing Bertrand Berry. Veteran R-Kal Truluck, signed this week, is likely to play in passing situations.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
Few thought it possible, but the return of quarterback Kurt Warner to St. Louis for this week's game against Arizona has been overshadowed by more issues surrounding the team.
First came an anonymous quote from "a disgusted veteran" in Sports Illustrated that criticized the team's three defensive tackles. Next was an altercation in practice Wednesday between offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery.
The Sports Illustrated story was essentially a compilation of what has affected the team off the field, from front-office dysfunction to the health problems of coach Mike Martz, which resulted in him not coaching since Oct. 9. However, the story began with a statement from a player that was said immediately after Sunday's loss to Seattle.
The quote: "We have three (former) No. 1 picks at tackle, and those guys are killing us. They're not playing hard, and they can't stop anybody. It's horrible."
That was a reference to Damione Lewis, Jimmy Kennedy and Ryan Pickett.
Said defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson, who is also the team's defensive captain, "That is not a fair assessment, in my opinion. Opinions, everybody has one, you know the whole story, and people say whatever they want to say, but that is not what usually comes out of this locker room. So it's a little surprising. I'm not surprised that we don't have a name attached to it. If there's not a name attached to it, it really doesn't carry a whole lot of weight with me."
Jackson took the most exception with lumping Pickett in that group.
"Ryan Pickett is one of the best defensive tackles, nose tackles, in the league," Jackson said. "People don't really understand that. Ask his opponents. Watch the film. If you guys want to find out how good someone is playing, just watch the film. Don't take my word for it, words mean nothing. The film doesn't lie." Asked about the play of his defensive tackles, interim coach Joe Vitt said, "I thought our defensive tackles have played pretty well this year, I think we're getting pretty good inside pressure. I think we could have been better last game. But there's a lot a guys that could have done a lot better last game."
As for the story, Vitt said, "I haven't read any Sports Illustrated. I haven't read our own papers. I haven't read any Sports Illustrated. I have no comment on it. I haven't read it.
"I don't know who the anonymous player was. And I will tell you this: I'm here to answer football questions -- not tabloid questions -- and talk about the Cardinals."
Asked whether it was newsworthy that a player points a finger at teammates, Vitt said, "Not until I get further information on it. No, I don't think it's newsworthy. Any other questions?" The incident between Fairchild and Montgomery occurred when Montgomery first objected to Fairchild giving input to one of the team's running backs. It then escalated into a discussion about the team's offensive philosophy, and Montgomery's belief the Rams don't run enough. Montgomery then made contact with Fairchild's face with what has been described as a "push-slap."
Vitt again elected not to address the incident, which no one in the media saw. He said, "I won't talk about hearsay."
--DE Tyoka Jackson suffered a back injury in practice Wednesday and did not practice Thursday. He was added to the injury report as questionable. "We just have to wait and see (Friday)," interim coach Joe Vitt said.
--G Adam Timmerman attended practice Thursday but did not participate because of soreness in his back. Timmerman will not start Sunday, but will be available in an emergency.
--WR Isaac Bruce said he came out of last week's game feeling good and hopes to do more this week against Arizona. Bruce played against Seattle after missing five games because of a toe injury.
--CB Ronald Bartell might get his first start in place of Travis Fisher (groin) this week. Bartell, Chris Johnson and Corey Ivy are all candidates to start.
--RB Marshall Faulk hasn't practiced this week because of soreness in his knee, but he is expected to play against Arizona.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
San Francisco safety Tony Parrish started every game of his 7 1/2-year NFL career before sustaining a broken leg last week. With Parrish out for the season, the 49ers have turned to a player who has yet to start an NFL game at his new position. Rookie Ben Emanuel, a fifth-round pick of the Panthers, was cut twice before he wound up with the 49ers before the Oct. 23 game against Washington.
He started one game at outside linebacker in the team's nickel defense, but now he is being called upon to replace the most experienced player in the 49ers secondary. Emanuel is scheduled to get the start Sunday against the Seahawks at Monster Park. "It poses some challenges," 49ers defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. "There is no good time to lose a guy like Tony. Offenses in the NFL are all geared to put a lot of points on the board, and a lot of it is through the air."
Parrish started 121 games prior to his injury. The starting secondary in Sunday's game has a combined 32 games started in the NFL, led by cornerback Shawntae Spencer's 21 games.
Bruce Thornton, whom the 49ers claimed after the Cowboys released him, will start his sixth game at left cornerback. Thornton got his big opportunity after Ahmed Plummer had arthroscopic surgery on his ankle to remove bone chips in late September. Plummer has missed six games and shows no signs of being a factor for the 49ers the remainder of the season.
The other starter in the secondary is Mike Adams, who has six starts this season at free safety after the club initially tried him at the nickel back spot. He was slated to take over for Mike Rumph, who started the first three games at that spot. Rumph was going to move back to cornerback but sustained a season-ending foot injury in practice that week.
Davis said the players who will start Sunday's game have a chance to contribute for the 49ers for a long time if they continue to show the kind of improvement he envisions. "Yes, you do get that feeling," Davis said. "But you have to see consistency over a long period of time. We're still in the early stages of teaching and evaluating this group."
--CB Ahmed Plummer was ruled out of Sunday's game against the Seahawks after deciding to go to a doctor for another opinion on his left ankle. Plummer has missed six games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his ankle. Plummer was not on the injury report this week.
--QB Ken Dorsey was credited with a win in his only start of the season, a 15-10 victory over the Buccaneers on Oct. 30. Dorsey is actually the highest-rated quarterback on the 49ers roster with a 47.0 passer rating.
--FB Fred Beasley probably will not be able to play Sunday because of a neck stinger he sustained in Sunday's game against the Bears. Beasley has started every game this season. He has been used almost exclusively as a blocker. He has not carried the ball and he has just two catches for 12 yards.
--TE Billy Bajema, who has started five games as a rookie and has shown steady improvement in the run game as a blocker, is questionable with a right shoulder sprain.
--WR Arnaz Battle, who underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee early this week, did not practice Thursday. His availability for Sunday's game likely will be a game-time decision.
--LT Adam Snyder takes over as a starter for veteran Anthony Clement, who started the last six games in place of injured Jonas Jennings. Snyder got his first NFL start last week at right guard against the Bears.