NFC West News & Notes - 2/19/06

News, notes and quotes from around the NFC West.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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Seahawks president Tim Ruskell has taken a hard line against players with off-field problems. He flushed out wide receiver Koren Robinson and right tackle Chris Terry shortly after coming to Seattle a year ago. His moves left Seattle with a healthier locker-room atmosphere and fewer distractions.

Ruskell could have some interesting decisions along those same lines as he enters his first full off-season with the team.

Right tackle Sean Locklear faces a March court date on a domestic violence charge. Locklear emerged as more than just a promising prospect last season. He locked down the right side after the team lost RT Floyd Womack to injury. Seattle went all the way to the Super Bowl with Locklear playing a key role on one of the NFL's best lines.

The team allowed Locklear to keep playing after his January arrest. Coach Mike Holmgren said the organization would address the situation after the case was resolved. It's unlikely the Seahawks would sever ties with a young, productive player without a prior criminal history. But Locklear's situation will be worth monitoring for those interested in seeing how tight a ship Ruskell plans to run.

The case of return specialist Josh Scobey could be more clear-cut. He pleaded guilty this week to driving while "impaired by the slightest degree" in an Arizona case from June 2005, when he was still playing for the Cardinals.

Scobey emerged last season as an outstanding coverage player on the special-teams units. He was also reasonably effective as a kick returner. But unlike Locklear, Scobey isn't a front-line player with a long future at a key position. His future with the team appears more tenuous as a result, although Scobey has proven to be a hard worker and a positive influence in the locker room.

"I'm not trying to act like I'm an angel, but that's not me," Scobey told the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. "It's not a reflection of my character. I carry a swagger on the field, but when I'm off the field, you wouldn't even know I played ball."

Ruskell will be the judge.

PLAYER NOTES

--Defensive end Bryce Fisher is a Seattle-area native who felt a bond develop between the Seahawks and Northwest fans. He was impressed when more than 15,000 fans greeted the team at Qwest Field one day after Seattle lost to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL.

"The thing that really stuck with me was when we got back, how many people were still out there cheering for us," defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "And how much this game, this team affected this city. That's something special and I really want to get a chance to finish it off right. Those people that were out there after the loss, we really got to get it done for them."

--Cornerback Marcus Trufant returned from the Super Bowl to a life filled with sleepless nights and dirty diapers. He became a father for the first time just as Seattle was getting ready to leave for Detroit.

"I am a new dad so I am going to be up in the late hours changing diapers and all that kind of fun stuff," Trufant said. "I am just going to kick back and try and enjoy it. I am not going to do a whole lot too fast. Just try to relax."

Trufant played along when asked whether changing diapers was tougher than covering Panthers WR Steve Smith. "I would have to say changing diapers is pretty difficult," he joked. "There is a lot of screaming, kicking and fighting. It is rough."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER:
None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--RB Shaun Alexander has not come close to reaching a long-term agreement with Seattle. At this point he appears destined to hit the unrestricted market.
--DL Rodney Bailey was a valuable role player as the season progressed. He's the type of high-effort guy the Seahawks like.
--LB Kevin Bentley started a few games but wasn't a consistent playmaker. He remains a minimum-type player.
--DT Rocky Bernard has a chance to make big money in free agency. He might be wise to test the market. Seattle would have to think long and hard before committing huge money to a player who put together one solid season.
--TE Ryan Hannam is a nice compliment to TE Jerramy Stevens. Hannam blocks exceptionally well and catches the ball despite lacking range. A history of knee injuries makes him a bit of a risk.
--FS John Howell finished the season on injured reserve. He is more of a special-teams player than an every-down defensive back.
--LG Steve Hutchinson is expected to be franchised if the Seahawks can't reach a long-term deal with him. Most teams don't want to pay huge money to guards but Hutchinson is a special player.
--WR Joe Jurevicius will get a big salary bump after catching 10 TD passes last season. The Seahawks will make an effort to keep him.
--FS Marquand Manuel had a great season for a guy who came to Seattle off waivers from Cincinnati before the 2004 season. He fits into the Seahawks' plans but probably won't command big money.
--RB Maurice Morris will have some options in free agency. Seattle might be wise to re-sign him if Alexander hits the market. Morris knows the offense and catches the ball well out of the backfield.
--P Tom Rouen still has some pop left in his leg. He was able to stay healthy last season, but he's still a guy who will sign for close to the veterans' minimum.
--FB Mack Strong went to the Pro Bowl for the first time. He turns 35 this coming season. His age and position will prevent him from drawing a lucrative contract. Seattle wants him back.
--DE Joe Tafoya was a big-time contributor on special teams and more than serviceable as a backup end. Seattle wants him back.
--WR Peter Warrick improved as the season went along but long-term health remains a concern. If the Seahawks re-sign him, it won't be to a big contract.
--CB Jimmy Williams could return as a minimum-type player, but Seattle should be able to get younger and fresher in the secondary.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--K Josh Brown could command some interest in the restricted market but Seattle would probably match most offers.
--LT Wayne Hunter hasn't been able to stay healthy. He has also had some off-field concerns. That combination won't endear him to anyone, although Hunter does have talent.
--QB Seneca Wallace appears destined to return in some capacity. He could play more receiver if the team signs a veteran backup.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.

PLAYERS LOST: None.

MEDICAL WATCH
The team is cautiously optimistic that FS Ken Hamlin will be able to return from career-threatening head injuries suffered during an October assault outside a Seattle nightclub. Getting Hamlin back could be a big boost to the secondary even though FS Marquand Manuel provided an upgrade by some measures. Hamlin is a big hitter with lots of talent. ... Age and a bad knee might make it tough for LB Jamie Sharper to bounce back in 2006. ... WR Alex Bannister will make another run at coming back from chronic clavicle problems, but he cannot be counted on at this point. ... WR Jerheme Urban won't rush back from foot surgery the way he did last season. He is running out of chances to prove he can stay healthy.


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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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So what happens if Kurt Warner has another year like the last four and cannot make every start because of injuries? The Cardinals now must determine who will be the backup quarterback after Warner signed a three-year deal this week just before he was to become an unrestricted free agent.

Josh McCown, the backup last season, is set to become an unrestricted free agent and undoubtedly now will test the market. He likely will go elsewhere and compete for a starting position. "Josh is very excited about free agency and ready for this next chapter of his life," said Mike McCartney, McCown's agent. "The interest around the league has been terrific."

If McCown, as expected, lands elsewhere, the only other quarterbacks under contract are John Navarre, a 2004 seventh-round pick who has seen action in two games in two years, and Rohan Davey, who was signed last season as the third quarterback after Warner suffered injuries. Davey has seen brief action in seven games in his four-year career.

Navarre got his chance late in his 2004 rookie year and likely could have finished that season as the starter and gone into 2005 as the man to beat. But in that 2004 start at Detroit, Navarre suffered a fractured finger on his throwing hand, which ended his season.

Coach Dennis Green has raved about Navarre's work with the scout team.

"He has a chance to show what we're doing with him," Green said of the likelihood that Navarre will be Warner's backup.

The Cardinals hold the 10th pick overall in the draft and could draft a quarterback for the future. They also have a sizable chunk of space available under the salary cap and could pursue a veteran backup.

PLAYER NOTES

--Although at 32 Robert Tate is beginning to become ancient by cornerback standards, the team re-signed him for a year. He started five games last season and played in eight others. He'll be a backup.

--Just when the predators began courting Cardinals linebackers coach Frank Bush, the team warded them off by promoting him to assistant head coach/linebackers. During his two seasons, the Cardinals defense improved from 26th overall in 2003 to 12th in 2004 and to eighth last season.

--Want a peek into the thinking of the Cardinals' inner circle as they plot their off-season moves?
Consider this from Rod Graves, vice president of operations: "We need to improve our running game and we have to start up front."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER:
None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS


--T Ian Allen is nothing more than a low-level backup.
--FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo is a two-year starter who is good receiver but fair blocker; moderate priority.
--FB Jarrod Baxter is a third-stringer; unlikely to be re-signed.
--DE Antonio Cochran was signed last year only because of widespread injuries; unlikely to be re-signed.
--C Billy Conaty was a fine fill-in when three other Cs went down; unlikely to be re-signed.
--DT Russell Davis is a long-time starter despite being a bit undersize; a high priority.
--G Adam Haayer is a decent depth player; likely to be re-signed.
--FS Quentin Harris is a backup but a young talent worth developing; likely to be re-signed.
--RB James Jackson was No. 4 back; could be re-signed depending on what others do.
--LB Eric Johnson is nothing more than a low-level backup.
--TE Teyo Johnson is nothing more than a low-level backup.
--DT Ross Kolodziej is a good backup who can start in a pinch; likely to be re-signed.
--WR Charles Lee is a fifth receiver; low priority.
--QB Josh McCown is a strong backup who has had good success as a fill-in starter, but is expected to test free-agency market; team likely would re-sign him if he is agreeable.
--DT Langston Moore was in the rotation when sidelined by injury for the season; could be re-signed.
--FB Harold Morrow is nothing more than a low-level backup.
--WR/PR J.J. Moses is nothing more than a low-level backup.
--RB J.R. Redmond missed the year to injury but can be a valuable third-down back; may be re-signed.
--WR/KR Reggie Swinton rarely played as a receiver and was high-average as a return man; may be re-signed.
--DE R-Kal Truluck was signed late in the year when injuries were taking a toll; not likely to be re-signed.
--CB Raymond Walls is a decent backup at area of shortage; likely to be re-signed.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--CB Dyshod Carter is a young developing player who now has intrigued two Cardinals coaching staffs but has not yet broken through for regular playing time.
--LB Gerald Hayes is the likely 2006 starter at middle linebacker after suffering an injury that wiped out 2005.
--DT Kenny King is a stud when healthy and could move back into the lineup if he gets past wrist problems that essentially shelved him the past two seasons.
--G Reggie Wells is a two-year starter but not a world-beater on a line that is likely to undergo a major makeover.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--QB Kurt Warner: 3 years, $15 million at minimum and as much as $23 million, depending on performance and incentives. Likely starter but has disturbing recent pattern of injuries and will be coming back from season-ending MCL sprain that did not require surgery.
--CB Robert Tate: 1 year, terms undisclosed. Decent backup who can start in a pinch.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--None.

PLAYERS LOST
--None.

MEDICAL WATCH
Where do you start? The team finished with 15 players on injured reserve, and most of them were contributors. ... QB Kurt Warner (MCL, knee) was re-signed this week before becoming an unrestricted free agent, and despite his recent injury history has shown when healthy that he's still a player. He did not need surgery and should heal fine, doctors say. ... The offensive line was decimated. All of the players are expected to overcome the injuries, but some might not be signed back or brought back: G Adam Haayer, G Elton Brown (knee), G Jeremy Bridges (ankle), C/G Alex Stepanovich, LG Reggie Wells (ankle).
The defensive front was similarly wiped out: DT Darnell Dockett (ankle), DE Bertrand Berry (torn pectoral), DT Kenny King (wrist), DT Russell Davis (biceps), DE Calvin Pace (cut arm) and NT Langston Moore (shoulder) did not finish the season. ... If there is good news in an injury list that long, it is that none of those players are scheduled to undergo any further surgery during the off-season.


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ST. LOUIS RAMS
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After a difficult season in New Orleans and being fired as head coach, Jim Haslett figured he wouldn't coach this season. "I decided that if I didn't get a job, or the right job, that I would probably sit out a year and see if I could get back in the next year," he said. It's why when Rams coach Scott Linehan first called Haslett, and his wife answered, Haslett's initial reaction was to say, "Tell him I'm not home."

Haslett said of Linehan's first words, "He said, 'You are probably not interested in doing this, but I figured I'd give you a call and ask you.' I said, 'What do you want?' He said, 'Are you interested in being a coordinator?' I said, 'Not really. I'm going to sit out a year and reflect on everything.'"

But Haslett then began liking what he was hearing.

"When we first started talking, I liked him," Haslett said. "I just wanted to make sure that he was going to try to do the right things to get the team back to winning. Not just offense, but playing good defense and good special teams." Linehan and Haslett eventually met in Miami, and a deal was made. "Before I left (Florida), I said, 'I'll take the job,'" Haslett said.

Said Linehan, "Hiring Jim, it was a stroke of luck. We're not going to have him very long. He's going to be a head coach again soon." But Haslett is not thinking about that now. He's concentrating on helping the Rams improve.

"We're going to make the defense better," Haslett said. "And we're going to try to win enough games that we get in the playoffs. That's our No. 1 goal. ... I just want to be a part of the staff that helps the St. Louis Rams win games."

Asked what he thinks of the current defensive personnel, Haslett said, "There are a few guys. If you look at (linebacker) Pisa (Tinoisamoa) and (safety) Adam (Archuleta). I think that Adam is a good football player if you use him in different situations. (Defensive end) Leonard Little has been one of the best players on this team for a long time. (Nose tackle Ryan) Pickett and a few of them are free agents. (Defensive tackle) Jimmy Kennedy, I thought he improved last year. Just those guys. I thought (linebacker Brandon) Chillar did a good job.

"Some of those guys off the top of my head. Obviously, you'd like to get a couple more, which we will work on. I do think they have some young players that you can build off of."

He insisted his defense will play hard.

"I won't tolerate guys walking to the football," Haslett said. "Everybody runs to the football. We're going to get a group of smart players who are going to do things right."

PLAYER NOTES

--The Rams are still looking for a defensive line coach, and coordinator Jim Haslett hopes it's John Pease. Pease was Haslett's defensive line coach in New Orleans, and Haslett already has former Saints assistants Rick Venturi and Willy Robinson on the Rams' staff.

"That's up to Scott (coach Scott Linehan) and the way he wants to go," Haslett said of hiring Pease. "I know he'd like to have a younger guy. But John's a good football coach. He's probably one of the best defensive line coaches I've been around. But that's really Scott's call."
Linehan said on Feb. 15 that "we're going to be interviewing two or three candidates in the next four or five days and make sure they fit the requirements we have to coach our system and our defense."

In addition to Pease, Linehan is talking to former Vikings defensive line coach Brian Baker.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--SS Adam Archuleta regressed last two years because of back injury and concussions, but the new coaches are hoping he will stay.
--P Bryan Barker gave the Rams solid punting after rookie Reggie Hodges failed. They should re-sign him.
--RB Aveion Cason was active for just two games, but looked good in season finale against Dallas. He might be re-signed.
--CB Terry Fair ended season on injured reserve with neck injury. He wants to keep playing, but it probably won't be in St. Louis.
--CB Corey Ivy only lacks size, which keeps him from being an excellent player, but he is fundamentally sound and good on special teams. He should be re-signed.
--DE Tyoka Jackson doesn't have a lot of years left, but he provides good veteran leadership.
--DT Damione Lewis hasn't lived up to being the 12th overall pick in the draft, but he's still solid. He could be re-signed at a reasonable rate.
--QB Jamie Martin is solid as a backup, but whether he stays will depend on the new coaching staff.
--LS Chris Massey should be paid the going rate for top snappers; he hasn't a bad snap in three seasons.
--G Tom Nutten will probably retire, for good this time.
--NT Ryan Pickett will be expensive, but he does his job consistently. If Pickett leaves, somehow he'll have to be replaced.
--OL Rex Tucker could be back for depth.
--TE Roland Williams missed most of season with knee injury, and his return is unlikely.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--WR Kevin Curtis is a keeper. The Rams must decide whether to place tender on him that would bring a first-round pick as compensation.
--S Mike Furrey became a playmaker after switch from wide receiver, but needs lots of work on tackling.
--DE Brandon Green is a high-motor guy that is good for depth.
--CB DeJuan Groce is a solid corner that doesn't offer a lot in run support.
--RB Arlen Harris is a decent backup and tough player that warrants a look from new coach.
--CB Chris Johnson is very raw, but shows flashes of ability.
--WR Shaun McDonald is tough for his size, and should have a continued role in passing offense.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--CB Dwight Anderson got a second chance late in 2005 season and can develop if he matures.
--DT Jeremy Calahan is somewhat undersized, but works hard and gives great effort.
--S Dwaine Carpenter was signed late in the season, and could be in the mix at a position that needs help.
--TE Jerome Collins has excellent athletic ability, but remains very raw at the position.
--DE Clifford Dukes showed some quickness off the edge, and might get a shot at a backup job.
--LB Mike Goolsby was added to the roster late in the season, and contributed on special teams.
--LB Jeremy Loyd has very good speed, but must do more than just special teams.
--T Matt Morgan showed enough to stick around as a backup, but he'll find more competition for that role.
--G Blaine Saipaia finished 2005 season on injured reserve because of a concussion, and now must impress a new group of coaches.
--QB Jeff Smoker might get new lease on life from new offensive coaches.
--LB Drew Wahlroos has shown improvement in two seasons, and is consistent on special teams.

MEDICAL WATCH

QB Marc Bulger reported progress in the recovery of the right shoulder he injured twice last season. Bulger will begin throwing soon, and working with weights to improve his strength.


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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
===================


Already this off-season, 49ers coach Mike Nolan and his staff have coached the South squad at the Senior Bowl, which is the best collection of talent of any of the college all-star games. Nolan has also popped in from time to time during two weeks of pre-combine meetings that vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan has held with the club's scouts.

All this studying has made Nolan more prepared than he has ever been heading into the NFL scouting combine.

"Even as an assistant, I've never been up to speed as much as I am right now," Nolan said. "If 100 percent is the goal, I'm about 25 percent. In a normal year, I'd be about five (percent), if lucky. Right now, I have a lot more awareness of who the players are going in."

The 49ers will draft either sixth or seventh in the first round, pending the outcome of a coin toss with the Raiders to be held at the combine in Indianapolis.

The 49ers are expected to enter the free-agent signing period from $15 million to $20 million under the salary cap. Nolan said they have already targeted some players to pursue. But he said the lifeblood of the organization will be the draft.

"The big thing for us is to supplement the holes we have with a free agent or two," said Nolan.

More important, Nolan said, is that the club has targeted some of its own players to re-sign. Kicker Joe Nedney and linebacker Derek Smith lead that group. Nedney is nearing a contract extension and is expected to be re-signed. Smith is largely an unheralded performer who has led the 49ers in tackles in each of his five years with the club.

PLAYER NOTES

--Quarterback Alex Smith said he plans to speak this off-season with former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who won his first two Super Bowl titles with Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator. Turner is the new 49ers' offensive coordinator, taking over for Mike McCarthy, who left to become head coach of the Packers.

"I've talked with him before but my past conversations were more on what it's like to be a starting quarterback as a rookie," Smith said. "I know he speaks very highly of coach Turner, so I'll definitely want to talk with him again."

--Smith said he was eager to delve into his off-season of work with McCarthy as his coordinator, but he now must make an adjustment to a new coordinator.
"Obviously, it was a surprise," Smith said. "I was looking forward to an off-season of not having to learn a new offense. But I grew so close to coach McCarthy last year that part of me is really happy for him. We talked about we were both looking forward to getting this thing going this off-season. I understand the business and realize this was a great situation for him. There are only 32 of those jobs out there. We talked and decided to stay in touch. He said I could always call him."

Smith has already started learning Turner's new system after spending time this off-season at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and in Detroit for the Super Bowl.

"I'll be going back to a learning environment again," Smith said. "I'll be starting over with a lot of things, which is not a terrible thing. I learned a ton last year going through Coach McCarthy's system. If coach McCarthy had stayed, we could have hit the ground running. Now, it's going to be a lot more scholastics."

--The 49ers have allocated quarterback Bryson Spinner to NFL Europe. Spinner has been released by the Redskins, Jaguars and Seahawks. A 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, Spinner completed his college career at Richmond in 2003.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER:
None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--S Marques Anderson was a late-season acquisition brought to team because of the myriad of injuries in the defensive backfield.
--FB Fred Beasley lost starting job to Chris Hetherington while he feuded with running backs coach Bishop Harris. He does not fit into Mike Nolan's plan for the club.
--TE Steve Bush did not add much to the team at a position that was one of its glaring weaknesses.
--DE/LB Andre Carter is a player the team would like to bring him back but it has to be at the right price. Carter did not adjust well to the team's new 3-4 scheme, as he recorded just 4 1/2 sacks.
--T Anthony Clement started at left tackle for a rough six-game stretch. The team would like to be a little more confident in its backups in the future.
--DE Travis Hall does not figure into the team's plan, and he might decide to call it a career.
--FB Chris Hetherington beat out Fred Beasley for the starting job late in the year, and the journeyman figures to return at a realistic salary.
--TE Terry Jones, a Ravens' castoff, came to 49ers at midseason and immediately became a starter. Still, this is a spot the 49ers have to upgrade significantly.
--WR Jason McAddley did a respectable job as the club's third or fourth receiver, but he should find himself up against stiffer competition this year for a roster spot.
--LB Brandon Moore became a starter when Jeff Ulbrich was lost for the year with a biceps injury. He was second on team with five sacks, and might have earned a decent payday from a team elsewhere. The club would like to bring him back as a reserve.
--K Joe Nedney set a club record for single-season field-goal accuracy, and is expected to re-sign with the 49ers in early March.
--LB Julian Peterson will not be made the 49ers' franchise player, a tag that would cost $8.7 million. He should be better in 2006 because of the time removed from his torn Achilles' tendon. Don't look for the 49ers to make a huge investment to keep him.
--LB Saleem Rasheed is an injury-prone player has not been much of a factor in on defense or special teams since being a third-round pick in 2002.
--S Kris Richard was a late season pickup who came to the team to fill a roster spot. Might get invited to training camp.
--LB Derek Smith is the top priority for the 49ers to re-sign. Coach Mike Nolan and his staff were impressed with his work ethic and production as the team's leading tackler.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--QB Ken Dorsey will almost assuredly be tendered at the low level. The 49ers would receive a seventh-round pick as compensation if another team signs him. The 49ers want to retain him, but they don't believe another team would offer a big enough deal to scare them from matching.
--WR Brandon Lloyd makes the acrobatic catch as well as anyone, but he has to show a willingness this year to catch passes over the middle. He could receive some nibbles if the 49ers give him the low-level tender, which means the 49ers would gain a fourth-round pick as compensation if he leaves.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--None.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--None.

PLAYERS LOST
--None.

MEDICAL WATCH

RB Frank Gore will have approximately five months of rehabilitation has he undergoes extensive surgery on both shoulders. Gore has already undergone one surgery. The club is expecting Gore to be ready for limited work during their last minicamp. They expect him to be available for full work early in training camp.


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