NFC West News & Notes - 8/14/06

In today's News & Notes: Jerramy Stevens begins the road back, the Cardinals take stock of their offensive line, San Francisco loses a center, and the Rams enjoy a brush with fame.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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Jerramy Stevens moved well and caught the ball consistently during his first practices since a disappointing performance in Super Bowl XL. The fourth-year tight end is practicing no more than once per day as he eases back into things following knee surgery in April. For now the focus remains on the passes that slipped through Stevens' fingers during the biggest game of his life.

"Obviously, it was disappointing for the team and for me personally," Stevens said. "That's something you have to deal with as an athlete. It's not going to go as you plan it every game." Stevens got open almost at will during the 21-10 loss to the Steelers, catching the Seahawks' only touchdown pass. The Seahawks thought they could use Stevens to exploit Pittsburgh.

"I think we were correct in our thinking," coach Mike Holmgren said. "When you plan and you point toward a player, they have to step up and make those plays, whether you're handing the ball to Shaun Alexander or passing the ball to Darrell Jackson or whoever it is." Holmgren went on to describe Stevens as "a good guy who has come a long way since he's been with us. He had a good season, and one of the reasons we were in the Super Bowl was because of Jerramy Stevens."

Stevens caught a career-high 45 passes last season, but he dropped at least three in the Super Bowl. Now Stevens must prove he can bounce back from an embarrassing performance. "If you're playing this sport, almost every play you're getting hit in the mouth," coach Mike Holmgren said. "Now, how do you handle that? You've got to get back up. I would expect him to bounce back.

"If players can't bounce back from a thing like that, they don't last too long." Stevens is only now entering the prime of his career. He is trying to use the Super Bowl as a learning experience.

"I probably tried too hard," he said. "That was probably some of the reason I didn't play the way I usually do. So, you try to mature and grow from that and keep pushing forward. It was rough, but it's something behind me and I'm using that as fuel to go forward."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp breaks Aug. 24.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Coach Mike Holmgren periodically makes linemen field punts at training camp in exchange for an extra hour of curfew. If the linemen catch an agreed-upon number of punts, the entire team benefits. Holmgren provided a comical twist when he had assistant coaches field punts instead of the players. Jim Zorn and Teryl Austin caught their punts. Bill Laveroni and Zerick Rollins muffed theirs. It all came down to one man: special-teams coach Bob Casullo. The punt sailed far over his head, forcing the 54-year-old assistant to become a center fielder.

Casullo ran through support staff and around water coolers before laying out to make a diving fingertip grab. "There was no doubt in my mind," Casullo said. "I just made it a little tricky for the crowd."
Holmgren couldn't believe it. "Was that unbelievable?" Holmgren asked. "I told the team, 'If you're in this game long enough and you think you've seen everything, you're wrong, there's always something that can blow your mind.' And that blew my mind."

Casullo had fun with it. "They all perceived me as an unathletic Italian, but I fooled them all," he quipped. "I hope there's a cardiologist in the training room."

--Kicker Josh Brown has occasionally signed Matt Hasselbeck's name for autograph seekers who mistake the players with rapidly receding hairlines. "I don't promote forgery by any means," Brown told the Tacoma News Tribune, "but it was to the point where I had to stop the hassle." Linebacker Niko Koutouvides and Lofa Tatupu were once mistaken for Joe Jurevicius and Itula Mili. Center Robbie Tobeck is also a frequent victim of mistaken identity.

"Just the other day some guy says, 'You're Grant Wistrom, right?' " center Robbie Tobeck said. "And some other guy goes, 'No, that's not Wistrom. That's Steve Hutchinson.' "

--MVP running back Shaun Alexander said he expects the defense to continue its improvement this season. Several starters are currently recovering from off-season surgery. All are expected to return in time for the regular season. The addition of Julian Peterson in particular has added to the overall speed.

"I think this year's team would beat last year's team pretty good," Alexander said. "Our defense is just better. ... People are going to be surprised how good our defense is."

--Alexander has happy feet this season after switching his Nike cleats from Speed TDs to Air Zoom Super Bads. He said his feet bothered him last season, although it was impossible to tell by looking at the stat sheet. Alexander finished with 1,880 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns.

"I couldn't get the fit on a shoe that I liked," Alexander said. "I had four shoes I wore just in games, and then different ones in practice. This year they made sweet ones for me."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--The Seahawks are going through camp with only one kicker after the team released USC rookie Ryan Killeen following a poor performance in the scrimmage. Veteran kicker Josh Brown is getting all the reps in practice and preseason games. Team president Tim Ruskell is quick to make personnel moves when he thinks a player isn't contributing as expected. Killeen barely made it through a week of camp when his pink slip arrived.

--TE Jerramy Stevens is moving well and catching the ball consistently since returning to the practice field following April knee surgery. He's working once per day and did not participate in the preseason opener because the team wants to guard against a setback.

--OL Chris Spencer worked at both guard spots in the preseason opener, but he did not work at center. Seattle is shorthanded at guard after losing starter Floyd Womack to a hamstring injury. Spencer has a chance to win a starting job at guard.

--OL Floyd Womack is expected to return in the next few days after suffering a hamstring injury before the first preseason game. Womack has a history of injuries. As a result, the Seahawks cannot count on him being ready this season.

--QB Seneca Wallace performed capably but without much fanfare during the preseason opener. Coaches will give him the bulk of the reps throughout preseason because they want him to become better prepared as the No. 2 quarterback. Wallace lacks regular-season experience.

--WR Maurice Mann overcame an inconsistent start to camp by catching four passes for 49 yards in the preseason opener. He's still a long shot to earn a roster spot, but he improved his chances. A lot will depend on how many receivers the Seahawks keep.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Ryan Plackemeier vs. Gabe Lindstrom at punter. Plackemeier handled punting duties in the preseason opener. He delivered with a solid performance that included three punts downed inside the 20. Plackemeier entered camp as the favorite and that has not changed to this point. His performance against Dallas was important because Plackemeier did not enjoy a strong scrimmage.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Kelly Herndon and Kelly Jennings at left cornerback. Seattle isn't too worried about which player starts. Both are going to be on the field extensively.

--Mike Green and Michael Boulware at strong safety. Boulware is the incumbent but Green has made a push for the job while Boulware misses time with a knee injury.

--Kevin Bentley and D.D. Lewis at outside linebacker. Lewis started at linebacker last season. Bentley seemed to play better in the first preseason game. Neither is going to start, but both should play quite a bit on special teams.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Maurice Mann overcame an inconsistent start to camp by catching four passes for 49 yards in the preseason opener. He's still a long shot to earn a roster spot, but he improved his chances. Much depends on how many receivers the Seahawks keep.

ROOKIE REPORT: CB Kelly Jennings made no significant mistakes against Dallas in the preseason opener. He gave up some plays but was in good position most of the time.

--FB David Kirtman did not distinguish himself against the Cowboys. He still has time.

--DE Darryl Tapp has gotten extended reps with the No. 1 defense because Grant Wistrom remains sidelined. Tapp looks like he could be effective in a situational role.

INJURY REPORT: CB Reggie Austin (knee), LB Isaiah Kacyvenski (quadriceps), WR Keenan Howry (hamstring), WR D.J. Hackett (hamstring), DE Grant Wistrom (shoulder), WR Darrell Jackson (knee), SS Michael Boulware (knee), CB Jimmy Williams (ankle), WR Skyler Fulton (shoulder), DB Jordan Babineaux (shoulder), DE Joe Tafoya (shoulder), DT Marcus Tubbs (Achilles) and DT Rocky Bernard (knee) have been sidelined. All are expected to return in time for the season.


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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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Evaluations were mixed in the preseason opener on the work of the offensive line, the unit most under the microscope on a team that was dead last in the NFL in rushing in 2005. Quarterbacks Kurt Warner and John Navarre had plenty of time to throw. But as was the case last season, when the team's horrendous rushing output combined with the league's leading passing attack, the Cardinals got away from the run perhaps more than they had intended against Pittsburgh.

Running back Edgerrin James carried only twice -- for minus-2 yards -- as he observed his personal belief that he need not spend undue time in preseason appearances. He has gotten the club to buy into it. J.J. Arrington, a 2005 second-round pick who is coming off a disappointing rookie year, got most of the work behind the first line, but had only 11 yards in six carries to show for it.

That's eight carries for 9 yards from the top two backs behind the first-team line -- not the sort of "improvement" the team is looking for. Veterans Leonard Davis and Reggie Wells -- the latter holding off rookie Deuce Lutui at guard -- remained the left-side starters. Center Alex Stepanovich is back with the first team after injuries truncated 2005 for him. He had started 16 games as a rookie in 2004.

On the right side, free-agent pickup Milford Brown was at right guard and Jeremy Bridges stepped in a right tackle in place of injured Oliver Ross. Fred Wakefield also got extensive work with the first unit at right tackle. The good news regarding the knee injury to Ross, who had surgery last week, is that the meniscus tear is not as serious as first believed. His return time frame has been halved to five weeks from the initial projection of 10 weeks. Ross will miss the opener and perhaps Week 2 but should return early in the season.

Bridges is a former starter at right guard who was released early last season. As injuries mounted, the team signed him back in October and he made seven appearances, including three starts. Wakefield played in 15 games last season, his initial campaign after switching from defensive left end, where he had started.

"You have to be able to play a lot more than one position," said Bridges. "It's no problem because you come to camp in great shape and you prepare for this even if you are not getting the reps you want to get. When it is your time you get the job done." That is especially true on a team that may have no more than seven or eight offensive linemen active on Sundays.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Cardinals training camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff ends Thursday (Aug. 17). The team works out on the fields just east of the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome at NAU and practices are open to the public at no charge. If it rains -- and afternoon thunderstorms are common in Flagstaff in August -- they move workouts inside. After Thursday, the team will complete preseason training at its facility in Tempe.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RB Edgerrin James (two carries, minus-2 yards) had little to no impact on the preseason opener on the field, but the free-agent pickup who is expected to rejuvenate the Cardinals' last-place rushing attack had his presence felt in another way. The Cardinals are wearing black shoes this season, at the insistence of James.

"If you look good, you feel good," James said. "And if you feel good, you play good. Now we're coordinated."

--With negotiations ongoing with first-round pick Matt Leinart, backup QB John Navarre got most of the action in the preseason opener. And he did not exactly make the best of the situation, firing two interceptions. "Just OK," was the best coach Dennis Green could offer on Navarre's work.

--Eight former players, coaches and executives were installed into the Cardinals' Ring of Honor in their new stadium during a ceremony prior to their debut game against Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. They are:

--Charles W. Bidwill, Sr., inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, bought the franchise in 1933, helped usher the league through difficult early financial crises and assembled the 1947 NFL championship team.

--Jimmy Conzelman, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964, was a player and later coached the Cardinals to the 1947 NFL championship.

--John "Paddy" Driscoll, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965, led the Cardinals to the 1925 NFL championship and was All-NFL six times.

--Marshall Goldberg was a key member of the Cards' 1947 NFL championship team and original member of their "Dream Backfield" with Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Charley Trippi and Elmer Angsman.

--Dick "Night Train" Lane, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974, set the NFL record with 14 interceptions as a rookie and was named to seven Pro Bowls.

--Ollie Matson, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972, was All-NFL 1954-57 and in six seasons with the Cards did not miss a game.

--Ernie Nevers, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, scored a record 40 points (six touchdowns, four conversions) in a game against the Bears on Thanksgiving Day, 1929, and was all-NFL five seasons. That's the oldest record in the NFL book.

--Charley Trippi, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968, signed for a then-mind-boggling $100,000 during the AAFC-NFL war in 1947 and scored two touchdowns in the Cardinals' 1947 NFL championship game win over Philadelphia.

--Later this season, Hall of Famer Larry Wilson (Sept. 10 vs. San Francisco), Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf (Oct. 16 vs. Chicago), and Pat Tillman (Nov. 12), who left the team and was killed in Afghanistan two years ago while on active duty as a U.S. Army Ranger, will be added to the ring.

--Cardinals head trainer John Omohundro marked a milestone for longevity that may never be broken. Saturday's preseason opener against Pittsburgh was his 775th game with the team over a 40-year career, 35 of them as head trainer. Omohundro has worked with many of the names in the team's initial list inducted into the Ring of Honor at new Cardinals Stadium. "It is very gratifying to see all the great names on the pillars of the stadium," Omohundro said. "I just hope the years continue to pile up and I continue to enjoy them."

--The team, in a moving ceremony two nights before the debut game, christened the Steve Schoenfeld Press Box at new Cardinals Stadium, in honor of the former Arizona Republic NFL writer who was killed in 2000 by a hit-and-run driver. Schoenfeld was a former president of the Pro Football Writers. Floor-to-ceiling reproductions of several of Schoenfeld's columns, features and game stories are mounted on panels at the entry to the press box. Panels also are on a press box wall in memory of Arizona Republic beat writer Lloyd Herberg, who died of cancer in 1994; TV reporter Steve Pascente, who was killed in a traffic accident in Washington while covering a Cardinals game against the Redskins in 1994, and Bill Denney, regarded as the dean of Phoenix TV sportscasters during a 29-year career, who died of cancer in 2000.

--A capacity crowd of 63,400 saw the Cardinals 21-13 preseason opening win over Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh in the debut game of Cardinals Stadium. That is roughly 35,000 more than the typical crowds they'd drawn on hot summer nights for preseason openers while playing in Sun Devil Stadium, their home for 18 years. "It is such a rush just coming though the doors because you felt the air conditioning 15 feet before you entered the building," said Tom Langdon, a season ticket holder for 17 years. "It was awesome."

Added LT Leonard Davis, "It was exciting to go out and feel like you have a home field advantage. We were fired up for the pregame warm-ups and them come of the guys went out and we could hear them out there. We hadn't had that before."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It wasn't a debut, it was an obligation. In the preseason, I don't care about stats. I only care about health and not making mistakes. So it was a big day for me." - RB Edgerrin James, on his two carries for minus-2 yards in his debut - er, initial obligation with the Cardinals.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--OLB Karlos Dansby, the strongside starter who had three interceptions and four sacks last season, is having a sore toe examined in Birmingham, Ala. He has done very little in camp, first recovering from June thumb surgery, then suffering a groin strain, and now the mysterious toe injury. Upon his return, he might be moved to the weak side because his strongside replacement, Calvin Pace, has dazzled the coaches.
--OLB Calvin Pace already is on the verge of winning the strongside position in his debut year there after switching from DE. The 2003 first-round choice had been a flop at end but coaches have raved about his work at his new position. He was the starter in the preseason opener.
--NT Langston Moore is still ahead of rookie Gabe Watson on the depth chart, behind starter Kendrick Clancy. Moore started the Pittsburgh game while Clancy recovers from a groin strain.
--NT Gabe Watson, a rookie, has drawn praise from coaches even though he is No. 3 on the depth chart behind Kendrick Clancy and Langston Moore in the early going.
"He is a big guy that can run," coach Dennis Green said of Watson. "Rarely do you see a guy of his size (6-3, 340) that doesn't lag behind, and he doesn't. He can run with all of the other guys so I think he is going to be a good player."
--RT Oliver Ross, the starter, had surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee but the recovery time is going to be about half of the initial projection. Ross is expected to be out about five weeks, down from 10 in initial estimates.
--RT Jeremy Bridges is working with the first unit while Oliver Ross recovers from knee surgery. Ross is expected back in about five weeks.
--DT-DE Kenny King had surgery to remove a plate from his wrist and could miss 10 weeks, more than initially believed. That comes on the heels of King having surgery on his wrist each of the last two preseasons and missing them both. He hasn't taken a snap since 2003, and the patience of Coach Dennis Green is beginning to wear thin. King was the projected starter in 2004 when he suffered the first wrist injury. He suffered a fractured hand early in this training camp, blaming the plate in his wrist.
"I'm not sure what it means at all," Green said. "I've been here three years. He's had two weeks of work."
King had been the first backup at DT and DE behind Bertrand Berry on the right side.
--FB John Bronson is drawing raves from the coaches as a blocker in his move from TE. He threw the lead block on a scoring run by Diamond Ferri against Pittsburgh. Bronson made the move after James Hodgins was placed on the physically unable to perform list, and to relieve a growing logjam at TE.
--RB J.J. Arrington is running with the second team, ahead of veteran Marcel Shipp and behind Edgerrin James. Arrington got most of the work in the preseason opener, but results were akin to his disappointing rookie season when he lost the starting job to Shipp. Arrington gained 11 yards on six carries against the Steelers.
--CB David Macklin is working with the first unit on the right side opposite Antrel Rolle, ahead of veteran Robert Tate.
--CB Eric Green, who was forced to start as a rookie before he is ready, has been moved from the right side to the left, behind starter Antrel Role.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
J.J. Arrington vs. Marcel Shipp at backup RB. Arrington, disappointing last year as a rookie second-round pick, lost the starting job to Shipp. They both got knocked down a notch when the team signed free agent Edgerrin James. Now they're battling to be James' backup. Arrington was listed ahead of Shipp going into the preseason opener, but after Arrington gained only 11 yards on six carries behind the first line and Shipp gained 13 yards in six carries and caught a 12-yard pass, the battle appears to be tight. Shipp was the Cardinals' rushing leader three of the past four seasons.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: LeRon McCoy vs. Troy Walters vs. Todd Watkins at fourth WR. They all have speed but they're all inexperienced. Walters may have the early edge because he also can return punts - a 15.3-yard average vs. Pittsburgh.

ROOKIE REPORT: QB Matt Leinart, chosen 10th in the first round, remains unsigned and has not reported to training camp. Leinart is expected to be a backup to Kurt Warner while learning the pro game this season.
--G Deuce Lutui, a second-round pick, is working with the second unit and could push veteran Reggie Wells for the job after Lutui becomes acclimated.
--TE Leonard Pope, a third-round pick, is big (6-8, 265), athletic, can catch and block. He is listed third on the depth chart but is expected to grow into challenger to Eric Edwards and Adam Bergen, the tag-team starters last year.
--NT Gabe Watson, a fourth-round pick, has the physical tools to challenge Kendrick Clancy for the starting job, but Clancy's experience has him firmly on the first unit early with Langston Moore listed second, ahead of Watson, who is on the third level. The key will be Watson's mind-set.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Kurt Warner completed nine of 13 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh's first-team defense in the preseason opener, looking confident and sharp behind protection in which a hand wasn't placed on him. That helped the Cardinals exorcise their inability to convert on third down and score in the Red Zone that thwarted them last season.

INJURY REPORT: NT Kendrick Clancy (groin), the starter, saw only limited duty in relief in the opener. Langston Moore started in his place. The injury is not believed to be serious.
--OLB Karlos Dansby (toe, thumb), the strongside starter, is having the toe evaluated in Birmingham, Ala. His status for Saturday's preseason game at New England is not yet known.
--RT Oliver Ross (knee), the right-side starter, had surgery on a torn meniscus and is out about five weeks.
--DE-DT Kenny King, the first backup at under tackle and right DE, had surgery to remove a plate from his wrist and is out about 10 weeks.
--RB Roger Robinson, who set an NFL Europe season rushing record in the spring, suffered a toe injury early in the opening workout and will miss about a month. He appeared to be a long shot to make the roster but is a strong practice-squad candidate.
--FB James Hodgins (knee) was placed on the physically unable to perform list. He missed all of last season. The team was hoping that the big body (6-1, 275), who was Marshall Faulk's lead blocker when St. Louis won the Super Bowl, would be able to return to lead for Edgerrin James.
--DT Tim Bulman (back) is day-to-day. He is expected to add experienced depth.
--G Rolando Cantu (knee) is day-to-day. He is a long shot to make the roster.


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ST. LOUIS RAMS
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When the Rams traded for quarterback Dave Ragone in June, it looked like Ryan Fitzpatrick might be in trouble. Ragone has been around longer than Fitzpatrick, and most important, he played at Louisville when Rams coach Scott Linehan was an assistant coach there. However, so far, Fitzpatrick has impressed far more than Ragone, and it will be tough for Linehan to make any other decision than keep the second-year signal-caller from Harvard.

Asked early in camp whether it's unfair to believe Ragone had the advantage in the competition because of his prior relationship, Linehan said, "I think that's totally unfair. I wouldn't call it an advantage; it's a good thing for both of us because I'm familiar with what Dave can do and Dave will only get better and better. It's unfair to Ryan because I think Ryan's playing very well. It's a great battle and a very healthy battle. They're two great, great kids that are competing and they're very good friends already. It's way too early to say what's going to happen there."

After one scrimmage and one preseason game, it appears Fitzpatrick has the distinct edge. He had the benefit of being with the team throughout the off-season, while Ragone wasn't acquired until June when the off-season was over. Against the Colts, Ragone seemed more comfortable than he had been in practices, but he also threw a costly interception ion the end zone in the third quarter on a second-and-11 play from the Colts' 15-yard line.

"I tried to look him off," Ragone said. "I should have dumped it down. I should have been smarter down there. You learn from your mistakes. That play is done with. I can't take it back.

"You go from here. It's still early. I wasn't going to make the team in this preseason game and hopefully I'm not off the team after this preseason game."

Ragone completed 7 of 11 passes for 80 yards, while Fitzpatrick was 8-of-11 for 51 yards. Each showed the ability to run. Ragone had a 9-yard scramble, while Fitzpatrick froze a Colts linebacker with a pump fake and stutter step, running for 19 yards. "I needed to show game management," Fitzpatrick said. "I felt great, very comfortable. From last preseason to this preseason, I feel like I've come a long way."

Linehan said it's still too early to predict the winner. "The intangible qualities of Fitz are great, plus he has the ability to move and run," Linehan said. "My background with Dave, I know what kind of a competitor he is and his talent will continue to show more and more as he gets more comfortable with what we're doing. There are a lot of similar things we did with him in college, but the terminology is quite different for him. So basically, he's learning everything new until he gets that down. It'll be a lot of fun watching those two guys compete."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Noted actor Denzel Washington, father of Rams running back John David Washington, was in attendance for the game against the Colts. John David, rookie free agent, played in the fourth quarter and rushed for 15 yards on four carries with a long run of 8 yards. Denzel said he talked to Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who told him, "You've got a good kid." That "was great to hear," Denzel said. "I'd love to someday be known as the father of John David Washington."

Denzel and his wife were on the sideline before the game, not to play the be-seen game, but because his wife has a ritual of touching the field and saying a prayer before her son's games. They and three other children watched the game from the suite of owner Georgia Frontiere.

--As the Rams returned to the practice field Saturday following their 19-17 win over the Colts Thursday, a few starters were absent. Safety Corey Chavous experienced a death in his family, while linebacker Will Witherspoon was with his wife for the birth of his child. In addition, guard Richie Incognito did not practice because of a virus. Incognito did some light work in drills. Commenting on Chavous, coach Scott Linehan said, "It happened prior to Thursday, he arranged it, and he went back yesterday (Friday). The funeral was today and he'll be back for tomorrow afternoon's practice."

As for Witherspoon, Linehan said, "They were going to induce (labor). I've been through that three times and hopefully that's all going well. He was hoping that we'd have news by now, but I haven't heard. He was hoping to be back and planned to be back tomorrow as well."

Said Linehan of Incognito, "He has a respiratory virus that's going around and he felt very ill today, so we just held him out of practice. He felt good enough to come out and watch some, but he wasn't well enough to practice."

--Colts general manager Bill Polian was surprised at the number of times the Rams blitzed in the preseason opener and by the multiple defenses employed. He made those comments on the air during halftime of the team's radio broadcast. The following day, Colts coach Tony Dungy said, "That's the way those guys are going to play; we knew that going in. You can't ask them, 'Don't run your defense.' We usually like it when people blitz us."

Said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, "The days of staying vanilla in the preseason are long gone. I was talking to (former Cowboys quarterback Troy) Aikman before the game and he was saying when he played preseason, everybody played basic zone defense. The Rams blitzed seven guys on the first play and did it again a couple of plays later and, really, throughout the game." When told of Polian's comments, Rams coach Scott Linehan said, "You didn't see 85 percent of coach (Jim) Haslett's blitzes tonight. That's how we play. Some teams are a vanilla-type of team and we're going to be multiple.

"We're not where these other teams are with their teams. We've got things we've got to work on things. We've got to get better at it in our preseason games. We've got to use them for that reason."
Remembering that the Colts opened the game with a successful onside kick, Linehan said, "Multiple defenses, blitzing and onside kicks. I don't know how you can be critical of either one."

--The game against the Colts was on national TV on Fox, but it was blacked out in the St. Louis area because it failed to sell out. The Rams sold about 1,500 fewer season tickets this year than in 2005 after the 6-10 season. The team has still sold 58,000 season tickets.

Linehan said winning will bring the fans back. "It's our job to put a great product on the field," he said. "The bottom line is, when you play well and start doing some pretty fun things out there, they will come."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I liked our ability to run the ball and stop the run. It's an easier game when you're able to do those two things. Tonight was a good step." - Coach Scott Linehan on the win over Indianapolis.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--DE Anthony Hargrove suffered a sprained knee in the first preseason game against the Colts, but was back on the field for the team's first practice after the game.
--CB Jerametrius Butler missed the game against the Colts because of a hamstring problem that bothered him in the off-season. Butler practiced in the first workout after the game.
--TE Aaron Walker has moved up to be the second-team tight end, mostly because of his blocking ability.
--TE Dominique Byrd, the team's third-round pick, is in a battle for the third-string job with Jerome Collins.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Dominique Byrd vs. Jerome Collins for No. 3 tight end job. With Aaron Walker ascending up the depth chart at tight end, the current battle on the roster is between Collins and the rookie Byrd. "Walker's been really consistent," coach Scott Linehan said. "He's blocked well and been a more-than-adequate pass receiver when called upon. He's protected the passer. That's really what a tight end has got to do. If we want to be able to run the ball and have that balance, our tight ends are going to have to be blockers attitude-wise first. When people come up and try to stop the run, then it's easier to get the tight ends the ball in the passing game. I think Jerome has done a nice job as well. Right now, we are looking at Joe and Aaron as the one and two and then Collins and Byrd right now are battling for that third spot. It's still real early just like it is for all the positions. The tight end spot, I'm going to keep a close eye on."

About Byrd, a third-round pick this year, Linehan said, "Dominique needs to progress and improve to deserve the reps he needs. He'll get a few more looks this week in practice. I'd be surprised if he doesn't play quite a bit more in this next game. It's still very early in that battle."

OTHER BATTLEFRONTS: Matt Turk got a leg up in the punting derby over Andy Groom with a high and booming 54-yard punt that was returned for no yards and a 42-yard pooch punt that was downed at the 2-yard line.

--Not that there was any competition for the kicking job, but free agent Remy Hamilton might have hurt himself in terms of being looked at by other teams when he hit the upright on a 37-yard field-goal attempt and was wide left on a 48-yard try. He did hit a 33-yarder. Hamilton did all the kicking while Jeff Wilkins took the night off.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DE Matthew Rice. Signed just before camp started after being released by the Bills, the undrafted free agent had three sacks against the Colts. They came in the second half with the Rams' No. 3 defense going against the Colts' third-stringers. "He had a good showing in his first game," Scott Linehan said. "That's what is great about the preseason. It was primarily the (third-string) out there against their (third-string), and he certainly showed he belonged. He produced. This is a who-produces-and-who-doesn't-produce business."

Since the game, Rice has been hearing about the sacks from his teammates. "Anytime I turn a corner, I hear something about a sack or sackmaster," Rice said. "It's funny because I'm a humble guy. I'm constantly hearing it. They say when you get to the league, you get a big head. While everybody's pumping my head up. I'm trying to lay low, and everybody keeps saying things about the sacks."

He realizes it will be difficult to make the roster, but the practice squad is always a possibility. "Just do all I can do," he said. "Practice hard. Make adjustments with any mistakes I make. I've decided to take each day as a new day. Being a free agent, there is no guarantee that you'll have a next day practicing."

ROOKIE REPORT: CB Tye Hill had some ups and downs, but generally played well in the preseason opener. With CB Jerametrius Butler out, Hill played with the first-team nickel unit and then was a corner with the second team.
--Joe Klopfenstein is starting at tight end.
--WR/KR Marques Hagans had two punt returns for 21 yards and two kickoff returns for 47 yards against the Colts.
--DE Victor Adeyanju and DT Claude Wroten each showed quickness and strength. Adeyanju showed a good bull rush as well, while Wroten's quickness resulted in some penetration on passing plays.

INJURY REPORT:
--DRE Anthony Hargrove suffered a sprained knee against the Colts, but was back on the practice field two days later.
--CB Jerametrius Butler did not play against the Colts because of a slight hamstring injury and practiced two days later


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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
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Center Jeremy Newberry's bid to return to the 49ers' starting lineup ended when he decided to undergo season-ending surgery on his left knee. Newberry, who had the same surgery last year on his right knee, was experiencing intense pain in both knees after just a week of training camp. "Jeremy needs the surgery and it's the best thing for him that he gets it," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "He has been a true warrior for us. Last year, he played injured and did an outstanding job for us. He fought through a lot of pain. I am very grateful for what he did."

Newberry entered training camp as a backup to Eric Heitmann, as Nolan was adamant that Newberry had to prove he could remain healthy for an extended period of time before he would even consider moving him into the starting role. Newberry agreed to a $2 million pay cut in the off-season. With his base salary of $1.5 million, he could have made the additional $2 million in playing-time incentives.

Now, with Newberry out for the season, the job appears to belong to Heitmann, who started 10 games last season at center when Newberry was injured. The 49ers feel as if they have enough depth to compensate for the loss of Newberry.

"Certainly, Heitmann is the best of the guys right now," Nolan said. "(David) Baas is very capable of being the center. That's one of the reasons we drafted David, was to be a center/guard player."

Baas was a second-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2005, chosen with the No. 33 overall pick. Newberry's latest problems cast serious doubt on whether he will ever play football again. Newberry, 30, is expected to be placed on injured reserve, meaning he will have missed 37 games in the past three seasons because of his knees.

"I won't go there yet," Nolan said when asked if Newberry might opt for retirement. "Anytime you get injured it is not a good thing. To say something now as if it is a decision that has been made, it has not."

CAMP CALENDAR: The 49ers break training camp on Aug. 22. The remaining open practices for the general public are scheduled for Tuesday, August 15 (4:00 p.m.).

NOTES, QUOTES

--Running back Frank Gore had an impressive opener, rushing for 49 yards on 10 carries in the team's exhibition game against the Bears. Still, Gore was none too impressed with his own work. "Frank looked today like he did last year, although Frank wasn't all that pleased," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "He told me on the sideline, 'Did you see me a couple times unsure where to go?' I said, 'Yeah,' even though I didn't."

--Rookie tight end Vernon Davis, the No. 6 overall draft pick, saw a lot of action in the first half, playing every snap during the 49ers' 13-play touchdown drive in the second quarter. Davis did not catch any passes - nor did he have any thrown his way - but did his fair share of blocking. "No, I'm not disappointed," Davis said. "As long as we won, that's all that matters." Veteran Eric Johnson played all 13 snaps in the 49ers' first two offensive possessions. Davis got onto the field for eight of those plays. Davis played 31 snaps in the game.

--Running back Kevan Barlow was not pleased with Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher, who went after Barlow's knees after an incomplete pass. Vasher ended up getting the worse of the deal, as he remained on the field for a while. Although Barlow got up immediately, he did not return to action. "It looked like he was shooting for my knee," Barlow said. "He just hit me in my quad."

--Nolan said he had a talk with newly acquired defensive lineman Lance Legree about his practice habits. Legree had just joined the team as a free agent when Nolan said he told him what was expected of him in practice. Nolan said he had several talks with rookie lineman Ronald Fields about his work ethic.

"That motor shows up because he's been told many, many times that if you want to make it in the NFL, you have to have a good motor. And I think he got that message," Nolan said of Fields. Nolan said Legree has to do the same things to win over the coaching staff and stick with the 49ers this season.

"He's been in the NFL for a few years, but I told him the same thing I told the rookies," Nolan said. "I said, 'What we're looking for is to see you work while you're out here. I don't want to see you last to the drills. I don't want to see you walking anywhere. I don't want to see you jogging.' All of the veteran guys or the very good players will tell you that the first thing is hard work."

--Linebacker Jeff Ulbrich made a notable return after missing 11 games last season with a torn biceps muscle. He accounted for the first touchdown of the exhibition season with a 32-yard fumble return in a 28-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. "It feels great to be out here, playing in front of the fans, getting my first touchdown," Ulbrich said. Bears quarterback Rex Grossman bobbled the snap from center. Niners defensive end Marques Douglas stripped Grossman of the ball, and Ulbrich was there to pounce.

"It's just one of those things, being at the right place at the right time," Ulbrich said. "I got the ball, saw my spot, made it around the corner and took it in."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He damn near killed that guy." - 49ers coach Mike Nolan on tight end Delanie Walker, who leveled Bears special-teamer Craig Bragg with a devastating stiff-arm on a 38-yard kickoff return.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--The 49ers are incredibly thin at receiver, which is why they might still be entertaining the possibility of acquiring disgruntled Broncos receiver Ashley Lelie ... if the Broncos drop their asking price.

The current 49ers can point to the past regime's failures in the 2004 draft for having a depleted corps of receivers. Then-general manager Terry Donahue used first-day picks on Rashaun Woods and Derrick Hamilton. Woods, a first-round selection, would have been released last season, but the 49ers had to keep him around for salary-cap purposes. This off-season, Woods was dealt to San Diego for cornerback Sammy Davis.

On Thursday, the 49ers cut ties with Hamilton, a third-round selection who failed to catch a pass with the club. "When I first saw him I did think he had talent and he did some good things," coach Mike Nolan said.

But Hamilton sustained a torn ACL in the 2005 off-season and injured his hamstring on the first day of training camp two weeks ago. "It's unfortunate. Anytime your first-day picks aren't on the squad, that's a disappointment."

--WR Derrick Hamilton was waived with an injury settlement. The third-round pick of the 2004 draft never caught a pass with the 49ers. He did not participate in any off-season drills after sitting out last season with a torn ACL. But the day after the 49ers' final off-season workout, in which Hamilton was not cleared to participate, Hamilton played in a charity basketball game. Hamilton sustained a strained left hamstring on the first day of practice this camp and did not practice with the club again.

--LB Bobby Iwuchukwu was signed to the 49ers' roster. Iwuchukwu is an undrafted rookie from Purdue whom the Saints released Aug. 2.

--LB Andre Torrey was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL he sustained during a special-teams practice last week.

--DB Marcus Hudson reported to camp as a safety, and now the club is working him at CB, too. Hudson, a rookie, appears to be playing well in his new spot.

--PK Luis Berlanga is the only player who has yet to report to camp. Berlanga, who's from Monterrey, Mexico, was being delayed while he waits for his working visa, team officials said.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
Shaun Hill vs. Jesse Palmer for the No. 3 QB job. Neither player has taken a commanding lead, but Hill might have taken a slight edge, based on his play in the 49ers' exhibition opener. Hill completed 4 of 4 passes for 46 yards, and also rushed twice for 14 yards, including a 3-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Hill spent his first four seasons with the Vikings, appearing in just one game during that time. He took just one snap, a kneel-down in the closing seconds of a victory. Palmer has a little more experience, playing eight games, including three starts, in his previous five seasons.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Kevan Barlow vs. Frank Gore at RB. Barlow saw limited action because of a bruised right thigh, while Gore had a strong showing in the first exhibition game.
--Offensive lineman Adam Snyder is competing for two starting jobs simultaneously. He is pushing incumbent Kwame Harris for the job at RT, while also seeing time at RG, where Justin Smiley appears to have the inside track for the job. If Snyder is not a starter, he might work into a role as the first player off the sideline at any of the guard or tackle positions.
--With the addition of safety Mark Roman, it becomes a three-way battle for the starting FS job. Roman is competing for the FS job against Mike Adams and Chad Williams. This is the first time that Adams has played the same position through all of the off-season. He appears to have the lead.
--With Jeremy Newberry headed for IR, Eric Heitmann appears to have a commanding lead over David Baas at center.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Rookie RB Michael Robinson is making an impressive transition from QB, where he earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year last season at Penn State. In his first exhibition game, Robinson rushed for 31 yards on 11 carries, caught two passes for 26 yards and made a terrific tackle on special teams. The 49ers envision Robinson as a third-down back and someone who fits Norv Turner's offense well at the F-back, which is a combination of running back, tight end and wide receiver.

ROOKIE REPORT: TE Vernon Davis, the No. 6 overall pick, saw a lot of action with the first team defense but did not have any passes thrown his way. Still, Davis blocked well and continues to be on pace to make an impact on the team this season.
--OLB Manny Lawson had two tackles and was pleased afterward that he made no mental mistakes and was never out of position. Lawson started at ROLB.
--OLB Parys Haralson showed good instincts while playing a lot in the second half. He made two tackles.
--WR Brandon Williams did not catch a pass. He handled three punts, fair catching two of them and returning the other for just 1 yard. Williams appears to be well behind in his bid to win the No. 3 receiver job.
--TE Delanie Walker had an impressive debut. He returned a short kickoff 38 yards, caught five passes for 54 yards, and gained 16 yards on an end-around.
--CB Marcus Hudson is showing the versatility to play both defensive back positions. He had an impressive first game. He broke up a fourth-down pass and also showed good physical play, coming up from his corner spot to make a nice tackle.

INJURY REPORT: DL Jerry DeLoach, who has a partially torn MCL, might be able to return to action this week against the Raiders.
--WR Arnaz Battle, who has missed time with a knee injury, might miss some practice time with a chest contusion.
--RB Kevan Barlow sustained a bruised right thigh that might keep him out of a practice or two this week.
--K Joe Nedney sustained an ankle sprain and might rest some during practice this week.
--LB T.J. Slaughter (concussion) will be held out of practice a few days.
--LB Renauld Williams (high ankle sprain) will miss 4-5 weeks.
--CB Derrick Johnson (sprained toe) may miss a few days.
--G-C Ben Sobieski will be sidelined a couple more weeks with a neck injury after sustaining some stingers last week.
--CB B.J. Tucker (ankle) did not play in the game but should be able to return to practice soon.
--QB Trent Dilfer did not play in the exhibition opener, but is fine. The club held him out as a precaution. Dilfer underwent off-season surgery on his knee. He has not missed any practice time due to his knee.


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