NFC West News & Notes - 9/27/06

In today's News & Notes: Mike Holmgren ruminates on life without his MVP, Dennis Green plays "Wack-A-Mole" with his QB depth chart, Scott Linehan has a serious talk with Anthony Hargrove, and Mike Nolan looks for a new goal-line threat.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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Coach Mike Holmgren said the Seahawks did everything they could to make sure running back Shaun Alexander wasn't at undue risk to injure his foot. Whatever they did wasn't enough to prevent Alexander from suffering an injury that will sideline him for several weeks. Alexander's foot had been hurting since he suffered a bone bruise in the opener at Detroit. He aggravated the injury against Arizona the next week. Bruise turned to break -- a small crack, as Holmgren put it -- sometime during a 42-30 victory over the Giants.

"Ever since he hurt it in Detroit, we've been monitoring it," Holmgren said. "The training staff has obviously been very diligent during the football game. He never wants to come out.

"Even when I took him out of the game, he was a little grouchy with me because he didn't want to come out. I don't know exactly when it happened. It was a very physical game. There is no episode of film that you can see. It just happened sometime in there."

Alexander has never missed an NFL game to injury or anything else. He missed a start when his daughter was born a few years ago, but he arrived at the stadium in time to play. He'll miss a game for the first time when the Seahawks visit the Bears for a nationally televised game Sunday at Soldier Field. The team has a bye the following week. It's unclear exactly how long Alexander might miss.

The good news for Seattle is that Alexander's foot has only a small crack. It's a non-displaced fracture that should heal as long as he keeps weight off the foot. That means Alexander will be on crutches until further notice.

Holmgren said he thought Alexander ran well when there were holes against the Giants.

"I thought he was running fine," Holmgren said. "There were times when things were kind of gummed up in there, and he had to stop and get going again. There were also some times I could show you where he exploded and did some things.

"It may have been sore, but he got new shoes, new orthotics. He was feeling good before the game. Like I said, a number of people were constantly asking him how it was going. Now we have to let it quiet down and heal up."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed five TD passes against the Giants while upping his record to 8-1 as a starter when the opposing team fails to sack him. Hasselbeck completed at least 70 percent of his passes for the 22nd time as a starter. Seattle is 18-4 in those games, counting playoffs. Hasselbeck's starting record is now 43-28 (.606) in the regular season and 2-3 (.400) in the playoffs.

--RB Shaun Alexander has never missed an NFL game to injury or anything else. He missed a start when his daughter was born a few years ago, but he arrived at the stadium in time to play. After suffering a cracked bone in his foot Sunday, Alexander will miss a game for the first time when the Seahawks visit the Bears for a nationally televised game at Soldier Field. The team has a bye the following week. It's unclear exactly how long Alexander might miss.

--RB Maurice Morris is not the kind of workhorse back that Shaun Alexander has been, but he won't have to be, either. The Seahawks are changing their offense to reflect personnel issues at tight end, receiver, offensive line and now running back. Morris will do some of his running out of four-receiver sets. He also figures to catch passes out of the backfield, one of his strengths.

--TE Itula Mili was active but did not play much against the Giants. He should be ready to contribute against the Bears on Sunday. Seattle will go with more four-receiver sets, but having Mili healthy allows them to use some of their two-tight formations as well.

--WR Deion Branch played most of the game Sunday against the Giants. He is technically not a starter, but that doesn't mean much. Seattle has dramatically increased the number of four-receiver sets it is running. That allows all the receivers to be on the field a lot.

--WR Darrell Jackson has responded very well to the addition of WR Deion Branch. The Seahawks paid Branch more than Jackson's deal was worth, but Jackson has taken the disparity in stride. He jokingly wrote, "I need DB money" on his shoes for a recent game. He also joked that Branch could afford to pay any fines that might result from writing messages on his shoes. Jackson gets along with Branch and it's clear there are enough balls to go around.

--WR Nate Burleson played the game Sunday with a small splint on his left thumb. The splint might explain why Burleson has dropped a few balls this season. He still caught his first TD pass of the season.

--WR Bobby Engram is showing no signs of slowing at age 33. He's flourishing in the four-receiver sets that have proliferated since the addition of WR Deion Branch. Seattle doesn't need Engram to put up huge numbers. But when it's time to make an important play, QB Matt Hasselbeck knows he can trust Engram to do the right thing and catch the ball when it's thrown his way.

--LB Julian Peterson is proving to be a very nice fit in Seattle's speedy defense. He can rush the passer or drop into coverage. He has two sacks in three games after getting only three sacks with San Francisco in 15 games last season. He is also on pace for about 80 tackles, a high number on a team featuring MLB Lofa Tatupu.

--FS Ken Hamlin has made a remarkable recovery from career-threatening head injuries suffered in a fight outside a Seattle nightclub last season. Hamlin picked off two passes against the Giants last week. He is an emotional leader on defense.

--CB Marcus Trufant is quietly having a solid season. He is making plays on the ball and applying tight coverage against top-flight receivers. And when he did give up a pass Sunday against the Giants, Trufant had the presence of mind to slap the ball loose, forcing a fumble that LB Leroy Hill recovered.


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ARIZONA CARDINALS
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Quarterback Kurt Warner will keep his starting job for at least one more week, but he knows he's on shaky ground as the team's No. 1 quarterback. On Monday, coach Dennis Green declined to say he was still committed to Warner, who had struggled the previous two weeks. Green said he doesn't talk about personnel on Mondays, which was news to reporters who have covered him the past three seasons.

There were reports Monday that Green had decided to start rookie Matt Leinart, the 10th overall pick, in place of Warner. But that turned out not to be true. On Tuesday, Green issued a statement (he's not available to reporters that day) that Warner was still the starter.

"Generally, talking about the starting lineup is not something we do," said Green. "However, given the speculation that was out there we want to make it clear. We're disappointed after last week, but we still expect to be a playoff football team and we fully expect Kurt Warner to be the quarterback that leads us. That has not changed."

Warner has struggled the past two weeks after being named the NFC's offensive player of the week for his performance against San Francisco in the season's first game. Warner had three passes intercepted and fumbled away the ball late in the loss to St. Louis. He was booed coming off the field by a handful of fans that want to see Leinart take over.

That won't happen for at least another week. Green likely decided that giving Leinart his first start on the road in Atlanta was not the right move.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Kurt Warner will retain his starting job for this Sunday's game in Atlanta. Warner had a hand in four turnovers last week in a loss to St. Louis. He made enough positive plays, however, that coach Dennis Green decided not to bench him.

--QB Matt Leinart is one poor performance by Kurt Warner from moving into the starting job. If Warner struggles for a third straight week, Leinart could be the starter against Kansas City the following week.

--RB Edgerrin James gained 94 yards last week, his best performance of the season. He carried 24 times but he wants the ball more. Coaches, however, think 24 carries is just about right for James.

--RB J.J. Arrington has not had a carry in two weeks. He's not going to play unless Edgerrin James gets hurt.

--WR Anquan Boldin continues to produce almost every time he touches the ball. The Cardinals need to continue to use him on shorter routes and allow him to use his running ability to make big plays.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald must learn how to beat press coverage. More teams are going to be physical with him at the line, because they don't think Fitzgerald has the speed to make them pay for it.

--WR Bryant Johnson has caught a 40-yard pass and a 54-yarder the past two weeks, but he's not used much. The Cardinals need to look downfield at him more often.

--TE Leonard Pope is listed as the starter, but he hasn't started a game yet. At 6-8, Pope is a valuable player to have in the red-zone area, because Warner can throw the ball high and let Pope go get it.

--TE Adam Bergen is an effective receiver, but he's not going to be a focal point of this offense. He'll probably finish the season with 30 or so catches, provided he stays healthy.

--PK Neil Rackers didn't have a field-goal attempt last week. He's still one of the NFL's best kickers, but the Cardinals haven't given him enough chances.


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ST. LOUIS RAMS
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Anthony Hargrove will be back on the practice field Wednesday, but with a lot of work to do to get back in the good graces of his coaches and teammates. He is expected to address the team at the start of Wednesday's work day.

Hargrove was a no-show without explanation for meetings and practice last Thursday, and didn't respond to calls for several hours from team officials. He finally called coach Scott Linehan at around 4 p.m., and was told to be at Rams Park at 6 p.m. for a meeting. Again, he was a no-show.

Friday, Hargrove didn't surface at Rams Park until 11:30 a.m., when the team was about 30 minutes from finishing practice. He met briefly with Linehan, was told he wouldn't be making the trip to Arizona, and another meeting was set for Monday.

At that meeting, Hargrove was "remorseful," according to Linehan, and explained the personal issues that were affecting him. "It doesn't excuse what happened," Linehan said. "I'm satisfied with his approach and that he's very remorseful about what happened and he knows that he needs to make amends and that he has a long road to establishing his position on this team."

Asked to explain Hargrove's problems, Linehan said, "It's really personal. I think we ought to leave it there. He certainly knows that we are always there and concerned about things that happen in people's personal lives, but when you come to the office you have to learn to separate the two, deal with them, and know you're going to get support and help, but it doesn't excuse you from doing your job and showing up as it does in any workplace. There are things that come up in people's personal lives and there are right ways and wrong ways of handling things. I learned that as a young boy.

"He certainly knows the difference between right and wrong. He's a great kid. I will say that again. We're certainly concerned about his well-being. That's where we start. But when it starts to affect his job and job performance in a very concerning way, when it comes to being reliable, then we have a business problem. You've got to learn to manage them. We'll keep a close eye on him and hold him accountable to it, but also know that we understand that people have personal problems."

In Hargrove's absence, Victor Adeyanju started and Brandon Green was active for the first time this season. Adeyanju will remain the starter, and Hargrove will be fighting to be active for Sunday's game against Detroit.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Marc Bulger has gone three consecutive games without an interception, the first time in one season he has done that. Bulger's overall streak is four games, dating back to the final game he played on Nov. 20 last season against Arizona before being injured. He has gone 18 quarters without an interception, with his last coming on his final pass of the first half Nov. 13 against Seattle. Bulger has now thrown 144 passes without an interception, 9i9 this season.

--WR Torry Holt had a breakout day against Arizona with eight receptions for 120 yards, and one reason was the amount of man defense the Cardinals played. Holt was often matched up against Matt Ware, who was making his first start.

--WR Isaac Bruce is showing he still has a lot left. While Torry Holt remains the main go-to guy in the offense, Bruce remains a threat for big plays. He had a 45-yard catch against Arizona.

--RB Steven Jackson ran hard and fought for 62 yards Sunday against a defense that played a lot of eight men in the box. He had 24 attempts, and has had at least 20 carries in each game this season.

--TE Joe Klopfenstein is improving as a blocker each game, and the game plan will try to get him more involved as a receiver.

--PK Jeff Wilkins is off to another strong start, having made 11 of 13 field-goal attempts in the first three games.

--SS Corey Chavous briefly left Sunday's game against Arizona with a shoulder injury, but returned to the game. He was named by the coaches as co-defensive player of the game with CB Fakhir Brown.

--CB Fakhir Brown continues to compete and play well. He did suffer a minor ankle injury against the Cardinals. Brown was named by the coaches as co-defensive player of the game.

--LB Dexter Coakley, coming back from a broken leg that ended his 2005 season, had an interception in the end zone against the Cardinals.

--C Richie Incognito is settling in and showing progress after playing his second game at center.


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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
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Running back Michael Robinson, who 49ers teammate Trent Dilfer calls the most impressive rookie he has seen in his 13-year career, might start getting more of an opportunity to show what he can do on the field. While starter Frank Gore has lost fumbles on the goal line in both of the past two games, Robinson took advantage of an opportunity to make a contribution when Gore left the lineup Sunday against the Eagles with bruised ribs. Robinson scored touchdowns on two 1-yard runs in the 49ers' 38-24 loss.

Coach Mike Nolan said he is discussing inserting Robinson as the team's short-yardage back because of Gore's problems. Gore has fumbled in each of the first three games of the season. "Michael is a bigger back," Nolan said. "He could take some hits off of Frank, if that were the case. But it's something right now we're just talking about."

Said Gore, "Whatever he wants to do, I'm fine with it. All I can do is do my job when they call my number. If it's on the goal line or short yardage, I got to better myself at that position. That's something I have to keep working at and better myself."

Michael Robinson, who 49ers teammate Trent Dilfer calls the most impressive rookie he has seen in his 13-year career, might start getting more of an opportunity to show what he can do on the field. While starter Frank Gore has lost fumbles on the goal line in both of the past two games, Robinson took advantage of an opportunity to make a contribution when Gore left the lineup Sunday against the Eagles with bruised ribs. Robinson scored touchdowns on two 1-yard runs in the 49ers' 38-24 loss.

Coach Mike Nolan said he is discussing inserting Robinson as the team's short-yardage back because of Gore's problems. Gore has fumbled in each of the first three games of the season. "Michael is a bigger back," Nolan said. "He could take some hits off of Frank, if that were the case. But it's something right now we're just talking about."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Alex Smith, who threw 11 interceptions and just one touchdown last season, has attempted 108 passes this season without an interception. His streak dating back to last season is 132 attempts without an interception. Smith's passer rating through three games is 89.8, after compiling a 40.8 rating as a rookie.

--RB Frank Gore has gained 266 yards rushing on 61 carries this season, while also leading the team with 14 pass receptions for 115 yards. But Gore, who has three TD runs, might lose his short-yardage responsibilities because he has twice fumbled on the goal line in the past two weeks. He has three lost fumbles in three games.

--RB Michael Robinson, who scored the first two TDs of his NFL career, is expected to replace Frank Gore on short-yardage situations. Robinson (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) is a powerful inside runner.

--FB Chris Hetherington was inactive Sunday against the Eagles after starting the first two games of the season.

--FB Moran Norris made his debut with the 49ers because the club decided his style best fit into the team's game plan for the week. Norris is more of a pounding blocker, while Hetherington is a more versatile fullback. Coach Mike Nolan credited Norris with doing a good job going against Eagles MLB Jeremiah Trotter.

--WR Antonio Bryant has more than twice the yards as anyone else on the team. He leads the 49ers with 281 yards receiving on his 12 catches. For the second time this season, he had a long pass play negated by a penalty. Bryant had four catches for 36 yards against the Eagles.

--WR Arnaz Battle had three catches for 28 yards, and for the first time this season did not handle punt return duties. Because the 49ers activated WR Brandon Williams over injured Taylor Jacobs, Williams returned punts and kickoffs. Battle has eight catches for 123 yards on the season.

--WR Bryan Gilmore, the team's No. 3 receiver, had one catch for 75 yards against the Eagles. He was tackled on the 1-yard line. Gilmore has four receptions for 108 yards in the first three games.

--TE Vernon Davis is expected to miss four weeks with a broken right lower leg. He sustained the injury in the third quarter against the Eagles. He has not caught a pass since grabbing five balls for 37
yards and a touchdown in the season opener.

--TE Eric Johnson took over as the main tight end after Davis' injury. Johnson caught seven passes for 87 yards and a TD against the Eagles. The last time Johnson saw this was playing time was in 2004, when he led the team with 82 catches for 825 yards.

--LG Larry Allen is expected to be out at least another week or two with a sprained left knee. He missed Sunday's game against the Eagles with the injury, which he sustained on the sixth play of the season-opener Sept. 10.

--LT Jonas Jennings returned to action Sunday against the Eagles and appeared to play well. Jennings missed the Sept. 17 game against the Rams with a high ankle sprain.

--K Joe Nedney hit a 48-yard field goal, for his fifth FG in seven attempts this season. Nedney got off to a rough start Sunday against the Eagles when the opening kickoff sailed out of bounds.

--S Chad Williams, who comes into the game as the 49ers' sixth defensive back, leads the team with 2.5 sacks after sharing a sack in the 49ers' game Sunday against the Eagles.

--TE Delanie Walker, who has not played since sustaining a separated shoulder Sept. 1 in the 49ers' final exhibition game, expects to return to practice Wednesday and be available for Sunday's game against the Chiefs.

--LB Brandon Moore recorded his second sack of the season and had two QB hurries for the 49ers against the Eagles.


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