NFC West News & Notes - 10/25/06

In today's News & Notes: The Seahawks look to rebound from several personnel debits, Arizona's ownership asks hard questions of the coach, the Rams hope to continue positive momentum after the bye, and the 49ers want to see development on their offensive line.


Most teams would be happy with a 4-2 record, but the Seahawks aren't close to the same team they were last season. There is no mystery behind their struggles, either. The team has been or will be without a long list of players who made the 2005 season special.

Gone are left guard Steve Hutchinson, receiver Joe Jurevicius, tight end Ryan Hannam and safety Marquand Manuel. The current injured list includes quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, running back Shaun Alexander and receiver Bobby Engram. Tight end Jerramy Stevens returned only recently. Long-time deep snapper J.P. Darche is on injured reserve.

The team has given up big plays in the secondary despite having both starters healthy. But the coaching staff has fewer viable options at the position because safety Mike Green, acquired from Chicago, suffered a season-ending foot injury.

The goal at this point is to weather the storm and get guys healthy for a stretch run. Seattle benefits from a weak division and a relatively easy schedule. Alexander could return in two weeks. Engram should be back before then. Hasselbeck expects to be back within the next month or so.

"We'll get through this," coach Mike Holmgren said. "It's very much a measure of what your team is really like down at its core, I think.

"It's not the first time a team has had to deal with this, and it won't be the last. But it will tell us a lot about who we are, when you miss a few of your real fine football players."


--QB Matt Hasselbeck will remain on crutches for the next few days before jumping into the more aggressive stages of his rehabilitation from a sprained knee. Hasselbeck expects to be back in the lineup after missing three games.

--RB Shaun Alexander should be back for Seattle's Monday night game against Oakland on Nov. 6. The league MVP is feeling good and could do some running this week. The team doesn't want to rush him back and risk further injury, however.

--RB Maurice Morris has averaged only 3.1 yards per carry, but that is an improvement over Shaun Alexander's 2.9-yard average before leaving with a foot injury. The ground game has been stuck in neutral and it has more to do with overall line play than personnel at running back. The sledding could get tougher now that QB Matt Hasselbeck is out for at least three games. Defenses should be able to load up even more.

--TE Itula Mili hasn't been able to get to downfield passes. Seattle has thrown a couple of longer passes his way, but Mili isn't as fast as he was a few years ago. Age and injuries could be taking a toll. TE Jerramy Stevens is ready to jump back into the starting lineup Sunday.

--WR Deion Branch has caught passes of 23, 13 and 12 yards from new starting QB Seneca Wallace. Wallace threw for Branch seven times in the second half of the Minnesota game Sunday.

--WR Darrell Jackson is enjoying a career season with five TD receptions in six games. He currently ranks fifth in the NFL in Football Outsiders' DPAR (Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement, explained here) for receivers. He has never caught more than nine scoring passes in a season. Jackson had seven during his 1,199-yard season of 2004. His current pace reflects the absence of RB Shaun Alexander, who has been a red-zone machine in recent seasons. The surprising thing is that Jackson has TD catches of 42, 49 and 72 yards. Two of those were on third down with at least seven yards to go.

--WR Nate Burleson has fallen behind D.J. Hackett on the depth chart. Burleson has suffered through a slow start to his Seattle career. The feeling is that Burleson will produce over the long term, but right now Seattle has better options at the position.

--WR Bobby Engram could resume practicing this week but coach Mike Holmgren sounded a little less sure about having Engram back for the Kansas City game Sunday. The team has flexibility at the position because WR Darrell Jackson, WR Deion Branch and WR D.J. Hackett are playing well. The return of TE Jerramy Stevens from injury also provides flexibility in the passing game.

--LB Julian Peterson has six sacks in six games, leaving him one sack short of a single-season career high. Peterson is benefiting from having so many fast players around him. He is also healthy after recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon.

--FS Ken Hamlin was beaten for a 15-yard TD on a halfback pass during Seattle's 31-13 loss at Minnesota. Coach Mike Holmgren has demanded more disciplined play from members of the secondary after the team has allowed an unusually high number of big plays.

--SS Michael Boulware was one of the players out of position on the Vikings' 40-yard TD pass in the first half Sunday. Coach Mike Holmgren has demanded more disciplined play from members of the secondary after the team has allowed an unusually high number of big plays.


Coach Dennis Green won't lose his job this week. That's about the only assurances team vice president Michael Bidwill would give this week regarding his coach's job status. The Cardinals have lost six straight, and the heat is on Green, who has won 12 games in nearly 2 1/2 seasons with the team. He has a year remaining on his contract, plus a team option for a fifth season. If they fired him, the Cardinals would owe him the balance of this year's contract plus all of next year's salary.

Green makes about $2.5 million a year.

Bidwill, in New Orleans for NFL owners' meetings, called Green and Cardinals Vice President of Football Operations Rod Graves on Monday to discuss the situation. "What I asked them, frankly, was 'How in the hell did we get to 1-6?'"

Bidwill said. "Close losses don't count. We're 1-6 and we shouldn't be. I wanted to know what we were doing to correct it." Bidwill also asked the two men to "re-double" their efforts.

Green said he still believes he can turn things around. "As I've said quite a bit, we've got a lot of people working together. I've tried to play a role in helping us acquire some talent. I think we have good talent; I just think we haven't had as good of fortune as we'd like to have."


--QB Matt Leinart took a beating last week in Oakland, but he is healthy heading into the Green Bay game this week. Leinart took some hits from the backside, where right tackle Oliver Ross struggled.

--QB Kurt Warner won't play again this year unless there are dire circumstances. He didn't play last week when starter Matt Leinart was struggling, and that was a good time to bring in a backup.

--RB Edgerrin James has yet to gain 100 yards in a game as a Cardinal. Last week, he gained only 34 yards against the Raiders. He rarely had room to run.

--RB J.J. Arrington rarely plays. He has good speed and might be able to give this team a different look, should it ever run the ball competently.

--WR Anquan Boldin didn't touch the ball against the Raiders until the Cardinals were down 17-0. Boldin wasn't open that much, and Matt Leinart, under pressure, had trouble getting him the ball.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald probably won't return this week from a pulled hamstring. Fitzgerald has missed two games, and it probably would be wise to hold him out this seek and have him return Nov. 12, after a bye.

--WR Bryant Johnson is a solid player who just doesn't get the ball much. Johnson has good speed but he is not a focal point of the offense.

--WR Troy Walters is the No. 3 receiver with Larry Fitzgerald out with injury, but he's not going to get more than two or three receptions a game.

--TE Leonard Pope should develop into a solid all-around player. He needs to improve his blocking, and he's already a good receiver.

--TE Adam Bergen is an effective receiver, but he needs a lot of work as a blocker.

--K Neil Rackers is still struggling. He missed a 49-yarder last Sunday but made three other kicks. Rackers is changing the way he approaches the ball, which had deviated a bit from what he did last year when he made 40 of 42 field goals.


The Rams have been a relatively healthy team since training camp started, although the loss of center Andy McCollum for the season in the opening game was difficult. Still, very few starters have missed games because of injuries, and when the team came back from the bye to begin preparations for Sunday's game against San Diego, coach Scott Linehan has his fill complement of players available, except for fullback Paul Smith, who might be available to play this week.

"The bye week was beneficial for a lot of things," Linehan said. "More than anything, I think we're in pretty good health. It looks like barring any change from what I heard today, Paul Smith will be cleared for this game. Madison (Hedgecock) looked pretty good with his cast on today. Fakhir (Brown) made it through practice without any issues, so I think most of the guys that were on that injury list, unless anything changes, look pretty good."

Brown originally injured his ankle against Arizona Sept. 24, and played the following week against Detroit. That only made it worse, and Brown ended up missing two games. He was close to full speed for the first practice of this week.

"It can get better," Brown said. "I'm just going to continue to treat it the way I've been treating it and hopefully it can get back to normal."

He said the bye came at just the right time. "It did for me," he said. "I just stayed here and treated it, tried to do a little running, and tried to get a little conditioning in so I could be ready."

Asked about having to make adjustments because of injuries, Linehan said, "That's the NFL season. I think everyone's got those issues throughout the league. I was looking through the sports scan and everything today. Everybody's kind of going through that middle of the season injury bug a little bit. That's why byes, when you get them, you've got to hopefully take advantage of it and try to get as healthy as possible."


--C Richie Incognito knows he will have his hands full with Chargers NT Jamal Williams Sunday. Said Incognito, "He's a game-wrecker. Every game I've watched him, he's just a great ballplayer. It's going to be a challenge."

--QB Marc Bulger has been productive in the fourth quarter and on third down. In the fourth quarter, Bulger has averaged 9.2 yards an attempt and has a passer rating of 93.8. On third down, his passer rating is 98.3. His one interception this season came in the fourth quarter against Seattle.

--WR Isaac Bruce has 27 receptions this season, with 12 coming on third down. That's tied for the fifth-highest total in the NFL.

--RB Steven Jackson ranks fifth in the league in first downs with 34. Of that total, nine have been receiving.

--CB Tye Hill is expected to return to his role as the team's third cornerback, now that Fakhir Brown is back practicing after missing two games because of an ankle injury.


The 49ers have placed a lot of faith in second-year offensive lineman Adam Snyder, but they still don't consider him a starter. Thus far in his career, Snyder has started at right guard, left guard and left tackle. And many believed he would start this season at right tackle. But with the entire offensive line healthy again, it looks as if Snyder is heading back to the sideline, as the line's primary backup.

"Adam would swing at the tackle positions," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "He'd be the backup at those two positions right now. If they're all healthy, it will look like it did when we opened the season." Kwame Harris, who is the subject of vocal complaints from his home fans, will retain his starting job Sunday against the Bears, Nolan said.

Harris is coming off a particularly rough outing Oct. 15 against the Chargers, in which he was called for two holding penalties and a false start and was beaten for a sack. "He had a bad day the other day," Nolan said of Harris' problems in a 48-19 loss to the San Diego Chargers. "But we had some other guys that didn't play well in the game, either."

Almost all of Harris' miscues arise in pass blocking. Quarterback Alex Smith has been sacked 13 times in six games. Harris' pass protection has been partially or entirely to blame for six of those sacks.
Harris has also been called for a team-high six penalties. Nobody on the team has been flagged more than three times. Harris has been called for four holding penalties (one was declined), a false start, and illegal use of hands (also declined).

But Harris holds onto his job because he is a good run-blocker. The 49ers are averaging 4.5 yards rushing per carry as a team. Running back Frank Gore ranks seventh in the league with 520 yards on 112 carries.

Snyder figures prominently into the 49ers' future plans. Last month, he signed a four-year, $10.5 million contract extension through the 2011 season.


--QB Alex Smith has continued to look in control of the 49ers' offense in just his second season. Smith has played consistently this season, completing 59.6 percent of his passes for 1,285 yards in six games. Smith has thrown eight touchdowns and four interceptions and has a passer rating of 86.4.

--RB Frank Gore ranks seventh in the league in rushing heading into Sunday's game against the Bears. Gore has gained 520 yards on 112 carries for a 4.6-yard average. After fumbling in his first four games, he has not fumbled in the past two games. He also leads the 49ers in receptions with 24 for 202 yards.

--RB Michael Robinson played just three snaps in the 49ers' last game, Oct. 15 against the Chargers after carrying 12 times the previous week against the Raiders. For the season, Robinson has 64 yards on 24 carries, mostly in short-yardage situations. He has two rushing touchdowns.

--FB Moran Norris, a forceful lead-blocker, has emerged as the starter over Chris Hetherington, who started the first two games of the season. Norris has not carried the ball. He has three receptions for 2 yards, including a touchdown.

--WR Antonio Bryant leads the team in receiving yards with 415 on 21 receptions. Bryant has also shown an ability to block downfield, which has resulted in some long Frank Gore runs.

--WR Arnaz Battle has been healthy this season and he is turning into a competent No. 2 receiver with 20 receptions for 233 yards and a team-leading two TD receptions.

--WR Bryan Gilmore, the team's No. 3 receiver, has just six receptions for the season, he has also rushed three times for 53 yards. He had a 22-yarder against the Chargers, but then fumbled on an end-around later in the game.

--TE Vernon Davis will not play Sunday against the Bears because of a hairline fracture in his right leg. His most likely return date is Nov. 12 at the Lions. Davis had five catches for 37 yards this season, all of which came in the season opener at the Cardinals, before the injury.

--TE Eric Johnson has taken over as the starting tight end and has played almost every snap since Vernon Davis' injury. Johnson, who led the team with 82 catches two seasons ago, is fourth on the team with 17 receptions for 155 yards. When Davis returns to the lineup, Johnson will see his playing time slashed considerably.

--LG Larry Allen is expected to return to the lineup Sunday when the 49ers play the Bears. He has been out with a left knee injury since getting injured on the sixth play of the season. Allen's return should help the 49ers in short-yardage running situations.

--LT Jonas Jennings, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, is expected to return to the lineup Sunday against the Bears. Jennings has missed time in four of the 49ers' six games this season due to injuries. He underwent surgery two weeks ago to repair a torn finger ligament on his left hand. He also had a minor wrist sprain.

--K Joe Nedney, who made 26 of 28 field-goal attempts last season, is just 8 of 12 this season. He has missed field-goal attempts of 34, 46, 51 and 49 yards.

--SS Mark Roman has been promoted into the starting lineup, taking Tony Parrish's job. Roman played reasonably well in his first start against the Chargers, with three tackles and a pass defensed.

--SS Tony Parrish started the first 126 games of his career, but he was on the sideline when Sunday's game began. Parrish played sparingly and did not record a tackle. The nine-year pro is in the final year of his 49ers contract.

--CB Walt Harris is expected to return to action Sunday against the Bears because of a left hamstring strain. Harris did not suit up for Sunday's game against the Chargers. He was able to rest during the bye week.

--PK Shaun Suisham was signed to the 49ers' practice squad. Suisham (6-0, 205) was originally signed by Pittsburgh as a rookie free agent in 2005 out of Bowling Green. After being waived by the Steelers in training camp, he joined the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. He later was signed to the 53-mnan roster and played in three games. Suisham went to camp with Dallas this past summer and played three games with Dallas before being signed to the practice squad. He was waived by Dallas on October 17.

--QB Gibran Hamdan was signed by Seattle off San Francisco's practice squad. Top Stories