NFC West News & Notes - 10/10/07

Mack Strong knew the "stinger" he felt in the game against Pittsburgh was different than the others that had bothered him at times in his career. Medical examinations revealed it to be a herniated disc pinching on his spinal cord. It caused the veteran fullback to retire.


"You are always in flux about 'When should I hang it up?' 'When should I call it quits?' But it's a no-brainer," Strong said. "It's a no-brainer and I don't have to worry about some sign or anything. This was my sign."

His condition will not require surgery. When he took a hit early in the game, he experienced a burning sensation down into his legs. "I've been dinged, I've had stingers more time than I care to count," Strong said. "I knew this was something that you just don't go off the field for a couple of plays, shake it off, and then come right back in. This is something that might be a little more serious than that."

Strong played 201 games for the Seahawks, coming into the league as an undrafted free agent in 1993. He was twice voted to the Pro Bowl.

Known for his community involvement, Strong was named winner of the team's Steve Largent Award five times. It honors the player who best exemplifies courage and character.

"There's a lot more to life than football," Strong said. "I've got a wife and two kids and there's nothing more important than being able to spend time with them. If I had not been able to walk off that field, I don't know. ... I mean, life goes on and all that, but I'm just grateful that I got the opportunity to make that decision, to make that choice."


--QB Matt Hasselbeck is coming off his worst statistical game (44.0 passer rating) since last December against San Diego.
--RB Shaun Alexander is coming off his least productive game (25 yards) since the 2002 season.
--RB Leonard Weaver will now step in and take over the fullback duties from Mack Strong, who retired after a neck injury.
--WR Deion Branch will miss at least two weeks with a foot sprain.
--WR Courtney Taylor will now step in and get repetitions with Branch's absence.
--TE Marcus Pollard had a key 22-yard catch against the Steelers.
--DT Craig Terrill had one of his better games, finishing with five tackles and several near sacks of Ben Roethlisberger.
--LB Julian Peterson added to his sack total, bringing his number to six in the first five games.
--S Deon Grant was brought up to defend the rush many times during the game, and he finished with eight tackles.
--FB Mack Strong retired the day after suffering a neck injury against Pittsburgh, ending a career that included 201 games.
--LS Derek Rackley's contract was terminated on Tuesday.


Quarterback Matt Leinart's long-term medical prognosis, coupled with the team's need to add offensive line depth, led the club to place Leinart on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season. Leinart suffered a fractured left collarbone last Sunday against St. Louis. While the club was unsure how long Leinart would be out, it was expected he would miss at least eight weeks. Factor in rehabilitation time, and it was just too long a time period to hold a roster spot for a quarterback.

"It just felt like it was in a gray area," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "and the one thing we didn't want to do was have him rush back. To hold a roster spot for that long is something that's difficult. I'm more concerned about him trying to rush back and doing something to jeopardize the future.

"Who knows what it could have been? It could have been eight weeks. It could have been 12 weeks, and when you're talking about that, especially with your throwing shoulder, at this point in the season it was too much of a risk to try to hold a spot and not have him be able to play."

The club signed veteran Tim Rattay as the backup to starting quarterback Kurt Warner on Tuesday and also added veteran guard Keydrick Vincent, who played for Whisenhunt and line coach Russ Grimm in Pittsburgh.

To make room, backup center Chukky Okobi was waived.

In addition to Rattay, the team also considered Vinny Testaverde. Like Rattay, Testaverde was scheduled to work out on Tuesday. But he called Whisenhunt on Tuesday morning to cancel. Testaverde and his family are scheduled to move from Long Island to Florida in a month, and Testaverde didn't want to be so far away from home during the move.

Rattay is a good fit. He's from the Phoenix area, he's smart and he's only 30. He also has starting experience.


--QB Matt Leinart is out for the season with a fractured left collarbone. He was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
--QB Kurt Warner is now the starter. The Cardinals don't plan to go to great lengths to protect him, even though he's the only quarterback with experience in this offense. Warner is at his best operating a wide-open attack, and there are no plans to back away from that.
--RB Edgerrin James expected to share time this year, but he's getting the vast majority of the carries this year. James has 102 carries while the other two running backs on the roster, Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington have 11. James leads the NFC with 442 yards.
--RB Marcel Shipp thought he would get a good number of carries this year but he had just three in five games. Shipp is playing in third-down situations but he's not seeing the ball much.
--RB J.J. Arrington has eight carries this season and is mainly a kick returner.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald has caught 19 passes for 256 yards a touchdown in the two games Anquan Boldin has missed with injury.
--WR Anquan Boldin's sore hip is feeling better and he's expected to try and practice this week after missing two games.
--WR Bryant Johnson has played fairly well as the team's No. 2 receiver, subbing in for the injured Anquan Boldin. Johnson has been reliable on third downs.
--TE Leonard Pope isn't a focal point of the offense. The Cardinals did try to throw to him deep down the middle last week but Pope was well covered.
--SS Adrian Wilson has interceptions in each of the past two games.
--ILB Karlos Dansby had 15 tackles last week, including 14 solos.
--DE/OLB Bertrand Berry's playing time has diminished in the past two weeks. He comes out in some nickel situations, which is odd because he has been the team's best pass rusher when healthy the past three years.


The Rams finally got right guard Richie Incognito back in the lineup Sunday against the Cardinals, for the first time since he suffered a high ankle sprain in an Aug. 18 practice game against San Diego.

Unfortunately, there was some bad to go with the good. With Incognito in the lineup and Andy McCollum at left guard, the offensive line was improved and for the first time this season the same line that started the game finished the game.

However, Incognito was also called for two holding penalties and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The Rams had nine penalties for 86 in the game, and Incognito accounted for four of the infractions for 50 yards.

Said Incognito, who is from Glendale, Ariz., "It was all on my shoulders. I shouldn't have been in those situations. Really, I let my emotions get the best of me. It was my first game back. I was real hyped up. Playing the hometown team, and that was all my fault. I killed us today."

Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett isn't a fan of the way Incognito plays at times, allegedly taking cheap shots. Said Dockett, "In my eyes, that's low-class. That one individual that everybody knows, he's been able to play that way since college. The league is going to have to do something about it, because one day he's going to really injure somebody's career. The guy was trying to hurt some of our guys."

Asked if officials might be watching Incognito closely, coach Scott Linehan said, "That's exactly right and once you start that, you are going to be a target. If we continue to bring those kinds of things on ourselves then we will create our own bad luck, which is what we don't want."

After the game, Linehan called the penalties "unacceptable," and then said Monday, "If you don't comply with the rules, then your ability to stay on the field is in jeopardy. If we continue to do that, then someone else, regardless of our injury situation, has got to go in. ... That's the thing that I've always said to Richie: The only thing that can hold him back from being as good as he wants to be is himself."


--QB Gus Frerotte is expected to start this week against Baltimore, although the official announcement won't occur until Wednesday.
--QB Marc Bulger is likely to miss another start with cracked ribs, but he is improving.
--RB Brian Leonard, who rushed for 102 yards Sunday, will get another start Sunday against Baltimore.
--RB Steven Jackson was expected to miss 2-3 games when he was diagnosed with a partial tear of his groin after Week 3. Sunday will be the third game for which he is out.
--WR Torry Holt is still being productive despite not being 100 percent recovered from offseason knee surgery.
--WR Drew Bennett is expected to start again Sunday with Isaac Bruce likely out another game with a hamstring injury.
--WR Marques Hagans could get more opportunities with the offense if Dante Hall is unable to play because of a sprained ankle.
--WR/PR Brandon Williams, a St. Louis native recently released by the 49ers, was signed Tuesday.
--TE Randy McMichael scored his first touchdown as a member of the Rams Sunday against Arizona.
--PK Jeff Wilkins had a new holder Sunday and had his best kicking day of the season with three field goals against Arizona. Regular holder Dane Looker was out because of a thigh injury, so P Donnie Jones handled the holding job.
--S Jerome Carter was officially lost for the season Tuesday when he was placed on injured reserve because of a broken bone in his foot.
--S Bhawoh Jue, released at the end of training camp by the Chargers, was signed by the Rams Tuesday.
--DE Leonard Little is still looking for his first sack of the season although defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Sunday's game was the best he's played this season.


The San Francisco 49ers are getting strong play from their defense. In fact, the only reason the 49ers have two victories this season is because of their play on defense. The 49ers own the 21st-ranked defense in the league, but they have also been on the field longer than any team in the league. That's mostly because of the 49ers' problems on offense.

The 49ers' defense was on the field for 38 minutes in their 9-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Since 2005, no team giving up nine or fewer points has been on the field longer than the 49ers were on Sunday.

Special teams have also played well for the 49ers, especially punter Andy Lee. He is third in the league with a 50.1-yard average, and he ranks second in the NFL with a 43.8-yard net. "I am pleased with the job we are doing on defense and special teams, which is reflected not only by their performance on the field, but also by the comments our defense and special teams made after the game," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "Their responsibility is to win ballgames, whether it was to allow fewer points or cause turnovers. That is something we talked about during the week."

When the defense could have easily blamed the loss to on the team's offensive woes, the defensive players only pointed the finger of blame back at themselves.

"We have to force some turnovers and make things happen out there," 49ers safety Mark Roman said. "You can't be satisfied until we get the results. We didn't have a lot of opportunities for turnovers, but it's not always going to be there on a platter for you."

Ravens kicker Matt Stover had field goals of 26, 32 and 49 yards.

"We could've done a lot better," rookie linebacker Patrick Willis said. "We could've held them to fewer points. If we'd held them to two field goals, we would've won the game."


--QB Alex Smith plans to continue to throw every day and push his right shoulder to the point of pain and then back off, he said. Smith sustained a separated right shoulder Sept. 30 against the Seahawks. He is already throwing up to 25 yards.
--QB Trent Dilfer started his first game in nearly two years on Sunday and competed 12 of 19 passes for 126 yards with one touchdown and one interception. If Alex Smith is unable to play Oct. 21 against the Giants, Dilfer will start that game. The 49ers have a bye this week.
--QB Shaun Hill is the team's No. 3 quarterback, but he will move up to No. 2 with Alex Smith's injury. Hill has played six NFL seasons. He has gotten into just one NFL game, but has yet to attempt a pass.
--RB Frank Gore extended his streak of games with at least one run of more than 10 yards to 23 consecutive games. However, he continues to find yards hard to get after rushing for 1,695 last season. He has rushed for 306 yards on 84 carries (3.6 average) with three touchdowns has gone three games without getting into the end zone.
--RB Michael Robinson saw just three snaps against the Ravens and caught one pass for no yards. With Alex Smith out of action, Robinson would likely serve as the No. 3 emergency quarterback. He was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year as a senior quarterback at Penn State.
--RB Maurice Hicks has carried just five times this season for 13 yards as a backup to Frank Gore. Hicks is the 49ers' main kickoff return man. He has 21 returns for 22.5 yard average. His long is a 33-yarder.
--TE Vernon Davis expects to return to action Oct. 21 against the Giants. Davis has missed two games with an MCL sprain, which he sustained on a hit from Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Davis was just beginning to show signs of being a threat in the passing game. He has eight catches for 83 yards.
--TE Billy Bajema, a blocking specialist, did not play Sunday against the Ravens, but he is expected to resume his regular duties Oct. 21 against the Seahawks.
--TE Delanie Walker was no factor in the passing game Sunday against the Ravens. Walker was on the field for all but one of the 49ers' offensive plays, yet the 49ers did not even make an attempt to get him the ball. Walker has four catches for 26 yards.
--WR Darrell Jackson appears to be having a difficult time getting open without the presence of a speedy downfield threat to take some of the pressure off him. Jackson leads the 49ers with just 16 receptions for 210 yards for a 13.1 average.
--WR Arnaz Battle, considered the 49ers' best all-around receiver, has 15 catches for 159 yards. He caught his first touchdown of the season on Sunday, as he hauled in a 23-yard strike from Trent Dilfer.
--WR Bryan Gilmore, who was signed last week, was immediately placed into the role as the No. 3 receiver. Gilmore made a fantastic grab of a 42-yard pass from Trent Dilfer. It was the 49ers' longest passing play this season.
--WR Ashley Lelie is healthy, however it is a mystery why he hasn't gotten onto the field. Lelie has played just 10 snaps from scrimmage this season. He does not have a reception. When coach Mike Nolan was asked repeatedly on Monday why Lelie has no role in the offense, Nolan answered repeatedly, "Good question."
--WR Jason Hill, a rookie third-round draft pick, is recovering from a left hamstring strain and should be available for the 49ers' next game. Hill has ye to be active for a game this season. When he is healthy, he is expected to see some action.
--LB Patrick Willis leads the 49ers with 67 tackles, including 41 solo, in the first five games, according to the team's coaches review. Willis has given the 49ers everything they had hoped when they selected him with the No. 11 overall pick.
--S Michael Lewis was in and out of Sunday's game with a strained Achilles. With a bye week, Lewis is expected to be ready for the Oct. 21 game against the Giants.
--DE Marques Douglas continued his strong early season against the Ravens with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss. Douglas leads the NFL with seven stuffs this season.
--P Andy Lee is off to a fantastic start. Lee ranks third in the NFL with a 50.1 average, and he's No. 2 in the league with a 43.8 net average. Lee even managed a 39-yard punt with no return on a ball that was partially blocked last week against the Ravens.
--K Joe Nedney saw his streak of 18 consecutive successful field goals come to an end at an inopportune time. He pulled a 52-yard attempt right in the final minutes that would've given the 49ers a 10-9 lead over the Ravens. Top Stories