Around the NFC West: Alex Smith's role

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers hadn't named a quarterback as captain since Trent Dilfer was on the team. Alex Smith broke the streak this week. Frank Gore: "He's grown, especially in the huddle. He talks a lot and tells us what to do. Even when we don't do something right, [he] comes to us and tells us we should've done this or that. That's a big part for this team." It's impossible to fool veteran players by forcing a leadership role onto an undeserving player. Vernon Davis did seem to grow into the role after Singletary named him a captain. Smith is not naturally an outspoken leader. His position lends itself to leadership and Smith does seem to have earned respect from teammates through his approach. Can he lead them?

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Nate Davis returned to the 49ers as a member of their practice squad.

Also from Barrows: 49ers-related notes, including this one from Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck regarding any advantage Seattle might have with former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan onboard. Hasselbeck: "Scot, I think I've seen him one time in the cafeteria." So true. Anyone with visions of McCloughan hunkering down with coaches should know this: I drove through the Seahawks' parking lot at their facility Wednesday and couldn't immediately find one. I finally spotted an available space and drove toward it, only to discover a name plate noting it was reserved for, you guessed it, McCloughan. I'm sure McCloughan's insights on the 49ers have been welcome, but he's working as a college scout for the team and he continues to live in the Bay Area.

Sam Good of 49ers.com offers audio links to conference calls featuring Pete Carroll and Hasselbeck.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says McCloughan isn't the only ex-49er working for the Seahawks these days.

Also from Brown: Dilfer, now with ESPN, will hold Smith to a higher standard this season. Dilfer: "If they don’t (make the postseason), then Alex is going to be criticized very harshly, and I think that’s probably fair. Now, saying all that, I believe he will meet the expectations. I believe he’s a different man after watching him the last couple of years grow up. He’s playing with a harder edge. He definitely has more command to his personality and he has complete ownership of this offense. I would argue he has more ownership of this offense than the people calling it. He knows where everyone is supposed to be at all times, all the nuances of it. He is ready for the moment. He feels like it’s his time to run the show and get things done in San Francisco like they haven’t been done. I think that’s going to happen. I think they’re an 11-5 football team that can get in the playoffs and win a game in the playoffs. If it doesn’t happen, it’ll probably be (Smith’s) last year in San Francisco."

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at what the 49ers might do if something happened to Patrick Willis.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider examines the 49ers' status as a division favorite.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Jordan Babineaux is going back to the role that helped him earn some acclaim as "Big Play Babs" during the Seahawks' run of division titles. Babineaux: "I kind of go back to being that plug-in guy, the guy who comes in on third down and is a nickel and dime guy; the guy who is the first to go in in emergency situations. Really, I’m back to being that move-around guy, which is good for me because I’m eager to accept the situation because I missed playing inside. That’s where I was able to make most of my plays and kind of earn a name a little bit. You know the name …"

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times sizes up the Seahawks' makeshift offensive line, noting that coach Pete Carroll called his potential starting left tackle, Tyler Polumbus, by the wrong first name four times during his news conference Wednesday. Seattle acquired Polumbus from Detroit during the latter stages of the exhibition season.

Also from O'Neill: Carroll sees the glass half-full.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' new starting running back, Justin Forsett, knows he has much to prove.

Also from Brewer: This season will test Carroll's patience.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along comments from Seahawks offensive line coach Art Valero, noting that offensive linemen Ben Hamilton and Chester Pitts heckled Valero while the assistant fulfilled media obligations. Hamilton and guard Mike Gibson acted similarly toward quarterback Matt Hasselbeck while he chatted with reporters. I understand the need for offensive linemen to create their own little world to help build camaraderie, and I know former line coach Alex Gibbs tried to foster that by telling his players to skip their league-mandated media obligations, but courtesy and professionalism are appreciated from this end.

Also from Williams: Seahawks owner Paul Allen showed up for practice Wednesday.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers highlights from Carroll's news conference Wednesday. Boling: "Pitts got most of the work Monday but was limping around a little. They're already familiar working on a weakness at left tackle because they had to shape a game plan in the preseason against Minnesota with Mansfield Wrotto starting over there when Russell Okung went down."

John Morgan of Field Gulls runs through potential scenarios for Seattle this season.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Derek Anderson eagerly awaits his first start as Cardinals quarterback. Somers: "It's not a coincidence that Anderson's best season, 2007, came when he was surrounded by the most talent. He had three excellent receiving targets in Joe Jurevicius, Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards. He handed the ball off to running back Jamal Lewis, who gained 1,304 yards that season. Then, the Browns disintegrated. Jurevicius missed the 2008 season after knee surgery and a staph infection. He was released in 2009. Winslow and Edwards were later traded. Meanwhile, Anderson was battling (Brady) Quinn for a job, and neither one was making an impression."

Also from Somers: Ken Whisenhunt remains vague on Beanie Well's injury situation.

More from Somers: a chat transcript featuring his thoughts on which player not named Kurt Warner the team will miss most in 2010. Somers: "Karlos Dansby, no question. He was so versatile. I think Kerry Rhodes could be better than Antrel Rolle, who blew some coverages and missed tackles. Anquan Boldin is one of the all-time Cardinal greats, but we didn't see the great Q runs last year."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says receiver Larry Fitzgerald had nothing to do with the quarterback change from Matt Leinart to Anderson, according to Fitzgerald. Have any Cardinals players said anything publicly that would count as supporting Leinart? I wouldn't expect strong statements, but for a player who had been with the team since the Dennis Green years, Leinart didn't seem to get much support publicly.

Also from Urban: Darnell Dockett is no longer openly using the term "fresh meat" to describe new Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is spending plenty of time at the office -- enough time, in fact, to justify adding a bed within the bathroom adjoining his office. Miklasz: "Not that a 1-15 rookie coach can sleep peacefully. When I asked Spagnuolo what it was like to go 1-15 last season as a rookie coach, he laughed and pointed to the bathroom."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says new Rams receiver Mark Clayton is catching on quickly. Bradford: "To see him come out Day 1 and have what seemed to be a great grasp on the offense already, he didn't ask a lot of questions. He just got in the huddle, I called the play, and he knew where to go, knew where to line up and knew what to run."

Also from Coats: The Rams avoided a local television blackout for Week 1.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the Rams' struggles within the division, specifically against Arizona.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Bradford knows he's going to see new looks from Arizona.