Around the NFC West: Rankled by firing

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with former longtime Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt, who claims coach Steve Spagnuolo fired him for no good reason. Hewitt: "He is a hard person to deal with. He's just very hands-on. Controlling. It's an everything-has-to-go-through-him kind of deal." Spagnuolo declined comment, but this move looks like yet another example of the Rams' leadership replacing the old guard with its own people. Was the move justified? That is difficult to know without hearing from the Rams. Disgruntled former employees generally aren't going to tell the full story. On the surface, however, Hewitt was a longtime employee who loved his job and seemed to be well-liked. Thomas: "The day he was fired, Hewitt said offensive guard Jacob Bell and linebackers James Laurinaitis and David Vobora asked him to come to Mexico with them on a trip -- they'd pick up the tab. Hewitt was grateful but declined the offer. He has heard from all kinds of players -- past and present -- from Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, to Roman Gabriel and Jack Youngblood, to Jackson and Chris Long, since he was fired."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com addresses whether Kevin Kolb or Carson Palmer is more likely to be under center for the 49ers next season. Maiocco: "There is a better chance that Kolb, rather than Palmer, will be the 49ers' quarterback in 2011. After all, Philadelphia is entertaining offers for Kolb, while stubborn Bengals president Mike Brown appears unlikely to cave into Palmer's trade demand. How the organization addresses the quarterback position during the draft will determine the team's approach to adding a veteran to the mix when there is a new collective bargaining agreement." The 49ers would not give up their first-round choice for Kolb, in my view.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' best late-round draft choices since 2000. On Eric Johnson: "Johnson played in just 71 games over seven seasons due to a variety of injuries, but he was productive when upright. In 2004, he led the Niners with 82 catches, the most by a tight end in franchise history. Of the 13 tight ends selected in the 2001 draft, Johnson (240 catches, 2,178 yards) ranks third in career catches and yards behind the first two taken -- first-rounder Todd Heap and second-rounder Alge Crumpler. By the way, the next two tight ends drafted after Heap and Crumpler were third-rounders Sean Brewer and Shad Meier. Or is it Sean Meier and Shad Brewer?"

Also from Branch: the second part of his installment on the 49ers' best late-round choices since 2000. On Eric Heitmann: "The reliable and consistent Heitmann became the first 49ers rookie offensive lineman to start a game in 15 years when he debuted in 2002 and has since become a three-time winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award, the top honor given to a Niners offensive lineman. His future appears uncertain after a broken leg and neck injury wiped out his 2010 season, but he’s already logged 114 starts. That’s a nice investment on the 239th player selected in a draft."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with Cortez Kennedy for his latest piece on the 35th anniversary team. Farnsworth explains how Kennedy came to be known as "Big Dawg" among teammates. As former teammate Jeff Bryant put it: "When you go hunting, you want to take the big dog. That’s Tez. He’s our ‘Big Dawg.’"

Also from Farnsworth: Dennis Erickson and others speak to Kennedy's dominance. Erickson: "Cortez might’ve been as dominant a defensive tackle that’s ever played. He was dominant when I had him in Seattle in the four years I was there, and he was dominant before I got there. I don’t know if you can see a defensive tackle who dominated a game like he did when he was with the Seahawks."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt left Wednesday to attend workouts at Clemson and North Carolina. That explains why Whisenhunt wasn't in attendance at Jake Locker's pro day.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Buffalo could be the key team in determining whether the Cardinals get a crack at Texas A&M pass-rusher Von Miller. Urban: "Buffalo could use a QB, but Chan Gailey seems to want defense, so Miller has been a popular possibility for a team that uses the 3-4 and needs a pass rush. If the Cards want Miller, it seems the Bills will be the key. The Bengals figure to go offense, whether a QB or WR. The Cards, who have hinted many times they aren’t necessarily looking QB early, still don’t seem to make sense with a pick like that. Here’s the question, assuming Miller is gone: Could you make Da'Quan Bowers work in your defense? Is Patrick Peterson good enough?"

Also from Urban: a chat transcript in which he sizes up veteran quarterbacks Marc Bulger and Kyle Orton as possibilities for Arizona. Urban: "I think Bulger does fit this offense, and he wouldn't cost a draft pick like Orton would. I don't know exactly how they feel about Orton, although I am sure that possibility has been considered."