Around the NFC West: RB injury watch

NFC West running backs are dominating headlines for the wrong reasons heading into Week 4.

Frank Gore (ankle), Steven Jackson (quadriceps) and Beanie Wells (hamstring) could be limited Sunday. There are no guarantees any of them will play extensively, if at all, this week.

Let's begin with Jackson's availability to the St. Louis Rams. The team hasn't been the same without him, and another defeat would drop the Rams to 0-4. But loading up Jackson with too much work against the Washington Redskins wouldn't make much sense, either. The Rams have a bye in Week 5, after all. If they kept Jackson limited this week, he would presumably return following the bye at full strength.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jackson vows to play against the Redskins even though coach Steve Spagnuolo admits Jackson is not all the way back physically. Jackson: "I'm definitely hoping that last week to this week will change drastically in my playing time. But ultimately we've got to do what's best for the team and whatever the game situation presents. I'm definitely preparing myself to be out there quite a bit."

Also from Thomas: a look at reasons why Sam Bradford is on pace to be sacked a franchise-record 59 times.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' Wells tested his hamstring in practice Thursday, with generally favorable results. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "We didn't have any setbacks. Hopefully, we'll get enough reps (Friday) that we're comfortable and we'll check it out before the game as well."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals' offensive tackles, Levi Brown and Brandon Keith face a potentially difficult test against the Giants. Somers: "The Cardinals will need to give Brown and Keith help by using their tight ends to block, their running backs to chip, and calling enough passes that require short drops by quarterback Kevin Kolb. That's not unusual for any team in facing the Giants, or any other team with elite rushers. There aren't that many offensive tackles in the NFL who can do that job, without help, for an entire game."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers' Gore remained limited Thursday and said he wasn't sure if he would be able to play against the Eagles. The team could also be without veteran safety Donte Whitner. Noted: Gore's slow start to the season comes after he missed the final five games to injury in 2010. It's easy to see why the 49ers were reluctant to reward Gore with a lucrative contract extension at this stage of his career. That is why they gave him a deal that looked better on paper than in practice.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Gore's backups are preparing to carry more of the load.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee examines reasons for the 49ers' struggling ground game.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks rookie James Carpenter is getting more comfortable at right tackle as he gets more experience. Coach Pete Carroll: "He’s improving, but he has more to go. Halfway through the season, he should be a pretty accomplished right tackle for us. It’s going to take him a little while, but we’re certainly seeing good things. You see positive plays where he gets great movement and where he blows guys out and makes big blocks." Noted: I replayed the Cardinals-Seahawks game Thursday night and focused on Carpenter for every snap he played. He appeared much quicker in his first step, allowing him to set up more comfortably in protection. He also benefited from playing at home against a team lacking elite outside pass-rushers. Carpenter has impressed Seattle coaches with his eagerness to prepare and improve. He has also dropped weight since reporting to camp too heavy.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Carpenter has lost 25 pounds. Carroll: "He’s perfect for this spot being strong, physical, tough, great attitude, loves the game, plays hard and it’s just a matter of being consistent scheme-wise and technique-wise, and when that comes together his confidence will be so much higher than I’m sure it is right now because he’s still seeing things for the first time. So he’s improving, but he has more to go."