News that rookie receiver Austin Pettis had been suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs delivered more bad news for the St. Louis Rams' 2011 draft class.
With Pettis out through the first two games in 2011, the Rams have only two of their own rookie draft choice on their 53-man roster.
First-round choice Robert Quinn and second-rounder Lance Kendricks remain active for the Rams from a group that included Pettis (suspended), Greg Salas (injured reserve), Jermale Hines (released, now with Indianapolis), Mikhail Baker (released), Jabara Williams (released, now with Chicago) and Jonathan Nelson (released, now with Carolina).
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offered details on what the suspension means for Pettis. Thomas: "Pettis is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games following the conclusion of this season. But regardless of whether there's a head-coaching change or not, missing the first two contests of the 2012 season will put him behind the other wideouts on the depth chart and in his quest for playing time."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney do not deserve much sympathy. Miklasz: "In a league of parity and close games, the Rams have been outscored 1,110 to 630 overall in Spags' time as head coach, with an average loss of 16 points. This team isn't competitive. Here's the odd thing: The more the Rams lose, the more we seem inclined to make excuses on their behalf or attempt to rationalize their failures. We've become enablers. And I'm not bashing the fans; the media is at fault as much as anyone. ... This isn't high school football. Spagnuolo was hired to win football games. If a coach can't win games, he's fired. He could be a saint or a sinner, but he needs to be a winner. Besides, Spagnuolo has fired trainers, an equipment manager and other employees at Rams Park. A big part of his job is terminating players. It's nothing personal. So why are we so sensitive about Spagnuolo's future?"
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Paul McQuistan's use across the Seahawks' offensive line tells a story. Farnsworth: "The trials and tribulations of the Seahawks’ injury-ravaged offensive line can he traced by following McQuistan’s progression from being a backup; to starting at left guard; to returning to his backup role; to starting at right guard; to starting at left tackle. McQuistan stepped in at left guard because Robert Gallery was out with a groin injury. He moved in at right guard after rookie John Moffitt went down with a season-ending knee injury. He slid over to left tackle when Russell Okung needed season-ending surgery to repair a torn pectoral."
Also from Farnsworth: Tarvaris Jackson has stepped up his game in second halves recently.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says injuries haven't stopped the Seahawks' offensive line from succeeding.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who laments not drafting receiver Doug Baldwin. Baldwin and cornerback Richard Sherman are two Seattle players with roots on Harbaugh's former Stanford teams. Harbaugh: "Yeah, I’m kicking myself for not doing that. And at the same time I’m really, really happy for Doug. I’ve watched him this whole year whenever we’re watching crossover tape. Or I’ve sometimes put on the tape, just to watch him and Richard. And I’ve seen him really grow the whole season."
Also from Williams: Marshawn Lynch has become the Seahawks' face.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic updates the Cardinals' quarterback situation heading into Week 16. Sounds like John Skelton might get another start over Kevin Kolb, who remains limited following a concussion. Somers: "On Monday, Whisenhunt said the fairest way to prepare one of the quarterbacks was to give him most of the work in practice. Judging by Wednesday's events, that appears to be Skelton. Kolb was listed as limited in practice, while Skelton is healthy. The Cardinals are 5-1 in games Skelton has either started or taken the majority of the snaps. Skelton has a tendency to start slowly and finish strongly. In four of Skelton's past eight games, the Cardinals have made game-winning drives in the fourth quarter."
Also from Somers, with Jim Gintonio: Deuce Lutui professes to be a changed man after nearly landing with the Cincinnati Bengals during the offseason. Lutui: "Where I was and where I'm at now, I could have seen it as frustration or I could have seen it as a problem or stated it as an opportunity. I've taken it as an opportunity. I've taken all the help that I can get. I've stuck in with John Lott (strength and conditioning coach), really a credit to him in helping me get in the best shape that I can. ... I also worked with my head, off the field, and went in with a mental coach. I've got a mental coach that's helped me elevate my game and alter the way I think for the next offseason, and so I've put a lot in my mind and body this year.""
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com has this to say about the quarterback situation in Arizona: "The way the defense has been performing for the Cards would help any quarterback. Skelton has had plenty of rough patches, but Whisenhunt acknowledged he’d rather have a quarterback that can finish than one who starts fast and fades. Skelton, whose beginnings to games have been almost as unimpressive as his finishes impressive, certainly falls into that category."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Braylon Edwards is anxious to get back on the field for the 49ers. Tight end Vernon Davis tweeted words of support to Edwards, who has struggled and was not active Monday night. Davis: "Just the look on his face is he wants to be out there bad. But I don't know the reason he's not. That's up to the coaches and him and Ferg (head trainer Jeff Ferguson) and the trainers. ... Just saying kind words like that keeps a guy like that level-headed and keeps him hungry and keeps him ready to go at any time. And I just felt that upon my spirit to lay that out there. And he is -- he's a guy that I'm grateful to have on the team. He's a true playmaker, and if given the opportunity I'm sure he'll take advantage of it."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com has this to say about Justin Smith in his defensive player review from Week 15: "Started at right defensive end and had an outstanding all-around game. He had three tackles, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery, but he also set up Aldon Smith for a couple of sacks ... Left guard Trai Essex held him for a 10-yard penalty to wipe out a 6-yard gain in the second quarter ... Fought through left side of Steelers line and Rashard Mendenhall to pressure Ben Roethlisberger into second-quarter incompletion. ... Recovered fourth-quarter fumble that directly led to 49ers touchdown ... Generously gave himself up to tie up Essex so that Aldon Smith could record a 6-yard sack ... Justin Smith did the same thing on the next series, resulting in another Aldon Smith sack."
Also from Maiocco: an offensive player review. On Frank Gore: "Dropped a pass out of the backfield on the first drive ... Missed Cameron Heyward in blitz pickup as Smith was rushed into incompletion on first drive ... Dropped another pass on third-and-7, though it was unlikely he would've picked up first down with defensive lineman Brett Keisel standing between him and the sticks ... Called for chop block on defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, as center Jonathan Goodwin had his left hand on Hood as Gore went low to block Hood. Did not play the final nine minutes after scoring on 5-yard TD."
Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat passes along Steve Young's thoughts on Aldon Smith, expressed recently on KNBR radio. Young compared Smith to a young Charles Haley. Young: "I’ve got to be honest with you. I’ve got to apologize to Aldon Smith because I hadn’t really seen him in person all year. And I apologize, because I had no idea how great he really was until I saw him in person. And that’s what matters. Hearing about it, watching it on TV and then seeing in person -- all different visceral relationships you have with something, and it matters. So around the league when everyone watched the 49ers kind of beat up on Ben Roethlisberger, don’t let him score, call a couple big touchdown drives, and they hear about the defense, they’ve watched Aldon Smith play and (laughs) whoever doesn’t think these guys are for real is kidding themselves."
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News examines Andy Lee's contributions to the 49ers. Lee was the NFC's player of the week for special teams.