Around the NFC West: Leinart bounces back

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic wonders whether Matt Leinart did enough in the Cardinals' final exhibition game to emerge as the opening-day starter. Left tackle Wayne Gandy returned to the game after suffering a knee injury. Nose tackle Alan Branch did not return after suffering a sprained ankle. Rookie running back Tim Hightower, impressive most of the summer, fumbled again.

Also from Somers: a longer look at Leinart's night. Leinart completed 10 of 14 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers should have given J.T. O'Sullivan one last tune-up before the regular season. He also thinks Alex Smith is closer to the third-string quarterback than the No. 2 guy.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News singles out three players who helped themselves for the 49ers in the final exhibition game: Larry Grant, Jason Hill and Kentwan Balmer. Three who hurt themselves: Walter Curry, Alan Reuber and Robert Ortiz.

Also from Brown: "Smith cemented his spot on the bench with two unsightly interceptions and his general slowness in getting rid of the ball."

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks the Seahawks might keep rookie running back Justin Forsett to return punts after the team lost Ben Obomanu to injury. Mike Holmgren will want Forsett to catch the ball when opponents punt it to him.

Gary Washburn of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with T.J. Duckett following the veteran runner's impressive showing in the exhibition finale.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thought O'Sullivan looked better by not playing. That's how bad the other quarterbacks looked.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle hits on several notes from the 49ers' game, including the fact that running back Michael Robinson lost a fumble. Delanie Walker's 101-yard touchdown return had to be a record for a tight end, no?

John Morgan of Field Gulls projects the Seahawks' 53-man roster. He places Deion Branch on the PUP list to open the season. Can Seattle wait that long to bring back Branch? Morgan also sees the Seahawks keeping nine defensive backs.

Matt Barrows of the Sacrament Bee says Roderick Green and Tully Banta-Cain become locks for the 53-man roster if Parys Haralson's shoulder injury is serious. Aubrayo Franklin and Ronald Fields also suffered injuries. Fields returned. Franklin did not.

Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports says sources told him 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz disparaged Smith under his breath during practices.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers asked Smith about those allegedly disparaging comments. Smith said he knew nothing about any such remarks. "That's news to me," Smith said. Maiocco also says Haralson's injury could force the 49ers to tweak their roster, according to coach Mike Nolan.