Pat Kirwan of NFL.com ranks the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson higher than any other NFC West running back. Kirwan: "A big, workhorse back who gets the tough yardage, he finished second in carries at 330. Jackson really needs the passing game to grow and another back to lighten the load, or he is going to run out of gas." Kirwan rates Jackson as a second-tier back, Frank Gore as a third-tier back and Marshawn Lynch as a fourth-tier back, with teammate Justin Forsett listed in the eighth of nine tiers. Arizona's Tim Hightower and Ryan Williams get late mention. Beanie Wells' isn't even listed. The position will be a fun one to monitor during the season with Gore returning from injury, Jackson fitting into a new offense, Seattle's runners adjusting to a new line and the Cardinals working in Williams, a second-round choice.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Rams general manager Billy Devaney as saying the Rams' coaches were "surprised" when the NFL Coaches Association filed with the courts a brief supporting the players' position in the ongoing lockout. The move shouldn't have surprised anyone given that the NFLCA had done the same thing during the American Needle case. The way some teams' coaches are reacting, sometimes through their management, has been telling. Devaney: "They were surprised by this being filed. They assured me that they weren't informed or consulted about it."
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says Alex Smith sees the irony in becoming more of a leader this offseason just as the San Francisco 49ers have drafted his replacement. Smith: "I laughed when the article came out that they told [Jim] Harbaugh to stop talking about me. I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for the relationship there, to be honest with you. For the feeling I got from Harbaugh, the offensive coaching staff, from every time I’ve been in there, from before the lockout, from when the lockout ended that day and a half. If it wasn’t for that, yeah, you’re totally right. But I have such a good feeling. I feel they’ve been up front about everything they’ve told me."
Also from Kawakami: a column declaring Smith as the 49ers' singular leader. I'll break out some thoughts on this one separately.
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News offers more thoughts from Smith.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers highlights from Smith's session with reporters. Smith: "The last couple years have been so frustrating because I feel like I'm capable of playing really good football and winning games in this league and that's what I want -- to win games more than anything. In looking at that and trying to weigh all the decisions that were out there so much of it went into play. And then this lockout, what if the lockout goes two weeks? What if it goes into the season? That impacts me. I'm going to have to learn a system. All that kind of stuff played into it."
Also from Maiocco: a quick look at the 49ers' roster.
Taylor Price of 49ers.com profiles assistant coach Ed Donatell.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with former Seahawks offensive lineman Bryan Millard, who collects vintage guitars and is helping raise money for a friend's medical expenses. Millard: "Listen, I wasn’t the biggest, or fastest, or anything like that. But I did the three things Chuck always asked for: Show up on time, practice hard and play your rear off on Sunday. My time with the Seahawks certainly opened the door for a lot of other things for me."
Jon Machota of FoxSportsSouthwest.com passes along comments from former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, who reflects on his departure from coaching following Dallas' crushing playoff defeat at Seattle in the Tony Romo fumble game. Parcells: "Obviously, that is a memory that is a difficult one for me. I remember flying back from Seattle and I was at the age of 66 or so. It's another off-season, regular season, pre-season, just to get to that opportunity and when you've been doing it since 1964 and it's 2006 … that's a long time. I've been very fortunate to be able to do it. I wouldn't say that that one game really had much to do with anything. It just was ... I just think it was time to stop coaching because you have to get off the train sometime and I had a difficult time doing that because I do love the game, but I think as far as coaching, it's a young man's game and it's for someone else now."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' defensive players have been working out separately. Meanwhile, offensive players continue to work out even though Larry Fitzgerald has left for Minnesota. Somers: "Very few defensive players have attended the workouts, but I'm hearing many of them have been working out together in Scottsdale for several weeks now. Strong safety Adrian Wilson is a strong force behind that group. Overall, the Cardinals have had great attendance at their sessions. That might result in no additional victories in 2011, but it's better than everyone staying home in the morning to eat biscuits and gravy."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks back at the Cardinals' interest in Fitzgerald coming out of Pittsburgh. Then-coach Dennis Green was a big fan. Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger were also available that year, but Green had given quarterback Josh McCown a vote of confidence. Urban: "Clearly, Fitz was talented, and Green’s thoughts on what Fitzgerald could be have definitely played out over the years. Yet quarterback is always important, and regardless of how talented Fitzgerald would be, was it worth passing on what was available? You have to wonder, did it color Green’s evaluation of McCown? Because the only way the Cards could really justify taking Fitz at the time was the knowledge McCown could play. Green never was big with the draft smokescreens. I remember at the Scouting combine in 2005 he all but announced he wanted J.J. Arrington. In 2004, it was obvious he wanted Fitzgerald."
Also from Urban: a quick look at the Cardinals' safety situation.