Around the NFC West: Neck cracker drill?

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers center Eric Heitmann suffered his career-threatening neck injury while competing in the "nutcracker" drills former coach Mike Singletary preferred. Barrows: "Despite the controversy around the drill, Singletary revised what he insisted was a safer version last year. Still, at least two players, linebacker Derek Walker and Heitmann, were injured in it. At the time, the 49ers referred to Heitmann's injury as a 'stinger' -- a nerve injury caused by trauma to the head, neck or shoulder. Shortly thereafter Heitmann suffered a broken leg. He recovered from the fracture but could not shake the neck problems and was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 2. Singletary insisted on the nutcracker because he said it taught players the importance of leverage, and it was iconic drill of the coach's tough-guy approach. In 2009 Singletary said he didn't think the drill would cause injuries because the two players facing off didn't take running starts."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Singletary refused to comment on the nutcracker story. Singletary: "I have no response to that. I don't really know what Eric's prior situation was, so I'm not going to respond to that." Singletary and the 49ers should have known about "prior situations" regarding injuries. Heitmann had been with the team for years. If he were susceptible to such an injury, why expose him to the obvious heightened risks associated with such drills? A question worth asking if, as Singletary suggests, he did not know Heitmann's prior injury situation.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers' skill players have shown up in strong numbers for the most recent player-organized workouts.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Michael Crabtree didn't make time for interviews Thursday. Lynch: "The only mystery surrounding him is how hurt he is. Tight end Vernon Davis, in Crabtree's absence, answered the question saying the foot injury [Crabtree] sustained June 9 in Camp Alex No. 1 is far more than just a case of a sore foot brought on by the pinch of new cleats. However, Davis said he should be ready should training camp start on time."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' offense is tight end-friendly, according to Davis. Davis: "This offense is going to be pretty good for the tight end. We don’t just have one way to go. That’s good. We’ve never had that since I’ve been here." Was Davis alluding to the use of more option routes? That appears to be the case. Davis followed up by saying he'll have the flexibility to run through zones instead of simply settling into them.

Ellen Sherberg of the St. Louis Business Journal updates the business dealings of former Rams tackle Orlando Pace. Sherberg: "Mr. Pace has partnered with GO Marketing LLC, formed by [KFNS radio owner] Dave Greene and James Oelklaus, founders of Grand Slam Sports that includes KFNS among other holdings, to launch TheTicketBlock.com, a new ticket brokerage."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis expects Sam Bradford to take a significant step forward in 2011. Softli: "The NFL lockout is the only thing delaying the progress of this young quarterback with a new offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels. When I looked back at the 2010 Rams season, Bradford set the stage for the immediate future and sent a message to all the NFL that the young gun from St. Louis is for real and won't take any prisoners along the way. It's about winning the division, the NFC conference and eventually lifting the Lombardi Trophy."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says first-round draft choice Patrick Peterson spent about 30 minutes speaking with strength-and-conditioning coach John Lott when teams were allowed contact with players during the draft. That meeting could help explain why Peterson decided to drop about 10 pounds. Urban: "Lott famously tells most players when he first gets them in Arizona they should drop a few pounds. Everyone has done it, from Larry Fitzgerald to Kurt Warner to Beanie Wells (pretty much every incoming rookie gets the speech). Peterson figured to be no different." Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie might be one exception to the drop-a-few-pounds mantra. He didn't have any extra weight to lose.

Cecilia Chan of the Arizona Republic says Glendale is supporting efforts to bring another Super Bowl to University of Phoenix Stadium. Chan: "In return for the prestige of hosting the National Football League game at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale must guarantee services such as public safety and sanitation for free and exempt game-day tickets from sales tax for the NFL. When Glendale hosted its first Super Bowl in 2008, it saw $1.2 million boost in sales-tax revenue. But a city-commissioned study showed it cost the city $2.6 million in services. The City Council on a 5-2 vote Tuesday approved the resolution." Good for business, bad for city budgets?

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Johnathan Joseph could be an attractive free-agent addition for the Seahawks. Henderson: "Clayton thinks the Seahawks could get Joseph for around $8 million a season, which makes him a much cheaper alternative to Nnamdi Asomugha."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits Steve Largent's final game with the team. An elbow injury suffered on the notorious playing surface in Philadelphia that season left Largent feeling frustrated. Largent: "Dave [Krieg] threw me a post route that I should have been able to catch up to. But I had to dive for that ball. I dove where second base would have been. They had it covered with turf, but there was still a little mound there. I fell and it busted my elbow. That’s what I remember about my last year."