Around the NFC West: 49ers break ground

Los Angeles Rams fans with long memories will recall when their team moved its games from the Coliseum to Anaheim in 1980.

The San Francisco 49ers' move to Santa Clara, celebrated with a stadium groundbreaking Thursday night, feels much different.

Both the Rams and 49ers were running from stadium problems, but the 49ers have a stadium solution.

Securing a new 49ers stadium to keep the team in the Bay Area stands as a defining achievement for CEO Jed York and the organization, and for Silicon Valley.

The groundbreaking ceremony was a victorious moment for corporate and civic types. This was their day to rejoice, but there's not much in a groundbreaking ceremony for fans to get excited about. The ones I know would rather discuss linebacker depth than what steps builders are taking to comply with environmental regulations.

Besides, those holding tickets to games at Candlestick Park will continue watching games there for the next couple seasons, some knowing they won't be able to afford seats in the new place. Fans nearer Santa Clara have nothing yet to show for the groundbreaking at this early stage. Their time will come once the stadium is completed.

Team headquarters have been in Santa Clara for years. Players and employees tend to live in that area, some 40 miles south of San Francisco down U.S. Highway 101. Relocating two exhibition games, eight regular-season games and home playoff games to Santa Clara will be great for them, even as the organization loses a tangible link to San Francisco.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle calls the groundbreaking a bittersweet moment for the 49ers. Lynch: "The timing for staying in San Francisco was never right. If Jed York was the head of the 49ers when the team was negotiating with the City for a new stadium, maybe something would have been done. However, his father was at the helm then, and several sources said John York was incapable of moving forward because of the risks involved in such an immense project. So is the ground-breaking to be celebrated? Yes, but in muted fashion because the 49ers will soon have a state of the art facility that should keep the team competitive and even though saying 'San Francisco 49ers' will be somewhat of a falsehood when the team moves South, at least it’s better than saying 'Los Angeles 49ers'."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee outlines the 49ers' vision for the stadium, with an emphasis on environmental considerations. Barrows: "One of the problems Jack Hill, the project executive for the 49ers' new $1.2 billion stadium, currently is facing is how to transport 2,000 tons of dirt and top soil 150 feet in the air. ... The dirt is intended for what the 49ers are hoping will be the signature feature of the venue, a 27,000 square-foot green roof that will support a garden of native plants, which in turn will soak up rainwater and provide insulation for the tower of luxury suites it sits atop."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams hope tackle Jason Smith can adjust his approach to become more consistent. Line coach Paul Boudreau: "He's so intense in everything he does. He does everything in a hurry. I'm trying to show him some patience. And trying to get him to use his hands more than leaning into blocks. Just trying to slow him down. Trying to make the game slower by using good technique as opposed to going out and killing every guy you play. Because when he goes out there, if he hits (the defender), he hits him. But if he misses, it's a dead shot on the quarterback. So we're trying to get him to think a little bit more about his balance and his base, and where he is at the collision point."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals' decision to draft Ryan Williams in the second round last year was one example of going with value over need. Urban: "The Cardinals’ greatest need remains offensive tackle, but as with the Williams pick a year ago, the Cards have been careful not to lock themselves into needs. Early in the draft, when difference-makers can be found more often than not, chasing need can hamstring a team. There has been plenty of speculation whether or not a tackle like Iowa’s Riley Reiff will be there at 13, but for all the middle-of-the-road comments made Thursday, Whisenhunt made clear the Cards weren’t going to held hostage to an offensive line vacancy."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic passes along an anecdote from Cardinals general manager Rod Graves regarding running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, a player Graves might not have selected without their assurances from coach Ken Whisenhunt and personnel director Steve Keim that Stephens-Howling could make an impact despite standing 5-foot-7.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle identifies five Seahawks players needing strong offseasons. On Golden Tate: "The emergence of Doug Baldwin and most assuredly a draft pick at wide receiver next week, an enhanced look at last year's fourth-rounder Kris Durham and super-freak Ricardo Lockette means it's sink or swim time for Tate (and possibly Mike Williams). Tate has as much if not more explosion and dynamic ability as any receiver on the roster not named Ricardo. Now, he has to prove to Pete Carroll, the offensive staff and his new quarterback that the commitment and 'want-to' will consistently align with his talent."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates injury situations for Seahawks tackle James Carpenter, cornerback Walter Thurmond, receiver Sidney Rice and others. GM John Schneider on Rice: "This is the healthiest he's going to be since he's been a professional."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com quotes Schneider on the potentially trading back from the 12th overall choice. Schneider: "Now we’re in a position, especially at 12 -- I look at 12 like at 11, 12, 13 there’s a little bit of a ledge there, there’s a little bit of different players -- so if we want to stay and pick, I think it’s a really cool place to pick. If somebody does something that's really attractive, then we feel comfortable with the way we’ve prepared that we can go back, too. We feel like we’ve covered some things so we can go ahead and just take the good players that come to us."