Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch fears the lockout could diminish Marshall Faulk's experience heading into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Burwell: "Unless the lockout ends this week, the chances are high that the NFL will be forced to cancel this year's Hall of Fame game, and that would be a shame. One of the rare treats of the Hall of Fame weekend is when the streets of the city are full of fans from the two teams that are scheduled to play, and both teams have a former player being enshrined. This year, with the Rams and Bears scheduled for that Sunday afternoon -- Aug. 7 -- nationally-televised contest, it figured that there would be quite a few car caravans rolling across I-70 from the 'Lou and the Windy City to pay tribute to Faulk and former Bear Richard Dent. ... How much better would it be if the celebration of the first St. Louis Ram to reach Canton isn't cut short by a day?"
The Rams' website says the team plans to send a large contingent to Joplin, Mo., for continuing relief efforts following the tornadoes there. Among the details: "The Rams' staff will assist with projects including removing debris, unloading trucks, organizing donations and staffing the call center and data entry center. Upon arrival in Joplin, the Rams will report to the volunteer check-in area at Missouri State Southern University where they will be deployed to the various project locations. A group of cheerleaders, alumni and the team’s mascot, Rampage, will also be on hand to help lift the spirits of the community."
Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis is part of the group heading to Joplin. Softli: "Seventy-five Rams employees and selected media members will depart the Russell Training Center on two buses at 5 a.m. with an anticipated arrival into Joplin around 10 a.m. The Rams have worked with the United Way and AmeriCorps of St. Louis to identify a variety of volunteer options. ... Upon arrival in Joplin, we will report to the volunteer check-in area at Missouri State Southern University to be dispatched to the various project locations and work until approximately 1:30 p.m."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com checks in with 49ers safety Chris Maragos as part of a piece examining how college free agents will work from a disadvantage this offseason. Maragos: "This year is quite a bit different. It's a huge transition from college to the NFL. I played in Big 10, so I was already acclimated to a high level of physicality. But the NFL is definitely a big jump in the level of competition. I needed the time (in the offseason) to learn the playbook, get up to speed and develop an understanding of what it takes at this level."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects Aubrayo Franklin and Manny Lawson to leave the 49ers in free agency this offseason. Barrows: "Last year the 49ers were able to hold onto Franklin with the franchise tag. This year his tag number is expected to jump to more than $12 million, and the 49ers opted not to retain him in that fashion. It looks like Franklin, who has wanted to reach the open market for two years, finally will get his wish barring some sort of right-of-first-refusal language in the new collective bargaining agreement. Furthermore, there promises to be a strong market for him. Reports out of Washington this offseason have said that the nose tackle-desperate Redskins (See: Haynesworth, Albert; the saga of) have triple underlined Franklin's name on their list of free-agent targets." I can see why the 49ers wouldn't want to pay a premium for either player, but the team will be worse off without Franklin and Lawson.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says defensive lineman Ray McDonald hopes to re-sign with the 49ers. McDonald: "Before we left, there was a good vibe amongst me and the coaching staff and the GM. They said they liked the way I played and want me back, so I'm just going off that. I want to be back here. I'm comfortable out here."
Also from Branch: The 49ers' players have much to learn offensively despite maximizing their offseason under difficult circumstances.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers details on Ralph Goldston's tenure with the team. Goldston, who passed away recently at age 82, spent 14 years with Seattle. Farnsworth: "While the Associated Press story mentioned Goldston being one of the first African Americans to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, there are no details about his post-playing career. He was a scout for the Seahawks for 14 years, arriving in 1975 -- the year before the team played its first game. Goldston came to the Seahawks after serving as offensive backfield coach for the Chicago Bears and remained with the Seahawks through the 1988 season."
Also from Farnsworth: a look back at the 1987 Seahawks. Farnsworth: "Steve Largent was voted the team MVP after a 58-catch, 912-yard, eight-TD season, as well as to his seventh -- and final -- Pro Bowl. The ’87 season also was the 12th -- and final time -- Largent would lead the Seahawks in receptions."
Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle says Kevin Kolb isn't worth the risk for the Seahawks.
Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus gives Larry Fitzgerald a slight edge over Andre Johnson as the NFL's best receiver over the past three seasons, counting playoffs, as Darren Urban of azcardinals.com notes. Elsayed: "When the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl, Fitzgerald was our top ranked receiver after a monstrous year and tremendous post season. He still found himself near the top (seventh) when the Kurt Warner-led Cardinals went to the playoffs, and improved on that with a sixth place finish last year despite some horrible quarterback play. Essentially, whether you’re feeding him caviar or out of the garbage, Fitz is a receiver hungry to make the most of any opportunity. The best hands of any of the top receivers." Fitzgerald's performance through the playoffs does set him apart. I've rated Johnson slightly higher more recently based on his superior speed. Pick your favorite between the two and I'll take the other one without complaint.