Around the NFC West: Rams' Gilyard eager

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says injuries and illness have slowed the early development of Rams rookie Mardy Gilyard. Clayton's injury could give Gilyard additional opportunities. The Rams love the aggressive, borderline cocky attitude Gilyard brings to the game. Gilyard: "Through misfortunes, it's my turn now. And I do not want to let any of these guys down. I do not want to let James Hall down, I do not want to let Chris Long down, I do not want to let Steven Jackson down, I don't want to let Sam (Bradford) down, I don't want to let Brandon Gibson down, Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry. I don't want to let any of those guys down, because I feel like I owe them everything. Especially the vets, who've just put their arm on my shoulder and haven't treated me like a bonehead rook." Count that quote as evidence the Rams have a good thing going on the team chemistry front.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' Steven Jackson is closing in on Eric Dickerson in the team's record book. Thomas: "In his seventh season with the Rams, Jackson needs 141 yards rushing to surpass Dickerson's career record. Dickerson, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, rushed for 7,245 yards in just five seasons with the Rams. Jackson is at 7,105 -- and counting."

Also from Thomas: The Rams' sponsors have bought enough tickets to the team's game against San Diego to avoid a local television blackout. Failing to sell out games hurts, but sponsors' willingness to scoop up tickets reflects strong TV ratings and, perhaps, confidence in the longer-term direction of the team.

More from Thomas: Brandon Gibson needs to pick up his game following Mark Clayton's season-ending injury.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team hopes to get a boost from its returning tight ends.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals guard Deuce Lutui is improving while his weight continues to drop. Lutui is one of the more hilarious people I've encountered in an NFL locker room. Bickley got Lutui going on his Tongan roots. Lutui: "The history of Tongan people, we were warriors! We were the Vikings of the South Pacific, the pearl of Polynesia. I come from the Kingdom of Tonga! That means, when I'm Tongan to the 'T,' I'm Tongan to the death! I'm a Lutui, and I come from a tiny nation, a dot in the middle of the map. Even if you look, you might miss it."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com thinks rookie Andre Roberts will be the Cardinals' fourth receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet once all the team's wideouts are healthy. That would leave coaches to choose between Stephen Williams and Max Komar for the final roster spot at receiver on game days. Seems like Williams needs to be part of the mix. He has worked ahead of Roberts in the rotation previously.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers highlights from practice Thursday, plus this quote from Matt Hasselbeck about Julius Peppers: "Julius Peppers is a great, great player. When he was in Carolina, they were playing him at wide receiver. It’s not often that a guy’s playing defensive end and wide receiver who’s not like in the sixth grade. It’s amazing that he’s doing it in the NFL." The play Peppers made in picking off Kurt Warner at University of Phoenix Stadium last season stands out as one of his more memorable ones.

Also from Farnsworth: Hasselbeck's presnap battle with Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher should be a good one. Hasselbeck: "Urlacher does a great job of audibling as a middle linebacker. He’s a great player and he’s well-coached. He’s been playing in this scheme a long time and you’ll see when an offense checks – a quarterback checks – he’ll check. Or, if he gets the sense that you’re pretending to check, then he’ll call it off. It’s one of those things where you make eye contact with him, you’re making a check, and he’s like, 'No. No. No. Let’s just leave this one on.' Or other times, he’ll be like, 'Yeah, let’s check.' And so he’s a great player."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who is eagerly anticipating his Seattle debut.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Chester Pitts missed practice to rest a sore knee Thursday. Pitts has had a tough time putting together back-to-back full practices on his surgically repaired knee. If the knee does improve enough, Seattle will have found an upgrade at left guard. That's why the team has been willing to carry him on its roster this long without getting any on-field contributions.

Also from Johns: Rains began falling just as the Seahawks' offensive linemen broke their season-long silence in compliance with NFL rules.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Seahawks center Chris Spencer as saying Seattle's line is beginning to jell.

Also from Williams: Lynch has never played at Soldier Field and he's looking forward to playing in Walter Payton's house. Lynch: "Sweetness did it there for a long time. So I mean probably to go in there and have one of those games that he would have had would be wonderful, wonderful for our backfield. But just to get out there with my guys and just put something together and hopefully come out with a win is my biggest thing."

John Morgan of Field Gulls explains Tyler Polumbus' perceived drop in play by noting that Seattle's game against the Rams marked the first time the team fell behind against a capable defense. Having to bounce between right and left tackle also had to present challenges.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald quotes Seattle line coach Art Valero this way regarding Russell Okung's matchup with Peppers: "They’re all good in this league. It’s like a rodeo. You’ve got to ride the bull that comes out of chute A. That’s yours, whether you want him or you don’t. You have no choice. If you’re afraid, go to church. They’ve got no choice. They’re all on full scholarship, so they’ve got to go play."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers want quarterback Alex Smith to play with a more aggressive mindset. Smith isn't naturally aggressive. His demeanor is reserved. He became more assertive throughout the offseason because he had a better understanding of the offense and he felt as though he had earned the starting job. But he's still not naturally aggressive. The question now becomes whether he can become more aggressive and play more freely without forcing the ball into coverage. Smith has been better this season when freed to "cut it loose" after the 49ers have fallen behind. Can he adopt that mindset earlier in games? He has actually been quite effective on opening drives recently.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sizes up the 49ers' evolving offense.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' improved prospects on third down.

Also from Branch: The Raiders-49ers rivalry is more between fans than players. Imagine my delight (dread?) upon hearing that my dear mother would be attending the Raiders-49ers game at Candlestick Park this weekend. She doesn't really follow football, but was invited to the game as part of a group outing. I told her to watch Nos. 21 and 52 on the 49ers. But mostly I'm hoping she doesn't find herself in the middle of a brawl between Raiders and 49ers fans. Keep your head on a swivel, Mom.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' run-heavy play calling on first down against Philadelphia was designed to produce more manageable third-down situations.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Michael Crabtree is excited to face the Raiders after Oakland drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey over him in 2009. Crabtree: "I'm not worried about Darrius. I'm focused on winning the game. But at the same time, I'm thinking about the Raiders."

The Associated Press says former 49ers guard Woody Peoples passed away at age 67.