Around the NFC West: Willis' leadership

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with Hall of Famer Rod Woodson for thoughts on Patrick Willis. Woodson: "Ray (Lewis) was a great leader, but it took him some time to grow into it. Willis knows that his teammates are his friends. But he has to understand that sometimes, the truth doesn't always feel good. Sometimes you have to hold guys accountable. Willis is to the stage now where knowing the defense is going to help him. He's going to know when the nose tackle is out of position. He's going to know when the edge is out of position. And it's going to be up to him to say so." Getting a lucrative new contract should also help Willis emerge as more of a leader.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with 49ers pass-rusher Ahmad Brooks, who hopes to go from situational contributor to breakout player. Brooks: "Yeah, there's always a personal goal. I want to be the sack leader. That's just me. I tell myself I'm gonna get 20. I might not, you know what I mean? But I might end up with like 17 or something, but I always shoot my goals high."

Also from Barber: Taylor Mays stands up for Pete Carroll and the USC program. Mays: "I just feel it's unfortunate that it's being taken out on the university, on kids that really did nothing wrong, or coaches that did nothing wrong. But that's just the reality of the situation. I feel like it would happen to anybody or any university. But it's tough being the University of Southern California. Maybe they came down harder on them because of who we are as a school."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Ricky Jean-Francois is benefiting from Aubrayo Franklin's decision to stay away from the 49ers this offseason. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky: "With Aubrayo not being here right now, he's benefiting from all of those reps Aubrayo would have had. Trust me, he’s seen enough of them. He's really grown with the calls, grown with the technique."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers' young safeties enjoyed a strong day of practice. Rod Woodson, a visitor at practice, had this to say about Taylor Mays: "I think it's going to take a couple years. It's still a process. I think what people have to do with all players, including Taylor (Mays), is slow down and let the guy be taught. Until then, let the guy be a rookie. I got eaten up as a rookie. That's just part of being a player."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says David Carr seemed to make a positive impression in practice Thursday. Barrows: "At this point in his career, Carr said, he knows all the routes and can make all of the throws. It's the verbiage of the Jimmy Raye system that Carr is trying to learn right now. The 49ers will have a minicamp, their only mandatory session of the spring, late next week. When it ends, the 49ers will have more than a month off before they report for training camp. Carr said he typically has thrown the ball during that month break. This time, the two-a-day sessions will involve calling a play in the huddle, barking out directions at the line of scrimmage and then running the play."

Gary Peterson of the Contra Costa Times offers thoughts on the 49ers' stadium measure.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Glen Coffee gained about 15 pounds of muscle this offseason because he was determined to bounce back from a rookie season that disappointed him.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says retired Seahawks great Jacob Green has plenty of advice for his son-in-law now that Red Bryant is playing defensive end. Bryant: "Mr. Green is excited. In fact, he called me last night just to see how my practice is going. With me playing D-end now, he’s got so many suggestions – from how to use my hands, to getting off the ball, to losing weight. He’s really proud, and I’m proud that I’m making him proud. He’s just excited to see finally see me get an opportunity, and I’m excited and grateful."

Also from Farnsworth: a visit with Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. Bates: "The football IQ on the team is incredible. They really look forward to coming to meetings and then taking it out here. There aren’t many mental mistakes. But we’ve got to keep growing and working on the fundamentals of the game."

Pat Kirwan of NFL.com lists Bates among five coordinators to watch this season. NFC West alumni Mike Martz and Mike Nolan also made the list. Kirwan, a longtime Carroll friend: "The Seahawks were minus-8 in turnovers last year, but I would be very surprised if Carroll team didn't flip that number to a plus-8. The big 'if' is the health of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, although the team does like what they have in backup Charlie Whitehurst."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Adrian Wilson hopes to play five more seasons in the NFL. Wilson: "I plan on playing another five years and then hanging it up. If it was all said and done today, though, I’d be happy with my career. I’d be content with it."

Also from Urban: "Nothing was necessarily solidified during the Cards’ minicamp and OTA work. (Ken) Whisenhunt has talked about being happier with his secondary depth than when practices started. Whisenhunt also said he has been happy with the work new quarterback Matt Leinart has done in place of the retired Kurt Warner. Most determinations for the depth chart and some roster spots won’t come until training camp, however."

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 ranks Leinart third among starting quarterbacks in the NFC West. Alex Smith is second, with Matt Hasselbeck first. Andrew602: "Cardinal fans may hate me for this but Smith has shown more in the present then Leinart has. Smith is riding in a similar boat then Hasselbeck, in that he also has this year to prove that he can be the quarterback the 49ers hoped he would have been in 2005. Smith possesses the quickness and arm-strength to lead the Niners offense, and with playmakers like Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree, he's finally been gifted with a talented supporting cast. It's a matter of if he can get his head on straight and handle the pressure of leading the 49ers back to the playoffs."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' Mardy Gilyard is playing catchup after rules prevented him from joining practices until this week. Thomas: "Gilyard spent his time in exile in Cincinnati catching passes from former Bearcats quarterback Tony Pike, a sixth-round draft pick by Carolina, as well as current Bearcats QB Zach Collaros. And when a human arm wasn't available, he caught balls from a JUGs machine, sometimes having them fired over a chair while on his rump -- the better to work on his concentration. The Rams sent him study materials to try to stay current with what was taking place 300-plus miles away in St. Louis."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' signing of Chris Hovan was their latest move designed to add seasoning to a team that ranked among the NFL's youngest in 2009. Also: "Tackle Jason Smith, who left practice early Tuesday with a toe injury, was back at the morning workout Thursday. But he felt irritation in the toe afterward and was sent for an MRI exam. The results were not immediately available."

Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is getting more comfortable. Bradford on progress since his first Rams practice: "It really is night and day. The more I’m out there, the more reps I get, the more comfortable I feel. From day one to now, it’s night and day, how much more comfortable I feel just calling the plays in the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage, making reads."