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Around the NFC West: Gutting it out

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein played the final 16 games last season, counting playoffs, with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and damage to the muscle needed for raising one's arm sideways. Somers: "There were some rocky moments in 2008, but coaches were impressed with Sendlein's toughness and intelligence. With 20 starts on his resume, Sendlein should be better this year, especially with two healthy shoulders."

Also from Somers: Cardinals rookie Herman Johnson was expected to receive a signing bonus worth around $120,000.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com also sizes up Sendlein's performance in relation to the center's injuries. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "Lyle's got 20 games under his belt without missing time, so toughness, competitiveness, especially with what he went through last year getting nicked up, you gain a lot of respect for that. I think as a young guy in this league, coming from where he did and being thrust into starting in his second year, it is tough. He has come a long way, but we have aspirations of him becoming a very good center. The one thing I have seen is improvement. If that trend continues we will have a very good football player."

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind looks at Cardinals players scheduled to become free agents after next season.

Taylor Price of 49ers.com says the team emphasized red zone work in practice Tuesday. Price: "[Dominique] Zeigler's two touchdown grabs were quite different from one another, with the first coming from the right arm of Shaun Hill. It was a shoe-top grab in front of cornerback Marcus Hudson and safety Reggie Smith on a perfectly thrown pass where only Zeigler could make a play on the ball."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee provides observations from the 49ers' practice, taking note that the defense is leading the offense, as expected. Barrows: "In fact, during one nine-play sequence, [Mike] Singletary was keeping score as far as which unit won each play. The final score: defense 7, offense 2. The ninth play ended when quarterback Shaun Hill's pass to Vernon Davis was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by [Jeff] Ulbrich. Singletary immediately stopped practice and huddled the team together after the play and delivered a few pointed words."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers safety Mark Roman is accepting his new role as backup to Dashon Goldson.

Florida Danny of Niners Nation concludes that schedule strength is a key variable in determining which teams become "leapers" in finally qualifying for postseason. Will the 49ers make that leap? FD: "The problem is that we have no way of knowing just how much easier [or more difficult] the 49ers' schedule is going to be in 2009."

John Morgan of Field Gulls sifts through a recent interview with Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in trying to figure out how the team will use its personnel. Morgan says it's unlikely the Seahawks will use three wide receivers more under Knapp than under previous coach Mike Holmgren. Holmgren's base offense featured two running backs. Knapp will be more apt to use only one, whether with three receivers or two tight ends.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says undrafted free-agent fullback Tyler Roehl suffered a season-ending knee injury at the Seahawks' most recent camp.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says losing the Rams would be a "crushing blow" for the city. Miklasz: "Can you imagine losing two NFL teams in less than 30 years? The NFL is the most successful and lucrative sports league in the world, and St. Louis can't come up with a single owner to ensure the longevity of NFL football in our town? I realize there are many more important things in life than having an NFL team. There are more important priorities, too. But if the Rams leave, that will be it. There will never be another NFL team here. And that's unfortunate."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams first-round choice Jason Smith took reps with the backups at left tackle after working exclusively at right tackle in the past. Also: [Coach Steve] Spagnuolo also declined to say whether he has an 'escape clause' in his contract that would allow him to break his deal with the team if it's sold."

Also from Coats: He thinks the Rams can win seven or eight games in 2009 if things fall right.

Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com says Rams fans shouldn't panic about possibly losing their team because a positive outcome is a strong possibility. Los Angeles isn't yet in position to land an NFL team, while minority Rams owner Stan Kroenke wants to keep the team in St. Louis.