Garrison Hearst sat mostly silent in Steve Mariucci's office Monday as he listened to the 49ers coach explain why the running back who has started all three pre-season games suddenly isn't a lock to make the roster. Hearst's 31-month-old comeback from a broken ankle and four surgeries has been admirable, but with mixed results. Other factors hurting Hearst: The team likes its group of young backs, plus Hearst's contract calls for over $1 million in incentives for basically showing up in uniform on opening weekend. To make the team, he may have to re-do his incentives to make them more performance-oriented. Then again, Mariucci knows full well that releasing the popular Hearst would be a huge blow to team morale just before the Sept. 9th opener against the Falcons - ironically, the team that Hearst last faced in January 1999.
Jim Mora's life and career may have passed before his eyes when Payton Manning suffered knee and ankle injuries Friday night on Vikings defensive tackle Chris Hovan's low hit. Manning's OK, but Mora was second-guessed privately by veteran players who wondered why he would risk Manning after he had already pulled Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison. . .with two rookie guards blocking - or not blocking - up front.
Nobody is taking for granted that the Jets and Eagles preseason game will go on as scheduled Thursday after the cancellation at Veterans Stadium more than two weeks ago. The Jets will have a walk-AND-run through at the Vet on the day of the game; Eagles, league and union officials are closely inspecting the NEXTurf installation; and the Rams also have an equipment rep checking it out in preparation for their regular-season opener in Philly.
Ex-Cowboys coach Barry Switzer's suggestion to use Quincy Carter on the option had promising results Monday night against the Raiders. It will make opponents plan extra for the unconventional attack, but as one NFC East defensive coordinator said: Carter is going to take some serious hits in a game that is normally all about protecting the quarterback... Inside the Huddle, Chris Mortensen, ESPN