Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
MikeB (Myrtle Beach SC)
Mike, Care to take a wild guess on the final outcomes of the division? Promise not to hold it against you, it is still only May! My guess: SF 10-6, Seattle 8-8, Ari 6-10, Rams 3-13.
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
Sure. My early educated guess would be 49ers at 9-7, Cardinals at 8-8, Seahawks at 7-9, Rams at 4-12 or worse depending largely on health to key players (because depth is not there).
Willie (South Bend)
From what I've been reading from the reports from minicamps and OTAs, it seems to me that we are going to have a two new starters at wide receiver. I think Mike Williams will start at flanker and Golden Tate will be the split end. I say this because Mike Williams has the physical size that both Carroll and Jeremy Bates like at flanker, and Golden has the speed to stretch the field. I know it's early, but Mike Williams has been running with the first unit and Golden won't be a real threat if he's only on the field as a situational player. What's your thoughts on this? PS: No, I don't think much of T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Dieon Branch and I don't think the coaches do, either.
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Reading about minicamps and OTAs is essential for anyone following teams closely, but the important thing is to read only so much into what you read. Otherwise you might emerge from this offseason thinking Alex Smith is Johnny Unitas, the 49ers will never field a punt successfully, the Cardinals will never attempt another pass and Steven Jackson will be unable to take more than one or two hits. Let's see what Mike Williams and Golden Tate do in August before anointing anyone just yet. Few rookie receivers step in right away and do what Michael Crabtree was able to do last season, or what Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald were able to do in Arizona. I do think Seattle will covet size at receiver, and I do think the new leadership will want to go young. I also think Williams and Tate will contribute this season. But I also need to see more.
Cory Johnson (Atlanta)
Mike what do you think the 49ers should do with the following free agents: Manny Lawson, Vernon Davis and Aubrayo Franklin. I think we need to let Lawson and Franklin play their way into a contract probably letting Lawson go and locking up Davis and maybe Franklin.
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Sign Davis to a long-term deal before he hits the market. Dangle the carrot in front of the other guys as long as necessary. Do not overcommit to them.
Jason (Palo Alto, CA)
Good morning Mike (on the West Coast at least), always enjoy the blogs and chats! I know it's early, but do you think that LeRoy Vann has a good shot at making the Niners squad or is his skill set limited to return man or can he help out at another postion? Great work, thanks!
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Good morning. Vann is the type of player that will have to light up the preseason. Otherwise -- and possibly even then -- I'm thinking practice squad.
All I hear is the division is in Alex Smith's hands and the 49ers will go as far as he take them. In my opinion Seattle and Arizona can win the division and will go as far as Matt Leinart and Matt Hasselbeck take them. Agree?
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
Yes, I would agree that the Cardinals and Seahawks have a chance if their quarterbacks play well.
Brian Staley (Frederick MD)
Thanks Mike for the Chats and Blogs. In your opinion what team in the NFC West do you feel has the strongest coaching staff? Some teams made some small changes, while others have cleaned house. Thanks mike.
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
The Cardinals get the edge in this category because Ken Whisenhunt has proven it. The Rams' staff has the most to prove: Pat Shurmur, Ken Flajole, even Steve Spagnuolo. For the 49ers, Mike Singletary still has to prove himself over time, and we need to see more from Jimmy Raye too. Pete Carroll has questions to answer. I think Carroll did a nice job putting together a strong staff featuring Alex Gibbs, Ken Norton Jr., Jerry Gray and the potentially up-and-coming Jeremy Bates. I still come back to Arizona with Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, at least for now.
How interested are the Seahawks in Terrell Owens and why not keep Mike Teel around for competition?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
The Seahawks discussed Owens early in the process, but to my knowledge, there are no plans to go in that direction, particularly with Mike Williams and Golden Tate showing promise to this point. You can never rule out the Seahawks adding more players. They've shown they'll take a flier on a Mike Williams or J.P. Losman or LenDale White. It just doesn't appear to me as though they are heading in Owens' direction at this time.
Do you really think Matt Leinart can lead the Cardinals to a winning record in 2010?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
I think he can. Just not yet convinced he will.
Are there any restrictions on how teams travel? I remember seeing the Niner team of the 80s with their own jet, cook, etc. Do certain teams have an advantage in travel? Could this help the Niners and their 33k or so miles of travel this upcoming season?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
The Seahawks were still complaining about 10 a.m. PT starts on the East Coast when owner Paul Allen was providing them with one of his private 757s decked out with custom seats and all the latest technological amenities (including satellite TV before that was common on planes). Allen sold one of those planes, as I recall, and the team has been chartering planes in recent seasons. I don't think planes make a huge difference, but if the way a team spends on travel also reflects its commitment in other areas, sure, it could be an indicator.
Josh (Atlanta, GA)
Mike, first off, love the blog. I've noticed that the Cardinals have been relatively healthy compared to the rest of the league the last couple season. Sure there have been nicks and dings here and there, but the only real devastating injury I can think of was Boldin getting his face broken 2 years ago, and he was back after 3 week.How much of this would you attribute to luck? I've been told a good amount of this can be credited to Arizona's strength and conditioning coach, John Lott. Is his way of training the Cards keeping them healthy and on the field more or are they just having a lucky run?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Thanks, Josh. Ken Whisenhunt has credited John Lott for helping the team avoid injuries, and Lott has parlayed that into a contract extension. Having the right strength guy can get players to commit, and that can help them stay healthier, but luck is involved here, too. Arizona could still be decimated by injuries some year without Lott doing any worse of a job.
Mike, how come rookies in sports like the NBA are signed to their new deals within weeks, sometimes days, but in the NFL its months and months?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
The NBA has salary slotting. There is less to negotiate.
Killian (Inland Empire)
Any word on if Leroy Hill's probation may have been violated ? If he is sent back to jail do you see Seattle releasing him?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
His suspended sentence did not include jail time, did it? So if the probation were revoked, he would not necessarily have jail time. I'd have to double check on that, but I don't think he would automatically go to jail.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sand-O: John Clayton recently listed Arizona as having one of the worst off seasons this year. While I agree the losses were substantial, I think the Cards management did well in plugging the losses, with the exception of QB. Thoughts? Also, any truth to the rumors that Matt Leinart is struggling with accuracy in camps? If this is the case, I agree with Adam Schefter that the Cardinals need to seriously consider Marc Bulger.
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Clayton went out of his way to note how well the Cardinals had overcome their losses. Still, losing Kurt Warner was a big deal. Matt Leinart was off-target with some throws during a practice or two. The Cardinals did have some interest in Marc Bulger before signing Derek Anderson.
SeanL (Fife, WA)
What (if any) ties did J.P. Losman have to Pete Carroll or John Schneider/others in the Seahawks organization? Or what was it that they saw something others weren't seeing? Third-string QB isn't that important to success, but why get older at a position where they can afford to be young and develop an upside talent?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
They didn't like Mike Teel's upside and thought Losman would upgrade the depth overall. They also didn't like the quarterbacks in the draft -- at least after Sam Bradford -- well enough to take them where they were available. Their decision to acquire Charlie Whitehurst tipped their hand as to what they thought of the QBs in the draft. Their move to get Losman affirmed what I thought they might think about the relatively immobile Teel as a long-term prospect in Jeremy Bates' offense. The new regime in Seattle is throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. Right now it looks like Mike Williams might stick. Red Bryant as a 5-technique defensive lineman could stick. Teel was not going to stick. Losman might not stick, for all we know, but he apparently had a very good workout for them. As for connections to Carroll or Schneider, I know secondary coach Jerry Gray was in Buffalo when Losman was there. Perhaps he had some thoughts.
Dave W. (49er Country)
Mike, First off...thanks for the blog. Which brings me to this question: Can you fill us in on what your day is like as a blogger for ESPN? Do you sit at your laptop and scour the wire all day for the info you put together for us or do you get free time during the day as well? Are you doing this from home or do you have an office to go to every day? Just curious about what that kind of job entails.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
I travel most weeks during the season and extensively during training camp. I'll be hitting the road for a minicamp in June. I'll often attend the scouting combine and/or league meetings. Sometimes I'll drive over to a Seahawks practice or news conference. The rest of the time I'm working from my home office.
Deric (Twin Falls, ID)
Mike I watched a special the other day on the 49ers glory days with Bill Walsh, at one point they showed some footage of him in meetings with the team as well as him talking about his approach. He made a comment to the tune of, "If you can get them laughing together, you can get them to perform together". I couldn't help but notice striking similarities between him and Pete in their attitude and demeanor. So with that in mind would it be fair to qualify Bill Walsh as a 'Players Coach'? Seems like it to me, and it seems like it worked out quite well for him.
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Carroll and a lot of coaches believe in getting to know players well enough to know what pushes their buttons as individuals. Carroll might say, "Hey, if that makes me a players' coach, so be it."
TGJr (Wide Open)
It was too humid in Miami, and it's too cold here in Frisco. Can coaching really help me stop dropping the ball?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Perhaps, but concentration is what can help Ted Ginn Jr. -- or any NFL receiver -- catch the ball more consistently.
Ben (San Jose)
Do you think if Clausen had lasted one more pick that he'd be a 49er?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
Not convinced. If they wanted him, they could have moved up a few spots to get him. That's what they did to get Anthony Davis even though conventional wisdom said Davis would have been there anyway. If you really have to have a guy, you go up and get him or at least make a big effort to do so.
Have you been able to gauge the expectation of Alan Faneca's play from Ken Whisenhunt or Russ Grimm? Surely he's not as washed up as many suggest, but he may not be the Pro Bowler of years past.
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
They think he can still play at a high level. They also realize the positive impact he can have on an offensive line that needs leadership. The Jets have some established young players on the line such as Nick Mangold. I think Arizona can use Faneca to cement an identity up front as the team relies more heavily on its run game.
Who would you take Alex Smith or Matt Leinart?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
No. I would go with Peyton Manning.
Sando, just to clarify how a suspended sentence works. Usually, when a judge suspends a sentence, the defendant is sentenced to the maximum for the offense with all of the time suspended. This is done so if the defendant violates the probation the judge has the discretion of how much time to "unsuspend" which keeps the defendant from being able to invoke his double jeopardy clause. So, in the case of Hill, there is a good chance he was sentenced to 365 days in jail with 365 suspended.
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
The news story on Leroy Hill's plea agreement said he received 12 months' probation, 30 hours community service, outpatient drug/alcohol counseling and $500 in fines. He is also subject to random drug testing. There was no mention of a suspended jail sentence. Story: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=5047399&campaign=rss
Shane (Queen Creek, AZ)
Do the Cards become a run-first team this year?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
That is probably an overrated storyline. They'll still throw on first down quite a bit. Yes, though, we can expect them to become less of a pass-first team now that Kurt Warner is gone. The offense will be set up more for Matt Leinart.
Big Mike (Formerly of American Idol)
Now that I have nothing to do but enjoy scarfing food at buffets, I think it would be a hoot for me to show up in Seattle, sing the National Anthem prior to a football game, and thrill the crowd with my signature double hand wave. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
I have never watched American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, Survivor, etc. Sorry.
With Leroy Hill's troubles, is there a sign of a trade for a quality DE?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Who would give up a quality defensive end for a $6 million linebacker with off-field problems?
Julio (Balad AFB, Iraq)
Good Morning Sando, great work on the NFC WEST blog. So, lets say that Smith does amazing this season (this is just a what if btw) and we get to the playoffs, how far do you think that we will get in the playoffs and what do you think our record will be with this "what if" situation after the regular season?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
If Alex Smith plays great and the 49ers win the division, I think they would likely win a home playoff game, then lose on the road.
Who is your favorite player to watch in the NFC West?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
I have a short list of players. Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson are on that list. Walter Jones used to be atop that list. In his prime, there was no one I'd rather watch.
Mike, if Seattle can remain healthy, how much of a surprise could they be -- especially Hasslbeck?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
You nearly lost me after the first six words. I've heard those words so many times over the last few years, it's tough to get past them. At this point, it would be a surprise in itself if Seattle stayed reasonably healthy. I think Hasselbeck can be a good player if he is healthy.
Tully (Irvine, CA)
Mike, great blog. I am a longtime 49ers fan. I have heard that Nate Clements is doing some personal training in Arizona. Can you explain what exactly is going on and why he is doing this. He was signed from the Bills a few years backc as an "elite corner" but things haven't panned out that way for him. Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Players routinely train in Arizona or elsewhere during the offseason. Teams have put more emphasis on attendance rates at their offseason conditioning programs. I think teams just like keeping close tabs on their players. That's why we have all these minicamps and OTAs spread out through the offseason. Some vets aren't going to play that game. They'll get ready on their own terms. You worry as an organization if that player hasn't been a self-starter. Deuce Lutui's situation in Arizona comes to mind. But with a Nate Clements, you know he's going to report in shape.
Steve (Effingham, IL)
Is the ownership situation in STL affecting the Rams ability to signing or trading for a running back.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
The Rams' ownership situation is affecting the team's flexibility with its budget. Truth be told, however, the Rams couldn't just acquire a top backup runner even if ownership made it a priority. What team is going to give up a good one? And how much should the Rams pay for a guy who might not play a ton behind Steven Jackson?
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
How do you think that Sam Bradford will do as the quarterback for the St. Louis Rams?
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Bradford seems to have the right overall makeup to weather the storm that awaits. He's going to get beaten up this year and he's going to struggle some. I think he'll hold up mentally. We'll see how well he holds up physically. The key for Bradford is having a strong organization around him. He needs continuity on the staff. He needs the right staff. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch took the unusual step of calling for the team to reassign quarterbacks coach Dick Curl. I tend to agree based on what I've heard from a couple NFL quarterbacks who have played under him. The odd thing is that Curl succeeded Terry Shea in Kansas City (indirectly) and St. Louis (directly), yet Shea was the guy Bradford and other quarterbacks have hired to get ready for the draft.
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat today. My pleasure all the way.