Head West: A Glance Around the Day's Headlines in the NFC West

Ron ClementsCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2012

Coach Jeff Fisher keeps a watchful eye on his new team during training camp.
Coach Jeff Fisher keeps a watchful eye on his new team during training camp.Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams opened training camp with their first practice on Sunday and they were immediately in the spotlight.

ESPN.com’s Mike Sando was at Rams Park in Earth City, as was Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter. Sando had several observations following Sunday’s practice. Trotter will spend a few days in St. Louis and his camp report will run on Wednesday.

quick-hitters on rams: bradford looks SHARP; janoris is working with the 1st team & has impressed teammates; quick is a work in progress.

— Jim Trotter (@SI_JimTrotter) July 30, 2012

NFL Network spent time breaking down coach Jeff Fisher’s first season in St. Louis and the Rams’ expectations. Quarterback Sam Bradford enters a key season and the questions remain about Bradford’s lack of weapons and health concerns, especially with an offensive line that was battered last season.

The Rams will be in full pads on Wednesday and that’s when things will get really interesting. The most important thing, as Fisher pointed out several times during minicamps and organized team activities, is keeping everyone healthy. That means protecting each other, something mentioned by Sando as linebacker Justin Cole made contact with running back Steven Jackson around the knees.

Jackson tweeted his “fight weight”, which is eight pounds less than last year.

It's official my fighting weight .. Haha 234.8 LBS and 5.1% body fat. I'm ready, let the games begin.

— Steven Jackson (@sj39) July 28, 2012

The Rams added some help for Jackson in the backfield, inking former Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli. The team also made news by signing defensive end Chris Long to a four-year extension with roughly $20 million of guaranteed money. Long, the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, was entering into the final year of his rookie contract. St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Jim Thomas also reported that linebacker James Laurinaitis, who is the final year of his contract, will be next to receive an extension.

Rams also are pretty far along in talks with LB James Laurinaitis, who like Long is entering the final year of his original Rams contract.

— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) July 29, 2012

In case you missed it on Wednesday, the league’s network took a shot, and maybe deservingly so, at the Rams’ possible fantasy football picks.

The reigning division champion San Francisco 49ers also locked up a defensive starter to a new deal. Safety Dashon Goldson, who is coming off his first Pro Bowl season, signed a one-year, $6.2 million tender. Goldson wanted a long-term deal, but said what everybody else was thinking, “No hard feelings. It ain’t bad money.”

At least one fan thinks giving Goldson a multi-year contract would be a mistake.

On the field, the focus was on the other side of the ball with the wide receivers. First-round pick A.J. Jenkins, from Illinois, has been criticized for a perceived struggle to learn the offense. Coach Jim Harbaugh made it a point on Sunday to say that is not the case. Harbaugh told reporters that Jenkins has made “very, very good” progress.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who is trying to come back from a nagging foot injury, hurt his right leg on Friday and did not practice Saturday or Sunday. It isn’t known how much more time Crabtree will miss.

Wideout Brian Tyms, an undrafted rookie from Florida A&M, was asked to leave Sunday’s practice for a few minutes to calm down after he threw safety Trenton Robinson to the ground. After practice, Tyms spoke to Harbaugh, who said he didn’t want a fight to break out.

Randy Moss, back in football after a year off, has been impressive thus far. He made a one-handed “circus” catch in the Niners’ first padded practice and added another leaping catch. Eric Branch also pointed out that the three top “Smiths” —quarterback Alex, defensive end Justin and outside linebacker Aldon—all looked good in practice.

With so many new weapons at receiver, offensive coordinator Greg Roman told reporters that he’s excited about the explosive potential. Explosiveness is one thing the offense has been missing and could be the last remaining piece to get the Niners back to the Super Bowl.

Crabtree isn’t the only receiver who is tender early in training camp. The Seattle Seahawks are playing it cautious with Sidney Rice, who battled various injuries last season. Rice knows he’s the leader of the receiving corps, but has to be on the field.

Sando was at Seahawks camp on Saturday and wrote about Rice, as well as how coach Pete Carroll is dealing with injuries and a possible suspension of running back Marshawn Lynch.

One good piece of news on Rice is that he’s no longer donning the “red, no-contact” jersey. While Rice is still not cleared for contact, Golden Tate is making the most of his opportunities, according to John Boyle of the Herald.

Also in the Seahawks receiving group is Antonio Bryant, who was signed last week after the team jettisoned Mike Williams. Bryant has been away from football since a knee injury erased his 2010 season. Bryant told reporters on Sunday that he’s healthy and “feels like a corvette.”

Who’s gonna have the keys, though? The Seahawks still have a three-man battle at quarterback and that’s something that will be ongoing. Tarvaris Jackson has taken most of the early reps, but free-agent signee Matt Flynn and rookie draft pick Russell Wilson will also get their cracks. The money’s on Flynn, whose signing immediately raised expectations in Seattle.

Aside from Rice being sidelined to open camp, the Seahawks have three players on the physically unable to perform list—offensive tackle James Carpenter, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and cornerback Walter Thurmond. Carpenter is still recovering from last season’s knee injury that sent him to injured reserve. Carroll dismissed reports that Carpenter could be going back to IR for this season.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King visited Seahawks camp last week and was impressed with Tate. He also stopped in Arizona to watch the Cardinals.

The Cardinals were the first NFL team to start training camp this season. With the Hall of Fame game against New Orleans approaching on Aug. 5, the Cards broke camp on July 21. They held their annual intra-squad scrimmage on Saturday in front of over 14,000 fans.

They did not hold practice on Sunday, but will be back out this afternoon.

Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t reveal much in terms of standout players or disappointing performances. That being said, nobody was really happy with the work.

The Cardinals didn’t make many offseason moves, coming up short in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Quarterback has been a problem for the Cardinals, who have talented skill position players and a solid defense. Neither Kevin Kolb nor John Skelton did anything on Saturday to sway the coaches, or fans, one way or the other.

One move the Cardinals did make over the summer was the surprising termination of the team’s salary cap manager, Justin Casey. General manager Rod Graves explained the firing to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.

Linebacker Daryl Washington has looked good so far and will be used at multiple positions, including safety. He told an Arizona radio station that his goal is to make the Pro Bowl while helping the Cardinals win the division.

The Cardinals’ website doesn’t include a lot of written news from camp or the scrimmage, but does include several video clips from Saturday and earlier practices.