49ers ready to see former GM McCloughan, Seahawks
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)
Players and club officials switch teams so regularly these days it's not uncommon to line up against a familiar face any given week during a 16-game NFL season.
Or see an old friend on the sideline before kickoff and say hello.
When the favored San Francisco 49ers open the season at NFC West rival Seattle on Sunday, it will be a little different. The Seahawks recently signed departed San Francisco defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer and, shortly after, wide receiver Brandon Jones before waiving him on cutdown day. Then on Monday, they added running back Michael Robinson.
A big reason they have all headed to the Pacific Northwest: Scot McCloughan - another Niners castoff.
McCloughan, who abruptly left the 49ers in March in what team president Jed York called a ''mutual parting,'' is finding ways to boost the Seahawks with players he already knows so well.
''I'm sure Scot has really talked about the personality of our guys,'' San Francisco coach Mike Singletary said Wednesday. ''That's really what a team wants to know more than anything else. He may be a great player but is he a player that we can rattle? Is he a player that we can get to? And Scot knows those things.''
How McCloughan's expertise on the 49ers might help come Sunday is anybody's guess. Perhaps not at all, yet it sure could appear to be advantageous.
Then, there's also longtime Niners linebacker Jeff Ulbrich helping coach Seattle's special teams unit as an assistant.
''I put in a call to Jeff threatening him to keep his mouth shut,'' 49ers quarterback Alex Smith joked Wednesday.
Singletary knows San Francisco must take care of its own business, something the 49ers didn't do often away from Candlestick Park last year. They lost six straight road games, five in a row by a combined 19 points, before winning their season finale at St. Louis. That stretch included a 20-17 loss at Seattle in early December in which the Niners gave the game away late.
''They have several of our players, some of our players that are really bright guys,'' Singletary said. ''You know Jeff Ulbrich, Mike Robinson. Robinson knows our offense as well as anybody, and Jeff knows our defense as well as anybody. But at the same time, it's just a matter of us going up there and being prepared to play and to focus on the details of what we have to do.''
McCloughan caught on with the Seahawks as a senior personnel executive in June, now working as the right-hand man to general manager John Schneider. McCloughan is someone Schneider considers a top talent evaluator, and McCloughan worked as Seattle's director of college scouting from 2000-04.
''It makes sense when you look at it. To have Scot go up there in the personnel department, they're the same guys he evaluated and brought here,'' Smith said. ''It makes sense he would give them a shot up there.''
When Balmer refused to show up at training camp for a week last month, the Niners traded their 2008 first-round draft pick out of North Carolina to Seattle. After San Francisco cut Jones, he briefly earned another shot with the Seahawks. Robinson, the former Penn State quarterback who had been the 49ers' special teams captain, got a fresh start with a division opponent.
''It's kind of what you expect because most of the guys he drafted them, so of course he likes them,'' receiver Josh Morgan said of McCloughan's influence. ''He drafted them for a reason.''
Since McCloughan and the 49ers parted ways, San Francisco's football operations have been run by Trent Baalke. He was responsible for selecting two offensive linemen with the team's first-round draft picks in April, and both Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati will make their NFL debuts at Qwest Field on Sunday as starters on the Niners' revamped offensive line.
McCloughan did not return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment. He has been traveling regularly in recent weeks, according to first-year Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Carroll has found McCloughan helpful.
''Scot has answered the questions we've asked of him and given us information whenever needed,'' Carroll said. ''We have picked up a couple guys from San Francisco and we feel like we did have some good background info. That happens often, guys who have been in other programs have information on guys or relationships that help you. That is something Scot did offer us a little bit uniquely.''