Here are some whispers we've heard lately from around the NFC West:
• While the Niners are saying Reggie Smith's steady progress is a big reason he has begun to share snaps at strong safety with second-round rookie Taylor Mays, we hear just as big a reason is Mays' increasing fatigue and, according to one daily team observer, a tendency in recent games "to play the man instead of the ball, which was a major criticism of him at USC."
• Heading into Week 10, it wasn't easy to find anything encouraging about a Seahawks defense that had relinquished 74 points and over 1,000 yards in the previous two lopsided losses to the Raiders and Giants. But daily team observers tell us 6-3, 232-pound fifth-round rookie SS Kam Chancellor continues to earn high marks with his nonstop effort and impossible-to-ignore physical presence.
• The Cardinals feel they are deep enough on the defensive line to compensate for the loss of reserve Kenny Iwebema, who suffered a season-ending right knee injury in Week Nine. However, we hear the third-year veteran's absence will be felt much more on special teams, where he provided consistently solid blocking and kick coverage. "He's been through some tough times," said one team insider of Iwebema, who was forced to miss significant time last season after a tumor the size of a grapefruit was detected during a routine physical examination. "He's had some really bad luck."
• We hear the pins in Rams RB Steven Jackson's surgically repaired finger are expected to be removed following the team's Week 11 game against the Falcons.