NFC West Notes: 49ers, Alford, Hekker

The 49ers have drawn the ire of the league office. The NFL docked San Francisco the “last week of their rookie development program for a violation of offseason work rules,” sources told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). Pelissero reports that the team’s infraction took place during their rookie minicamp. As for what that infraction was, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports tweets the punishment stems “from minimal contact that appeared on a social media video when contact was prohibited during rookie camp.”

Sounds pretty minor. Maiocco adds that the now-scrapped last week of their rookie development program “was to consist of non-football and life skills,” so it’s doubtful that 49ers brass is going to lose too much sleep over it.

Here are a couple other nuggets from around the NFC West on a quiet Sunday night:

  • Cornerback Robert Alford has dealt with a lot of adversity the past couple seasons. Alford signed a three-year, $22.5MM deal with the Cardinals in 2019, but has yet to play a down for the team. He missed all of 2019 with a broken leg, and all of 2020 with a torn pec. He was unsurprisingly released this offseason, but quickly re-signed on a one-year deal. As it turns out that new deal is for the veteran’s minimum, as Darren Urban of the team’s official site writes. It also turns out Alford never had any intention of leaving. “He basically told us ‘Hey I want to come back, I owe you guys, so I’ll come back for whatever deal because I owe the organization, I owe the Cardinals and want to prove y’all were right about me,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said, who added “we respect that a ton.” It sounds like Alford is going to be playing with a chip on his shoulder, and here’s to hoping he can stay healthy in 2021. The 32-year-old was a quality starter in Atlanta before the injuries derailed his career in the desert.
  • Punter Johnny Hekker is the longest-tenured member of the Rams. He’s a fan-favorite, leader in the locker room, and four-time first-team All-Pro. And even his job isn’t safe. In a testament to the ‘easy come easy go’ nature of the NFL, Hekker now has some real competition in Rams camp. The Oregon State product is coming off a season where he had a career-low yards per punt average and is the highest-paid punter in the league with a cap number of $4.9MM this year, as Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times writes. Speaking to the media recently, Hekker was frank about his status. “I definitely did not perform to the best of my abilities,” last season, he stated plainly. Although Sean McVay has denied the team is looking to move on from Hekker, the veteran said he’s treating recently-signed Corey Bojorquez as serious competition and operating as if he’s fighting for his job. He also added that “there’s no running around the financial aspect of it.” This will be a situation to keep an eye on this summer.
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