Notebook: Moss impresses in early workouts

Randy Moss (Ed Szczepanski/US Presswire)

Randy Moss still has the speed, according to the 49ers coach, and was a favorite target during Wednesday's practice. Plus, the Packers added a former first-round pick, the Bears have an important player with an uncertain future, and players could opt for fines over extra pads.

Wide receiver is a position where the San Francisco 49ers need an upgrade, as evidenced by the addition of veterans Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and rookie A.J. Jenkins, who was the 49ers' first-round draft choice.

The 49ers are hoping quarterback Alex Smith can develop a chemistry with several of those receivers, and he seemed to be throwing quite a bit to Moss in Wednesday's OTA session. Head coach Jim Harbaugh refused to acknowledge that Smith has been targeting Moss more, though.

"Alex has really been, in the two days out here, has been spreading the ball very well," Harbaugh said. "He's got a lot of options. That's been evident too for two days. Randy's a great target. He's not a B.S.er. He's rock solid. We just couldn't be happier with him. Couldn't be any more happy with him. Another guy that's really standing out is Mario Manningham. His first two days of OTAs, played extremely well. Michael [Crabtree], Kyle [Williams], I'm probably leaving somebody out right there. Oh, A.J. Jenkins is doing a phenomenal job."

Harbaugh agreed that Moss seems to be as fast as ever, despite being 35 years old and sitting out the 2011 season.

"Well, I think (his speed) is really good," Harbaugh said. "He's one of the fastest guys on our team when you put the watch on certain drills, so that's all I have to go off of."

If Moss provides the speed, then Crabtree provides the hands in Harbaugh's mind. Harbaugh said on a radio program recently that Crabtree has the best hands he's ever seen. He reiterated that on Wednesday.

"Yes, yes. He's got tremendous hands," Harbaugh said. "Well, the comment stands on its own merit. I know you guys (in the media) have dissected it about every which way it can be dissected. But, it is literal. It is literal fact, what I believe as I see it and believe it to be."

One noticeable absence among the wide receivers is Ted Ginn Jr., who sat out Wednesday's OTA.

"He's working through something at this point, physically," said Harbaugh, who's not sure when he'll be back. "We'll see. He'll be back when he's 100 percent. We're not going to take any chances, but it's coming along very well."

Cornerback Carlos Rogers also sat out Wednesday's session for an undisclosed reason.

Union accuses owners of collusion

The NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit on Wednesday that accused NFL owners and the league of collusion during the 2010 NFL season.

The complaint describes a conspiracy in which teams "imposed a secret $123 million per-club salary cap for that uncapped 2010 season. Filed in the United States District Court of Minnesota, it alleges that the league and owners "acted illegally and solely by self-interest, unconstrained by their clear and unambiguous SSA obligations."

"When the rules are broken in a way that hurts the game, we have an obligation to act. We cannot stand by when we now know that the owners conspired to collude," NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement.

New York Giants owner John Mara, who also serves as the Chair of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee, is cited in the complaint as publicly confirming that the league told teams to restrict players' salaries in the uncapped year.

In response to the complaint, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: "The filing of these claims is prohibited by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and separately, by an agreement signed by the players' attorneys last August. The claims have absolutely no merit and we fully expect them to be dismissed."

Packers sign 2008 second-rounder Merling

The Packers signed defensive end Phillip Merling to a one-year deal.

The 2008 second-round pick was unproductive in Miami, making just three starts in 46 games. He was the 32nd overall pick and has experience in the 3-4 defense the Packers operate.

Merling's practice habits were openly questioned by Dolphins coaches. He suffered a torn Achilles in 2010 and was charged with domestic violence in a case involving his pregnant girlfriend which was dropped after the alleged victim moved out of the state.

Green Bay's defensive line was a focus in the 2012 draft and Merling isn't guaranteed a roster spot. To create room on the roster, the Packers released tight end Cameron Ford and quarterback Nick Hill.

Bears' Knox facing uncertain future

Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox continues to recover from the fractured vetebrae suffered in December and isn't close to resuming football activity.

Knox, injured when he was bent backward against the Seahawks, was mostly inactive at Wednesday's offseason team activity at Halas Hall, the second of 10 scheduled before minicamp in June.

"There's really no timetable," Knox said. "We're all taking our time on this."

Knox is rehabbing, but isn't cleared for the usual regimen of strength training because of the severity of his injury. He spent two and a half months in a body cast and lost 30 pounds. Knox hasn't been told when he might be able to increase his football-related training.

He was a vertical threat for the Bears, who valued his 4.3 speed and drafted him out of Abilene Christian in the fifth round of the 2009 draft. The Bears also drafted safety and returner Danieal Manning from the school.

Knox doesn't turn 26 until November. His recovery might force him to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, and the Bears have enough depth at the position, with the addition of veteran Brandon Marshall and second-round pick Alshon Jeffery to Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, that Knox himself said Wednesday he's in no position to worry about depth charts.

"Out of surgery, the doc said I could play again, so that was a plus," he said.

Knox just isn't sure when exactly that will be.

Coach Lovie Smith said in April he expects Knox to be available at some point during the 2012 season. Knox was more short-sighted Wednesday.

"Just focusing on rehabbing right now," he said

Fined over pads?

Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer predicted the NFL's proposed rule to make knee and thigh pads mandatory by 2013 will be a costly one.

That's because players, he believes, will opt for uniform violation fines over wearing extra padding that is required at all other levels of football.

The NFL plans to introduce lightweight, built-in knee and thigh pads as a new player-safety initiative. Jammer himself said he would not wear leg padding because of the belief that it restricts movement and slows players down.

"There'll probably be a lot of fines in 2013," Jammer told the Times-Union. "A lot of guys won't wear them."

The rule must be collectively bargained with the players union.

Contending window closing on Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys' window for contending is closing, and Jerry Jones sees it.

The team's owner told the NFL Network that he is concerned about wasting the prime years for some of his players.

"My window is getting shorter. Time goes by," Jones told NFL Network. "I do feel real pressure because we do have players not only in (quarterback) Tony Romo, but (tight end) Jason Witten (and outside linebacker) DeMarcus Ware, to leave out several that are (also) in the prime of their career. And we need to strike and strike soon with those guys.

"(Coach) Jason Garrett feels exactly the same way about it and understands how urgent it is. Candidly, you're looking through rose-colored glasses if we all don't realize that now is the time to compete on the field."

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