Monday, January 23, 2012
49ers hurt, not slain, will rise to fight again
By Mike Sando
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Notes and observations from San Francisco 49ers headquarters one day after the season ended with a 20-17 overtime defeat to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game:
That was Jim Harbaugh, not the 16th century privateer Sir Andrew Barton, assessing the state of his team this way: "Hurt but not slain, I'll lay down and bleed a while, then rise and fight again." Battle language appeals to Harbaugh. He also said the "football gods" had a different ending in mind than the one his 49ers envisioned.
Jim Harbaugh disagreed with the penalty called following Vernon Davis' touchdown celebration in the first quarter of Sunday's game.
Looks like Harbaugh and the Ed Hochuli-led all-star officiating crew for the NFC title game have some issues relating to the fumble that was not. Officials ruled that the New York Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw was down -- specifically, that his forward progress had stopped -- before NaVorro Bowman forced out the ball. Harbaugh: "In my opinion, that was a fumble. The play was continuing. There was still struggling by Bradshaw."
Harbaugh, who spent the 2002-03 seasons with Oakland, said the forward-progress ruling was "analogous to the tuck rule" against the Raiders in the AFC title game. Harbaugh also referenced a forward-progress ruling from the Giants-49ers game in Week 10. The 49ers thought they forced a Victor Cruz fumble, but Tony Corrente and crew ruled forward progress was stopped. Harbaugh tried to challenge that call, but the play was not open to review.
Harbaugh also took issue with the penalty against tight end Vernon Davis for using a prop during a touchdown celebration. Davis climbed a camera stand to celebrate his 73-yard touchdown. Harbaugh, perhaps unaware or overlooking special allowances the NFL makes for the Lambeau Leap, compared Davis' act with the one that is a signature celebration in Green Bay. He also said Davis was using a structure, not a prop. The rulebook makes only one mention of a prop, under rules for taunting: "Possession or use of foreign or extraneous object(s) that are not part of the uniform during the game on the field or the sideline, or using the ball as a prop."
Strong safety Donte Whitner said the Giants' receivers smartly got to the ground before contact to avoid risking turnovers in sloppy conditions. The approach prevented the 49ers' hard-hitting secondary from putting a physical stamp on the game, as it had against New Orleans a week earlier. Two of the bigger collisions involved 49ers safety Dashon Goldson colliding with teammates as they tried to pick off passes. One of those collisions knocked out cornerback Tarell Brown for the remainder of the game. Brown said he did not suffer a concussion, but team doctors prohibited him from returning to the game as a precaution.
The shoulder injury Kyle Williams suffered before his late fumble did not include a separation, according to Harbaugh. But Williams was very sore Monday.
Alex Smith joined Harbaugh in putting off talk regarding a new contract. There should be very little drama associated with re-signing Smith. Both parties want to get a deal done. Harbaugh seemed bored by obligatory questions about a new contract for his quarterback.
Frank Gore said he did not know if he would play in the Pro Bowl. He planned to meet with team doctors first. Gore said he felt good Sunday, brushing off suggestions that he was playing hurt late in the season. Harbaugh said one 49ers player told him about plans to skip the Pro Bowl. Harbaugh would not say which one it was. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch would be next in line as an alternate if Gore withdrew from the game.
The 49ers punted three times on possessions after deciding not to go for it on fourth-and-1. I was thinking of the one in overtime when I asked Harbaugh about his thought process. He answered in reference to the two previous ones, noting that pinning a team inside its own 10 is generally worth about three points. The 49ers wound up getting no points from any of their fourth-and-1 punts (one came after a delay penalty set up fourth-and-6). The Giants were the next team to score after all three of them. That doesn't necessarily mean San Francisco made poor decisions. They can be interesting to debate.
Two Pro Bowl players in the secondary area are heading toward free agency. Cornerback Carlos Rogers said he'll make re-signing with the 49ers his top priority over seeking paydays elsewhere. Rogers: "From the owner to the general manager to everyone in this organization, I like everything about this organization, all the players, the trainers. This ain't about me coming and saying now I'm free, let's get the check. I'm thinking about this team. This is where I want to be, first of all." Goldson can also become a free agent. I did not speak with him.
Harbaugh joked his way out of answering a question about how he spent Sunday evening following the game. He called it a California thing when people want to know how he feels, what he was doing at a certain time, etc. He cited his status as a Midwesterner in declining to provide specifics. He did confirm where he planned to watch the Super Bowl: "On TV."
That's a wrap from 49ers headquarters. I'll be boarding a plane and heading home Monday night.