SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The sting of Monday night's loss was still evident in his face, but San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary was calmer, quieter and more introspective when he met the media the day after.
Is this a new Singletary? Not likely, but he made a point to be more complimentary toward his players than he's been in the past, and he even called himself "a work in progress" when it comes to handling the difficulties of coaching in the NFL. But he's not necessarily going to change.
"I have to be who I am," Singletary said Tuesday. "I'm not going to change. I'm not a politician, I'm not a tap dancer. I say things that I feel. And I do have to do a better job of not letting the media bait me the way they did last week in one particular incident. I have to be smarter in that situation."
Singletary was referring to an exchange he had with sports anchor Dennis O'Donnell of the local CBS affiliate in which he felt obliged to stand up for offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, whose play calling had been questioned in the opener. It led to Singletary's proclamation, "We will not try to stop (Drew) Brees. We will stop Brees. Next question."
Although the Niners didn't quite shut down Brees, who was 28 of 38 passing in the New Orleans Saints' last-second 25-22 win, there was plenty to feel good about despite an 0-2 start.
Singletary, who can be harsh when analyzing his team, made certain to compliment the fans, the offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterback Alex Smith, the offensive line, running back Frank Gore and the Niners' refusal to wilt when they fell behind.
"I was proud of the way they continued to fight back, from the beginning of the game to the end of the game," he said. "One of the things we said we wanted to do was start fast and finish strong. We didn't finish strong enough, but they tried to do that."
About Smith and the offensive line, he said, "I thought Alex played his best game since he's been here. That was nice to see. Our O-line gave him time, the running game got started. I really was proud of the O-line. That's the best I've seen them play since I've been here."
Other topics he touched on:
-- He said that offensive guard Chilo Rachal, who sat out the game because of a stinger, will regain his starting spot when he's healthy, but he's not so sure about center Eric Heitmann, who suffered a broken fibula in training camp and hasn't played since Aug. 9.
"As far as Heitmann, we have to sit down and evaluate it because he's been out a while," Singletary said. He said it was an issue of chemistry between the center, currently David Baas, and Smith
-- Wide receiver Michael Crabtree had just one reception against the Saints – a big one for 32 yards in the third quarter that led to a touchdown and a 14-9 lead – but he hasn't gotten into the flow of the offense.
"There's a trust level there," Singletary said of Smith's relationship with Vernon Davis and Gore, who combined for 11 catches and 134 yards. "With Crabtree, it's continuing to get better. It's a matter of trust and consistency. I just think they're going to continue to get more and more on the same page and get better."
-- About himself and his preseason vow not to yell at game officials, Singletary acknowledged he's been unable to keep his promise.
"After the first game I had several players and coaches (ask), ‘Coach, you OK? What's wrong? You're not yourself,'" he recalled. "After the first game, I was biting my tongue and wrestling with myself not to say this, not to say that. I think my players and coaches have grown to know me and want me to be who I am."