SANTA CLARA, Calif. – His team is 0-4 and sinking like so much dead weight, but San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary still insists he can turn things around.
Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but Singletary continues to grasp as much optimism as he can, no matter how emotionally draining the loss. If there's a silver lining, he'll find it.
"My high hopes, they haven't gone anywhere," Singletary said Monday after the team returned home following a 16-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the second time this season the 49ers have lost a game on the last offensive play of the game.
"We're 0-4, but we have a lot of football games to play. The way our team's playing, I'm very encouraged by what I see. I'm very encouraged by what I hear our guys talking about and where their focus is. This is what I do. This, for me right now, is the time when you have to take it to the next gear."
The 49ers, though, have largely been stuck in neutral. Quarterback Alex Smith had a good start against the Falcons but threw two more interceptions, giving him seven this season. And a spectacular fourth-quarter interception by cornerback Nate Clements that should have secured a one-point win resulted in a fumble that gave Atlanta a second chance to drive downfield – which it did.
On top of all that, the team is dealing with the loss of respected veteran safety Michael Lewis, who apparently quit the team over his likely diminished role. Lewis did not accompany the team to Atlanta and could be released. He's the third player to defect since the start of training camp, joining defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer, who went AWOL and was traded, and running back Glen Coffee, who retired suddenly for religious reasons.
Singletary said a decision about Lewis' status on the roster would probably be made Monday.
The coach also said he isn't concerned about an ESPN.com report that indicated he would be allowed to finish the season but that there were no guarantees about the final two years of his contract.
"I feel like this -- it's the nature of this game," he said. "Players have responsibilities, and if they don't do their jobs, certain things happen. Coaches have responsibilities, and if they don't do their job, things happen. My mind doesn't focus like that. I don't worry about who I need to talk to. These 53 guys, that's my responsibility. You go out there on Sunday, you do your job, you win football games. The last thing I'm thinking about is my job security."
INJURIES: Tight end Delanie Walker, who suffered a left ankle sprain in the Falcons game, had his foot in a walking boot and was on crutches in the locker room. His status for Sunday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles won't be determined until the end of the week, Singletary said. Guard Chilo Rachal (left knee sprain) is day to day, and linebacker Manny Lawson (knee contusion) and safety Reggie Smith (hamstring) are fine.