Now that the NFL has decided to crack down on dangerous and flagrant hits by levying stiff fines on players, the San Francisco 49ers say they're trying to figure out how to play the game without having to worry about what they can and can't do.
It won't be easy.
"I didn't know an all-out effort to play the game you've been playing as a kid, to tackle a guy, and then all of a sudden you accidentally hit him the wrong way because you're just trying to make a play," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "And now you get a flag for it and can get fined -- and can get suspended. It's like, I don't know, but I guess that's a league rule so that's what you have to abide by."
The league this week fined three players – linebacker James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers, safety Brandon Meriweather of the New England Patriots and cornerback Dunta Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons – a total of $175,00 for illegal hits last Sunday. It also warned that suspensions will be coming starting this weekend for similar hits.
"What us defenders have to do is be careful, as far as what we're doing approaching the ball," safety Dashon Goldson said. "Some of those (hits) were iffy in my book, but they've got to do what they've got to do. It's not going to change the way I play defensive back. … I can't play with the rules in the back of my head. I can't think like that because it's hurting my team. I'm not getting the job done."
Coach Mike Singletary, considered a nasty hitter in his playing days, said players should be aware that everyone is vulnerable, not just receivers.
"I just think it's something you have to think about a little bit more and be a little bit smarter about because it's not just the receiver that you're looking at," he said. "You're also looking at that DB because sometimes those guys get hurt as well. I think overall, it will be a good thing going forward."
Wide receiver Josh Morgan agreed. After watching the hit Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson took from Robinson, he said, "I think that just comes with the game. I hope he'll be all right, but at the same time, we're doing the same thing to them. We're trying to hit them when we're blocking for Frank (Gore)."
INJURY UPDATE: Niners tight end Vernon Davis, who suffered a knee injury and underwent an MRI on Monday, took part in the team's morning walk-through. Singletary listed Davis as day to day along with several others who have contusions: CB Nate Clements (leg), LB Manny Lawson (rib), WR Josh Morgan (thigh) and LB Parys Haralson (calf). Less certain are TE Delanie Walker (high ankle sprain) and center Eric Heitmann (neck), who are unlikely to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
HE'S BACK: Follow the odyssey of fullback Jehuu Caulcrick: Last Tuesday, he was released from the practice squad. On Wednesday, he was re-signed to the practice squad. One day later, he was released again when the 49ers signed CB Tramaine Brock to the practice squad. Now he's back once more, signed to the PC on Wednesday.