Mike Singletary admitted today that he did not shake Falcons coach Mike Smith's hand after Sunday's loss in Atlanta. Singletary acknowledged that he was "ticked" after the 49ers lost the lead in the final seconds. "It was poor sportsmanship on my behalf," he said. "That's all it was."
The tape of the television broadcast shows Singletary on the sideline on his knee at the very end of the game. When the final whistle sounds, the camera cuts to other players and coaches shaking hands at midfield. When it returns to Singletary, Singletary is walking off the field slowly while staring into the stands.
Singletary was not as sharp as he normally is after the game. He misinterpreted several questions and overall seemed fuzzy on the details from the game. When I suggested he might have been preoccupied - Ok, I used the phrase "in a daze" -- when it came time to shake hands, though, he bristled.
"I don't know if any of you guys ever get ticked," he said. "I'd be the first to tell my kids, 'That's wrong.' I should've gone over and shook his hand. ... "I chose not to (shake Smith's hand) for a number of reasons. But nothing else was on my mind. But I was disappointed and that was a very honest feeling after the game."
After last year's game against Atlanta, Singletary got into a sideline shouting match with Falcons guard Harvey Dahl and afterward said he needed to do a better job of controlling his emotions. He also used all three timeouts at the very end of the 2009 game even though the score was 45-10 at the time. (I'm not sure that anger carried over into Sunday's game; there's a picture of Singletary and Smith chatting in the gallery to the right).
Yesterday, I called the Falcons looking for verification that Singletary did not shake hands with Smith.
"We've moved past it," spokesman Reggie Roberts said curtly.
Moved past what?
"We've moved past it," he said. "We're onto the Cleveland Browns."
Singletary said three players - center Eric Heitmann, cornerback Will James and receiver Ted Ginn - were close to making their returns after dealing with long-term injuries. The biggest difference make of the bunch could be Ginn, who should provide an immediate kick in the butt to the team's return game. The 49ers rank 31st in kickoff returns with a 16.8-yard average. Ginn, meanwhile, has a 23-yard career average and has scored two touchdowns.
He also is needed on offense where the 49ers are averaging a paltry 6.1 yards per pass play (27th in the league). The 49ers seemed to matriculate down the field 3.5 yards at a time against Atlanta. Singletary rejected the notion that the 49ers' lack of big plays were due to a lack of speed at wideout. But he said that having Ginn should open things up for other players because defenses will be forced to keep a safety deep.
"If he can get down the field, and you have a (Michael) Crabtree and a Josh Morgan and a Vernon Davis, it makes the other teams really have to pick their poison," he said.
As for Heitmann, Singletary said that he will "continue to work himself back in football shape." He said that Baas continues to play well at center and that Heitmann will get repetitions at guard, center - wherever he can - as gets back in shape. At right guard, Chilo Rachal is dealing with a sore knee and is "day to day," Singletary said.
Tight end Delanie Walker, meanwhile, is more like "week to week" after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Atlanta. That's the same injury that James had on Aug. 15, and James is just now returning to the lineup. The 49ers could promote new practice-squad signee TE Colin Cloherty to the active roster if they feel they need a pass-catching tight end. The team also signed linebacker Eric Bakhtiari, who had a cup of coffee with the team in 2008, to the practice squad.
-- Matt Barrows