The white-hot intensity with which Donte Whitner began Saturday's game against the Saints began building Wednesday. Teams rarely have full-padded, full-contact practices after the preseason, but the 49ers decided to have one Wednesday following their bye week. Whitner, fellow safety Dashon Goldson and linebacker Patrick Willis set the tone, and Whitner credited the week of practice for the way the team played Saturday.
"Dashon came out with the face paint on his eyes already," Whitner said Monday. "I had my mouth piece in, we had shoulder pads on. We were out there hitting and taped up and strapped up like we were in the game. And (Carlos Rogers) mentioned, 'Ya'll safeties are out there like it's game day already.'"
By the time game day arrived, it was as if Whitner had been shot out of a cannon.
He had the hit of the game, one that occurred on the shadow of the San Francisco goal line and one that left Saints running back Pierre Thomas unconscious and without the football. Secondary coach Ed Donatell said the best tackler he's ever seen was Ronnie Lott - Donatell coached him one season - and that Whitner's performance on Saturday was Lott-like.
"I think it was important to the game," Donatell said of the Whitner's hit. "I just think it measures what it means to him - when guys are flying in there and make that kind of domination hit. That's how important it is to them."
The question now becomes whether Whitner, Goldson and the others can match or surpass Saturday's intensity level. While the Saints finished the regular season with the top-ranked passing offense, the Giants weren't far behind at No. 5, and quarterback Eli Manning finished with 330 yards and three touchdowns against Green Bay.
"I don't think it's hard to do that because the playoffs bring that out of you," Whitner said of getting up for Sunday's game. "If you're really a fan and you're really a competitor and you really love the game of football, being on the grander stage, the bigger stage really brings that out. ... If anything, I'm going to look for more (intensity). It's going to be a big game. We're going to need that intensity from everybody and we have to put it on the line this week."
Odds & Ends
Jim Harbaugh said that Delanie Walker's status for Sunday is entirely in the hands of team doctors. "I have not gotten confirmation on it one way or another," he said. Walker was scheduled to have the wiring in his still-healing jaw removed today. He has been working out for the last two weeks in an effort to get back into playing shape and was at the team's facility today.
Harbaugh will continue to be vague about Walker's status (and everyone else's) throughout the week. Walker, however, has made it clear that he wants to be back. It's also clear from watching Saturday's game that the 49ers could use another offensive weapon and need Walker back.
Harbaugh also said, "We'll see," when asked about Ted Ginn, who dealt with ankle and knee injuries on Saturday. He said that Ginn did not suffer any injury that would automatically rule him out of the game. Ginn, however, was seen the team facility without crutches but with a conspicuous limp.
The Mercury News spoke with center Jonathan Goodwin, who briefly left Saturday's game with a lower leg injury. He said he would be fine to play on Sunday. Special teamer Blake Costanzo left the Saints game with cramps and returned to the contest. He's fine.
-- Matt Barrows