One of the 49ers players targeted by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in a threatening and profanity-laced speech Jan. 13 has come to the defense of a New Orleans linebacker. Frank Gore said Tuesday he has no beef with Jonathan Vilma or the Saints.
Gore and Vilma go way back. The two played football together at Coral Gables High and later at the University of Miami. Vilma joined the NFL in 2004. Gore followed a year later.
They are now on opposite ends of the Saints bounty controversy. Vilma is in the crosshairs of the investigation and has been suspended a year for allegedly offering money to teammates in the Saints' pay-for-hits scandal. Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
Gore, meanwhile, was one of several 49ers offensive players targeted by Williams before the teams met in a divisional playoff game. Said Williams: "We've got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore's head. We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways."
Gore said he had no concerns over the tape. In fact, he said he hasn't listened to it. Told that Williams said he wanted Gore's "head sideways," the running back said, "When you hear another team call your name, that means respect. That's a lot of respect, and you're doing something right for your team. So it don't bother me at all."
As for Vilma and the Saints defenders, Gore said the threatening talk in the New Orleans meeting room didn't translate to the field the next day. The Saints weren't flagged for a single penalty in the game, a 36-32 win by the 49ers. Defensive end Will Smith (four games) and former Saints defenders Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and Scott Fujita (three) also were suspended.
"When we played them, I felt it was how the game was supposed to be played," Gore said. "And I played high school ball with Vilma, and I know he's not that type of guy. He's a hard worker, he enjoys the game of football and he's going to give it his all every snap."
Vilma is appealing his suspension and has filed a defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league. The 49ers will visit the Saints on Nov. 25.
-- Matt Barrows