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September 9, 2013
Still swinging: Harbaugh verbally slaps Clay Matthews during Monday presser


Jim Harbaugh delivered the verbal equivalent of a flying tackle on Packers linebacker Clay Matthews during his noon press conference today.

The 49ers head coach, who was in rare form today, not only made it clear he thought Matthews' second-quarter hit on Colin Kaepernick was a "cheap shot," he poked fun at how Matthews went after offensive tackle Joe Staley, who was locked up with Matthews during the brief melee that ensued on the sideline.

"Two punches thrown to Joe's head," Harbaugh said. "Well, one punch and one open slap, which, if you're going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap. I think that young man works very hard at being a tough guy. He'll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap."

Harbaugh wasn't finished.

"You talk about launching, you talk about a clothesline to the neck are to our quarterback, who's six or seven feet out of bounds," he said of Matthews' hit. "It struck me like, 'I've seen this play before.' I thought, 'Emlen Tunnell,'" said Harbaugh of the 1950s-era defensive back and hall-of-famer, who was known for his brutal - but at the time legal - clothesline hits.

"I thought of Emlen Tunell. You all know who he is -- No. 45 of the Giants," Harbaugh said. "Back when that was legal, he would stand there in the middle of the field waiting for receivers to cross and clothesline them. And their feet would fly in the air and their backs would hit the ground. I was struck: 'I'm seeing Emlen Tunell here.'"

Harbaugh also noted that the Packers bench emptied into the area of the fracas. "Practice-squad players, coaches, members of the Green Bay Packers are all out of the bench area down along the goal line," he said. "There were no repercussions as well."

During the game, officials penalized Staley for unsportsmanlike conduct, and his and Matthews' penalty offset each other. This morning, the league's vice president of officiating said Staley should not have been penalized at all. That would have given the 49ers' a first-and-goal situation.

As it turned out, the officials erred further when they replayed the third-and-six play on which Matthews struck Kaepernick out of bounds. It should have been fourth and two because the penalties occurred after Kaepernick had gone out of bounds.

Harbaugh, whose offense converted a critical fourth-and-two scenario late in the game, insisted he would have gone for it on fourth and two in the second quarter as well. He also said he would have gone for a conversion on fourth-and-one had Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy declined an illegal formation on third down. Instead, McCarthy accepted it, which set up the fateful third and six play.

"I would have gone for it on that fourth and one," Harbaugh said.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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