SANTA CLARA Building close, congenial relationships with other NFL coaches isn't exactly Jim Harbaugh's forté. Just ask Lions coach Jim Schwartz. Or Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
But Harbaugh on Monday insisted he did nothing wrong before the Aug. 12 exhibition opener in New Orleans to anger the Saints into blitzing the 49ers as if an NFC Championship Game berth was on the line.
Bucking typical preseason protocol, New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams regularly sent six or seven pass rushers during the game, sacking the 49ers' quarterbacks six times and leveling starter Alex Smith several times in the first quarter.
The scuttlebutt out of New Orleans afterward was that Harbaugh offended Saints coach Sean Payton by not telephoning Payton so the two head coaches could discuss the parameters of the upcoming game.
"Sean Payton sort of expected Harbaugh to call him throughout the week and kind of figure out a gentleman's agreement as to how the game would be played," Saints radio play-by-play man Jim Henderson said after the game.
"When that didn't occur, Sean just said to Gregg, 'Let the dogs out.' And they did."
Harbaugh on Monday said he was unaware of a gentlemen's agreement among coaches in the preseason and even asked around during the summer to see if he was following the proper procedure.
"I don't know anything about that," he said. "I'm certainly not aware of any gentlemen's agreement. I even asked my brother (Ravens coach John Harbaugh), 'Is there any sort of gentlemen's agreement that you call a coach before a preseason game?' Even he wasn't aware of it. And even if there was, we wouldn't do it anyway. We ask no quarter, we get no quarter."
After the game, Harbaugh said he had no problem with the blitz calls and that the Saints had every right to send as many pass rushers as they wanted.
Monday, he said the aggressive tactics by the Saints forced the 49ers to address their blitz pickups after that game.
It's an area at which the offense struggled at times throughout the season.
The 49ers gave up 44 sacks on the season the same number as a year ago and tied for seventh most in the league and had a particularly tough time against teams, such as the Saints, that sent exotic blitzes.
Not all of Harbaugh's players were OK with what transpired during the 24-3 loss in the Superdome.
Left tackle Joe Staley admitted he was "a little upset about it," especially since the Saints were an established defense while the 49ers were implementing an entirely new offensive system and had had only a handful of practices coming out of the lockout.
"We kind of went back to the bench and said, 'Why are they doing this?' Staley recalled. "We've had, like, a week and a half to prepare."
Two 49ers who played for either the Saints or for Williams said the all-out blitzing was not unusual.
"I'm not surprised to see Gregg blitz at all," said center Jonathan Goodwin, a former Saint. "I remember Gregg blitzed on 9-on-7 periods (in practice) and in run periods. It's something I'm used to and I expect. I'm more surprised when he doesn't blitz."
Cornerback Carlos Rogers played for Williams in Washington and wasn't surprised.
"I knew it. Coming into the preseason, I knew it," Rogers said. "Gregg don't care. It's like Sean Payton it's their game. Two minutes to go, you're up three touchdowns and you're still trying to bomb guys. Gregg is the same way.
"It's preseason why are you sending all these blitzes? That's just his mentality."
Staley, however, wasn't buying it. "No, we'd (seen) them in the preseason before (on film), and they never did that," he said. "I don't know why they chose that game."