SANTA CLARA Get your salsa ready.
Carlos Rogers and Victor Cruz won't face each other for another three days, but there has been plenty of spice this week over Cruz's patented salsa dance, which he performs after every touchdown.
Their rivalry dates to Rogers' stint with the Redskins, and it heated up during the regular-season game between the 49ers and Giants last year when Rogers mimicked Cruz's dance moves following an interception on a ball intended for Cruz.
The wide receiver wasn't happy.
He called Rogers' rendition a "little disrespectful" before the rematch in the NFC Championship Game, then wrote about it in the book that came out last summer, "Out of the Blue."
"Then with his teammates cheering him on, he did a sarcastic salsa dance over me," Cruz wrote. "The Candlestick Park crowd went ballistic, but I wasn't laughing. It was a sign of disrespect. Instead of getting up and retaliating, though, I sat and watched Rogers finish his cheap Victor Cruz imitation. I promised to never forget it. I wasn't sure when the opportunity would present itself but I was confident I'd get payback for that dance."
Cruz gained his revenge.
Rogers couldn't stop him when the teams met in the NFC Championship Game, and Cruz caught eight passes for 125 yards in the first half alone. Cruz said Wednesday most teams stopped covering him one on one midway through the 2011 season as his reputation and his reception count grew.
The 49ers, perhaps buoyed by the job Rogers did on Cruz during their November matchup, were one of the few teams that didn't adjust. San Francisco started playing more zone coverage in the second half of the championship game, and Cruz made just two more catches for 17 yards.
Asked how he thought the 49ers would cover him in the teams' third game in 11 months, Cruz said he hopes the 49ers didn't learn their lesson.
"Hopefully, I expect the same as last year," he said. "A lot of Carlos Rogers on me, the usual things, so I can do the same as I did last year."
Rogers insisted this week he has great respect for Cruz and his dance. Rogers initially said he probably couldn't resist teasing Cruz with another salsa dance if he made a big play against the receiver. But he backtracked Wednesday after learning the origin of Cruz's routine.
"It's just something that I do for my grandmother," Cruz said. "It's something that's sacred to me. Due to her passing, and even before, it's why I do it. Before she passed away, it was something dear to me. Why I do it is for her because she told me she loved it so much, and she taught me how to do it and all of that put together. Knowing that, it's just a little slap in the face."
Lucy Molina died last month at age 77.
Cruz has had plenty of opportunities to dance in the first five weeks of the season.
He ranks fourth in the NFL with 37 receptions and is tied for the league lead with Green Bay's James Jones with five touchdown catches.
Cruz figures to match up with Rogers and Tarell Brown on the outside and with Rogers in the slot when the Giants go with three wide receivers.
"He's going to have something for me and vice versa," Rogers said. "I'll be ready for him. He's a great competitor, a great guy, especially in that slot."