Jim Harbaugh

Harbaugh fires back at Giants assistant

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 - 7:37 am

SANTA CLARA – Jim Harbaugh ratcheted up the coast-to-coast war of rhetoric between the 49ers and Giants on Friday with a 51-word news release specially crafted for the Big Apple.

While addressing the New York media Thursday, Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said 49ers defensive end Justin Smith "gets away with murder" in terms of holding offensive linemen to, presumably, give teammates such as linebacker Aldon Smith a clear lane to the quarterback.

Harbaugh read those comments Friday morning and began writing a statement the 49ers sent out in a news release.

"Kevin Gilbride's outrageous, irrational statement regarding Justin Smith's play is, first, an absurd analogy," Harbaugh wrote. "Second, it is an incendiary comment targeting one of the truly exemplary players in this league. It's obvious that the Giants coaching staff's sole purpose is to use their high visibility to both criticize and influence officiating."

The release was sent an hour before his scheduled news conference, but Harbaugh was not interested in discussing it while at the podium.

"Moved on," he said multiple times.

Asked why he needed a news release when he was going to be talking to reporters anyway, Harbaugh said, "Just to address it on the spot."

Another likely reason is that Harbaugh felt he had to outmaneuver the Giants.

The midday news release made sure his message was picked up by the largest media market in the country. The NFL headquarters, as well as the league's head of officiating, also are in New York.

"It's just the type of guy he is," Smith said of Harbaugh's reaction. "He's always going to do that. He's a good player's coach, and he's got your back on whatever the topic is. And this is just another example."

Smith, meanwhile, seemed amused by the controversy, but at the same time relished getting in some digs of his own on the matter.

"If he's trying to get some bulletin-board stuff, good for him," Smith said of Gilbride. "Whatever they need to do."

Later he said, "Whatever. Doesn't bother me. I'm going to have to look (Gilbride) up, see who he is."

Asked if he has ever heard similar complaints about defensive holding, Smith said: "They hold me. That's the first I've heard of it (Gilbride's accusation). Interesting. They (offensive linemen) just hold. They're born that way."

The Giants found Smith particularly hard to handle in their two meetings last season.

He batted down a last-second pass on fourth down to preserve a win in the teams' regular-season meeting Nov. 13. He was even more dominant in the NFC Championship Game as the 49ers hit quarterback Eli Manning 18 times – six sacks and 12 quarterback hits.

"Smith is a beast on the inside," Gilbride said Thursday. "He's strong. He does as good a job of grabbing ahold of offensive linemen and allowing those twists to take place. He never gets called for it, so he gets away with murder."

Smith brushed it off as pregame posturing.

"Whatever they need to do," he said. "I mean, I read some of the other stuff (like), 'No respect.' I mean, they're the defending Super Bowl champs.

"So whatever. We'll be ready, they'll be ready. It'll be a good game."

Notes – Like last week, the 49ers listed running back Brandon Jacobs as questionable on the injury report. Jacobs (knee) participated fully in practice, as he did before the Bills game. Jacobs, however, was inactive against Buffalo.

• Quarterback Alex Smith, who practiced Friday with the sprained middle finger on his right (throwing) hand wrapped in tape, is listed as probable. So is punter Andy Lee (hand), who has been on the 49ers' injury report the past four weeks.

• Smith was named the FedEx "Air" Player of the Week, beating out the Saints' Drew Brees and the Colts' Andrew Luck for the honor, which is voted on by fans. Smith has been nominated three times in his career – including twice last season – but it's the first time he has won the award.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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