SANTA CLARA After a day to cool off and to figure out who Matt Millen is Patrick Willis had a more measured response to Millen's comment that the 49ers linebacker struggled against the Giants.
"It was kind of emotional, especially coming after the game," Willis said Tuesday. " I probably said some things that I probably wouldn't say. I apologize for those things, and I have all the respect in the world for those guys that have played this game before me and have played it at a high level."
A day earlier, Willis was in a fighting mood.
It began when Millen, a linebacker for 12 seasons in the NFL, including two with the 49ers, was interviewed on San Francisco station 95.7 FM The Game and said Willis and linebacker NaVorro Bowman had an atypically subpar game against New York on Sunday.
"They'll come back from this, but yesterday was not a good day for them," Millen said. "That's the worst I've seen those two play."
When those comments were relayed to Willis during a separate interview on 95.7, the linebacker didn't seem to know Millen's background.
"Whoever this Matt Millen guy is, I'd like to ask him if he could do what we do every day and do what we do for 16 games a year and see if he can hold up every game," he said. "I doubt he would. I really don't care about what this guy has to say."
For the record, Millen, who also was Detroit's general manager for eight seasons and is now a college analyst, has been complimentary of Willis and Bowman in the past.
By Tuesday, Willis had realized his error. But he still bristled at criticism after a loss.
"When you go out and make the same mistakes when you win, nobody says anything," Willis said. "It's water under the bridge, and they're patting you on the back. But as soon as you lose, they find every little critical thing to criticize you over."
The Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 116 yards Sunday, doing most of his damage in the fourth quarter.
Asked about Millen's comment, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio seemed to agree.
"It was subpar for all of us in that fourth quarter," Fangio said. "We didn't play the run well."
Willis, Bowman and the rest of the team will get a chance to make amends Thursday against the only running back to rush for more than 100 yards against them last year, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. The former Cal star rushed for 107 yards Dec. 24. Willis, however, did not play in that game.
"He's the best back we played last year by far," Fangio said. "He broke more tackles than any back we played against last year."
Staley in limbo Left tackle Joe Staley was on the field for the start of Tuesday's practice, but he was wearing a black "no contact" jersey and has not been cleared for practice following his concussion Sunday.
Staley saw a neurologist Monday and went through more on-field tests Tuesday. Per league rules, he must pass all of them before being cleared to practice and play.
"We're going through the process," Staley said before practice. "We're going through a few different stages, and I met with the neurologist yesterday. Everything went well there."
Staley suffered the concussion midway through the third quarter when he collided with Giants safety Stevie Brown after an interception.
Staley said the concussion that knocked him out of a game last year at Arizona was worse than the current one. He returned to the lineup the following week last season, but he has a shorter span to recover this time.
If Staley can't play Thursday, Alex Boone will play left tackle and Leonard Davis likely will play right guard.