SANTA CLARA Safety Donte Whitner said he will appeal the $21,000 fine he received Tuesday for a hit against Rams wide receiver Chris Givens late in the 49ers' 35-11 victory Thursday.
Whitner, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, said Givens told him afterward he thought it was a clean hit.
"If the guy that was hit thought it was legal, then I don't know what else to do," Whitner said.
According to the rule book, the penalty was justified. Because Whitner was descending with the ball, Givens could not protect himself and was considered, under NFL rules, a "defenseless player." In that instance, hits above his shoulder are not permitted.
Whitner drove his shoulder into Givens' face mask, dislodging the ball and causing an incompletion. But Whitner said he was aiming much lower and that Givens dropped into his strike zone. He said his intent was not an above-the-shoulder-pads hit.
"I was going for the midsection, where the ball is, with my shoulder," he said. "You can actually see me turn and lay off the hit. If I actually would have ran through the guy, then I think I would deserve what I got. But I'll appeal it and see what they say."
Whitner, in his eighth NFL season, said he's never been fined for unnecessary roughness and was surprised by the steep fine.
"You see $21,000 and you would think I knocked the guy out," he said.
He was not fined for a similar hit on Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw that also drew an unnecessary roughness penalty.
Whitner has been vocal about the changing nature of the NFL regarding big hits, and he's started a line of T-shirts they sell for $28 each called #legalhitner. Whitner tweeted that he even was contemplating dropping the "W" in his last name.
He was celebrated for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints running back Pierre Thomas in the 2011 playoffs that caused a fumble and knocked Thomas out of the game.
"The game is changing," Whitner said Tuesday. "I don't know what we can do as players just put flags on and pull those off. Maybe fans will like that. Maybe not."
Et cetera Left tackle Joe Staley hopped a few times on his left foot Tuesday to demonstrate that his ankle is fine. Staley received a scare and made an infamous scream after being bent over backward in a pile of players late in the game against the Rams.
Staley could be heard on television, and Rams coach Jeff Fisher was so concerned that he summoned the cart to take Staley to the locker room.
Asked if the sparse St. Louis crowd at the end of a blowout loss made his yelling more audible, Staley laughed.
"It wouldn't have been drowned out (by a full crowd)," he said. "You could have heard that scream in Seattle."
Tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring) said he wasn't 100 percent during Thursday's game and probably would not be fully recovered for another two weeks or so.
The first seats were installed at Levi's Stadium on Tuesday. The stadium, set to open next year, will seat 69,000 fans, up from the 68,500 initially projected.