SANTA CLARA -- Rarely does a day go by without somebody approaching 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner about the game-changing hit he delivered against the New Orleans Saints early in the NFC divisional playoff.
Whitner understands that the play took on even added significance because of the offseason developments of the Saints' bounty scandal.
REWIND: Whitner's hit sets the tone
On the 12th play of the game-opening Saints drive that started at their own 20-yard line, Whitner delivered a legal helmet-to-helmet hit on running back Pierre Thomas. The blow did not leave Whitner woozy, he said, but it knocked out Thomas, whose fumble was recovered by Patrick Willis at the 49ers' 7-yard line. Thomas did not return to the game after sustaining a concussion."I'm not happy that he was injured on the play, but I am happy I was able to deliver a big blow and get the football for our team, because who knows what would've happened, confidence get a little shaken," Whitner said Monday. "You let Drew Brees and the prolific offense they have go down and score on the first drive, you don't know how the game would've turned out. I'm just glad I was able to help the team and get the football back."Afterward it was learned that Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had instructed his team to injure such players as Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams during his speech the night before the game.REWIND: Whitner KOs Thomas
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell levied severe sanctions against the Saints, including a year-long suspension against coach Sean Peyton and at least a year coaching ban on Williams."Very ironic because we don't have to talk like that around here," Whitner said. "So for a defensive coordinator to come up and talk about injuring players or knocking players out of the game, you don't have to say that when you have the right type of guys in the room."All coach Vic (Fangio) ever says is we have to go out and play physical football. We have to stop the run. We have to stop these certain players from beating us and running through our defense. And if you have the right type of guys in that room, you don't have to set bounties and pay money for guys to play physical and play hard. It's going to come naturally. And that's the type of guys we have on our defense. That's why we don't have to do those types of things."