49ers players still talk handshake during bye week
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Donte Whitner figures he fielded 20 questions last week from family and friends about Jim Harbaugh’s antics. Vernon Davis went home to Washington, D.C., and got grilled by his buddies for any and all details on San Francisco’s fired-up head coach. Same for Ricky Jean Francois during a visit to South Florida.
The Handshake is still a big hit a week later. Across the nation, no less.
“It’s still a hot topic, especially when they show it so many times on ESPN and all these places,” Whitner said Tuesday.
Davis assured his crew that Harbaugh isn’t “crazy,” just downright spirited. Whitner, who traveled to Cleveland and Miami last week, eventually came up with a standard response.
“You think you know everything but I actually didn’t see it until I watched TV,” Whitner said. “After hearing about it and talking to different people about it you figure out what went on. I don’t really see it as a big deal, but everybody else sees it as a big deal, so my entire family and everybody wants to know. I probably had to answer that question 20 times. So then I’d just get to the point where I’d tell them it was a misunderstanding.”
Harbaugh’s NFC West-leading 49ers (5-1) returned to practice and work Tuesday in preparation for their home game against Sunday the Cleveland Browns. Many were still talking about Harbaugh’s infamous firm handshake and backslap with Jim Schwartz that infuriated the Detroit coach. The men had to be separated as they left the field following the 49ers’ 25-19 comeback victory Oct. 16 at Ford Field.
Nobody denies that the hype around this franchise largely stems from the man in charge, the former NFL quarterback who is finding immediate success in his first season as a professional head coach.
“The first thing they said to me, ‘Your coach is crazy,”‘ Davis recalled of conversations with his pals last week. “I was like: ‘Harbaugh, no he’s not crazy, he’s a great guy. He just has a lot of energy.’ They also talked about our record, how we’re 5-1, ‘You’re all rollin’, you’re rollin.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I’m not worried about that, I’m not thinking about that.’ I can’t think about 5-1. We still have 10 more games to finish. Once we finish that, then I’ll get excited.”
Davis hopes that means a trip to the playoffs at last for a team that has failed to do so – or post a winning record – since 2002.
These players believe it can happen with the emotional Harbaugh leading the way.
“He’s going to be the talk of the country for a good while,” Francois said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s at the ESPYs for that handshake.”
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards returned to practice for the first time since sustaining a right knee injury early in a Week 2 overtime loss to Dallas and then undergoing surgery. Wearing a protective sleeve on the troublesome knee, Edwards ran well and worked on cuts to either side during warmups.
He has targeted this Sunday’s game for his return – against his former team. Edwards spent his first five NFL seasons in Cleveland before playing the past two years with the New York Jets.
“Braylon adds big-play ability. He’s a long receiver, tall, big, physical and he wants to have some success,” Davis said. “So, he’s very motivated. We don’t have to worry about that. He’ll help us out tremendously in the receiving game. We look forward to having him back.”
Whitner, too, has plenty of motivation to play well this weekend. He was born and raised in Cleveland and his entire family still cheers for the Browns – except, maybe, this Sunday. His uncle, Greg, insists he won’t alter his allegiances just because Whitner is on the other side.
“There’s some debating. There’s a few people but the majority want me to win,” Whitner said. “I have an uncle named Greg. He’s pretty much the only one. He said he wants me to play well but he wants Cleveland to beat us. He called me on the phone and sent me a couple text messages.”
NOTES: FB Moran Norris, returning from a broken left fibula, didn’t participate in practice as Harbaugh had hoped. … RG Adam Snyder practiced after not finishing the Lions game because of a stinger.