San Francisco, CA
A word war between coaches had spiced things up before the San Francisco 49ers take on the New York Giants Sunday in a key NFC showdown at Candlestick Park.
Things heated up when Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride accused 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith of holding interior offensive linemen to clear room for San Francisco's pass rush.
"They have great speed on the outside, Smith is a beast on the inside. He's strong, he does as good a job of grabbing a hold of offensive linemen and allowing those twists to take place. He never gets called for it, so he gets away with murder," Gilbride said.
"That, in conjunction with the ability level they have, makes them as formidable as anybody we go against, and we go against some pretty good ones in Dallas' and Philadelphia's. They're as good as anybody up front," he added.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh took exception of Gilbride's remarks, saying the opposing coach's outrageous, irrational statement regarding Smith's play is, "first, an absurd analogy".
"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," Harbaugh's statement further reads.
During Saturday's practice, Harbaugh declined to further comment on the statement as the team's prepare for a rematch of last season's NFC title game.
Since 2009, game officials have made just 58 holding calls on first, second and third downs against players listed as defensive linemen, including two against Smith, who laughed off Gilbride's comments.
"Hey, better than getting caught with it. I really don't know what he's talking about, to be honest with you. If he's trying to talk himself and get some bulletin board stuff, good for him. Whatever they need to do," Smith said.
The exchange of words happened after 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers tried to defuse pre-game tension by saying he will not imitate the salsa dance out of respect for Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz's grandmother who passed away recently.
Rogers made the announcement after being told that Cruz' salsa dance was a tribute to his grandmother Lucy Molina who died at age 77. Molina taught Cruz how to salsa when he was young.
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