Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS ― When the Saints blitzed their way to a 24-3 win over San Francisco in the preseason opener on Aug. 12, many wondered if something more was at play.
After all, it’s somewhat rare to see a team throw the book at an opponent in the preseason opener, especially one that followed a months-long lockout.
But Tuesday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh once again said there was no issue with the excessive blitzing, which was rumored to be a reaction to the first-year coach not calling Saints coach Sean Payton to make a gentlemen’s agreement.
“I was asked by our media about the rumor that I violated some protocol by not calling coach Payton in the preseason to create a gentlemen’s agreement over how the game will be played,” Harbaugh said on a conference call with New Orleans media. “So, here we are five months after and being asked about that.”
Harbaugh said he knew of no protocol that says a coach should call another coach to discuss how the teams will play in the preseason.
And, less than an hour after Harbaugh talked with New Orleans media, Payton agreed with the San Francisco coach.
“The initial report, my reaction would be, it’s a preseason game and it was completely false,” Payton said. “There would have been never any expectations on my part as to a phone call being made.”
He added, “But the idea that there was some expectation? His comments were dead on. I’m close with John Harbaugh and I’ve known Jim for awhile. It was just a bogus report.”
Jokingly, a reporter asked Harbaugh is he had made the pre-playoff phone call to discuss a postseason gentlemen’s agreement.
He laughed, before saying, “No, it’s not something we would ever do anyway. We ask no quarter, we give no quarter. So there’d be no phone call to be made.”
Harbaugh said he didn’t feel like the Saints called too many blitzes and didn’t take offense, adding “that’s who the Saints are. They’re a team that blitzes very expectedly. It’s part of their scheme. You can evidence that by the way they played this entire season – the percentages. The blitz numbers are high.”
Still, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said he was caught off guard by the number of blitzes the Saints used out of the gate. But he doesn’t begrudge them of their right to work on pressure packages whenever they want to.
“They wanted to pressure and work on that and get that going, and that’s their right,” Smith said. “We weren’t very prepared for it at the time going into that. We’ll have to be more prepared going into Saturday.”
The Saints are one of the heaviest blitzing teams in the NFL and Payton said they’ll pick one preseason game to work on the packages. It just so happened that it was in the opener.
“Typically we blitz a lot to begin with,” Payton said. “So the idea that all of a sudden hey we’re going to blitz more because someone didn’t make a phone call is foolish.”