Contra Costa Times

Owens back in Mariucci's corner
January 07, 2003
49ers notebook

SANTA CLARA -- A day after speaking up at halftime to rally his 49ers teammates, wide receiver Terrell Owens talked Monday with "The Ticket" (1050-AM) and gave what sounded like a vote of confidence to coach Steve Mariucci, his one-time nemesis.

"We've had our differences, and you can tell by the performance on the field that we've put it behind us," Owens told "The Ticket's" Rod Brooks. "He's done a great job. We've let the coaches coach and the players play. We don't try to interfere with what they're doing. We're in the playoffs, and what more can you ask from a guy? That's all he asked of us -- having a winning season and getting in the postseason. And once you get in the postseason, anything can happen."

That certainly proved to be the case Sunday when Owens helped the host 49ers erase a 24-point second-half deficit and defeat the New York Giants 39-38 in a first-round playoff game. Owens addressed the team in the locker room before the second half, something he said he'd never done.

"What he had to say was great to hear," 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia said. "I think it is always great to see one of your star players or one of the players you depend on week in and week out, to step up and have some things to say to the team.

"He's put some of the pressures he puts on himself aside and made himself more team-oriented," Garcia added. "He's opened up to his teammates. His personality has come out and he's been more expressive. Those are all things that make him feel better about being a part of this team because I know in the past there have probably been issues on whether he wanted to continue to be here with the 49ers."

Sutherland on punts

Special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven said Vinny Sutherland will return punts for the 49ers in Sunday's game at Tampa Bay. Sutherland, last year's return specialist who was re-signed last week, will replace Cedrick Wilson, who muffed a punt in the second quarter. The Giants recovered the muffed punt at the 49ers 8 and scored on the following play for a 21-14 lead. Sutherland replaced Wilson on the next two punt returns, making fair catches on both.

Chandler's ankle

Kicker Jeff Chandler is wearing a protective boot on his sprained left ankle and said he doesn't expect to practice until possibly Friday or Saturday. Mariucci said Chandler will play Sunday, having also played against the Giants despite injuring himself on a kickoff in warmups.

Other injuries

Free safety Zack Bronson said X-rays on his left foot were negative. Bronson exited Sunday's game late in the third quarter after he said his foot became fatigued. It was his first game back since breaking the foot Oct. 14. ... Bronson, left tackle Derrick Deese (left ankle), right guard Ron Stone (left ankle) and linebacker Saleem Rasheed (left thigh) will be limited in practice but are listed as probable, Mariucci said. ... Cornerback Jason Webster, inactive Sunday with a sprained left ankle, is questionable, Mariucci said.

-- Cam Inman

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