Programming note: Watch Monday’s 49ers press conference with head coach Jim Harbaugh live at 12 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and streaming live online here
When 49ers right guard Alex Boone was kicked in the face after the 49ers scored the game-clinching touchdown Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, his reaction was predictable.
It may have been predictable. It may have been understandable. But Boone’s retaliation directed at Cardinals nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu was not acceptable to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
“That’s on me,” Boone said. “I got to be a better man, a smarter man. I was upset. The bottom line is that falls on me. I shouldn’t have been in the rage that I was.”
Boone addressed the conflict that football players – especially those who must play a role of an enforcer – face every time they step onto the field.
“I think people forget that this is a physical sport,” Boone told CSNBayArea.com. “They’re asking us to be like animals out there and really try to grind and grind and grind. All of a sudden, somebody kicks you in the face. Am I supposed to be an animal now? Or am I supposed to be myself?
“It’s hard to sometimes draw the line. But that’s on me. I should know better. I’m smarter than that. I can’t continue to put the team in bad positions. Had we not scored, it could’ve really hurt us. That was my fault.”
TV cameras showed Boone, still angry, providing Harbaugh with an animated defense of what occurred. Then, quarterback Colin Kaepernick tried to get Boone to calm down, and Boone was shown shouting, “He kicked me in the (expletive) face.”
A replay showed Ta’amu had Boone pinned on the ground after Boone helped open a hole for Kendall Hunter’s 6-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that gave the 49ers a 29-20 lead.
Ta’amu kept Boone on the ground with his body weight and left arm while Boone took a swipe that appeared to be directed at Ta’amu’s head. Ta’amu then got to his feet and brought his right foot in contact with Boone’s face -- under his facemask. TV replays did not show what happened next, but Boone apparently retaliated in aggressive fashion to draw a flag.
Boone was called for a personal foul, while Ta’amu was not penalized. Boone’s penalty was not enforced because there were offsetting fouls on Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu and 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin on the same play.
Each of the offending players, as well as Ta’amu, will be subject to fines later this week when the NFL reviews the incidents.
“I was advising Boone not to retaliate,” Harbaugh said of his heated sideline interaction with Boone. “He got kicked in the face and he retaliated. For some reason in this league, it’s only the retaliation part that seems to get called the most often.
“We’ve had too many of those, too many of those plays where we retaliate to something and get a personal foul. And it needs to stop.”
Boone was called for unnecessary roughness against the St. Louis Rams for retaliating against Rams safety Rodney McLeod, who shoved him in the back after the whistle. McLeod was not penalized, and neither player was fined.
Boone said he spoke with Harbaugh after Sunday’s game and everything is fine.
“We hugged it out,” he said.
Still, Boone said it is difficult to remain in control -- and flip the switch -- when the requirement of his job is to play with so much aggression and attitude.
“You’re out there, and you’re trying to be sadistic and impose your will, and something like that happens and you kind of lose your mindset as to the way you are and what you’re doing,” he said. “I put my team in a bad position, and I hope to never do that again. I got to control myself.”