Tuesday is the off day for players, but the team was called together first thing this morning to meet with Mike Singletary, who has replaced head coach Mike Nolan. Nolan was dismissed on Monday afternoon, following a 2-5 start.
"It's definitely tough but you know it's part of the business," said wide receiver Arnaz Battle. "It was something that I knew was an option to happen at some point with our record being 2-5. With Mike Singletary stepping in, it's a fresh start for guys. We have to take a new approach with this thing, have a new attitude. Our backs are to the wall and we just have to come out fighting."
In his first meeting as head coach, the players said Singletary emphasized the talent level on the 49ers squad.
"His personality is very fiery. He's a great motivator and he just let us know that it's in our hands and that we have the ability to turn it around and salvage the season and still do some great things – which includes playoffs and beyond," said linebacker Jeff Ulbrich. "He definitely got some of the guys' juices flowing a little bit."
Singletary's intensity and motivating ability is one of the reasons the 49ers chose him as Nolan's replacement, and from the sound of things, the former assistant head coach/linebackers coach did exactly that this morning.
"He's a guy who shows a lot of passion. I think that is going to carry over to other guys on the team. Like I say, guys want to go out and get this thing going in the right direction," said Battle. "We've put a lot of hard work into this season and going out and being competitors. We feel that we have people in house to go out and do that. With this change in head coach, it is a change in attitude for us, a change as far as our approach and we'll continue to come out and work hard and push even more to try to get this thing turned around. "
The players understand it's key to embrace the change, but said that saying goodbye to a leader they believed in is a bit tough to deal with.
"I was just very shocked when I heard the news," said veteran corner Walt Harris. "Mike brought me here and had the confidence in me. I really believe what he's done for this organization and where it's going."
Ulbrich, who has now seen four coaching changes during his tenure with the team, was also a bit surprised when he learned of the dismissal.
"It' s disappointing from the standpoint because I felt that although are record didn't indicate it, that we are moving in the right direction," said Ulbrich. "To see him let go, it's tough."
Times have also been tough the last two seasons. Following a promising 7-9 finish in 2006, the 49ers won only 5 games in 2007 and are currently on a four-game losing skid.
"We just have to get back on track," said Harris. "There's too much talent within the room for us not to be performing up to the level that we need to be."
Despite the poor start, the season is still salvageable, particularly because the 49ers are fortunate enough to play in a very winnable NFC West division. The Cardinals are only two games ahead of the Rams and the 49ers, while Seattle has won only one game. But although it's too early to panic, it is time for immediate action.
"Urgency has been here since the beginning of the year," said Harris. "That's something Nolan has stressed all year. Whether some guys got it or not, hopefully Mike Singletary's message will go that much further to guys' ears so they understand where we are and where we need to be."