METAIRIE — Saints coach Sean Payton on Tuesday squashed a report that his defense repeatedly blitzed the San Francisco 49ers in their preseason opener because he was angry at Niners coach Jim Harbaugh.
The issue apparently made the rounds in the Bay Area during the preseason and it popped up again this week with the Saints preparing for Saturday’s NFC Divisional Playoff game against the 49ers in Candlestick Park.
On Monday, Harbaugh said it wasn’t an issue with him, while Payton said the report that he instructed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to “let the dogs out” because Harbaugh didn’t call him before the Aug. 12 game to talk about how they were going to play the game was completely false.
Payton said after the game his defense brought pressure 18 times in the first 22 plays of the Saints’ 24-3 win. As a result, the Saints sacked quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick a total of six times — all in the first half.
“There would have never been any expectations on my part as to a phone call being made,” Payton said during his daily news conference. “That normally might happen in week four of the preseason.
“First off, if you look at our defense and you did a little homework and watched our preseason in years prior, we would always pick a game where we were going to get a lot of our blitz packages in,” he said, “especially without any offseason.”
Payton said he’s close with Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Jim’s brother, and has known Jim Harbaugh for awhile.
“It was just a bogus report, so what do you say to that?” Payton asked. “All of a sudden now, it’s three months in and we’re still talking about it or being asked questions about it the week before an important playoff game. It is what it is.”
SAINTS BACK AT WORK: After running and lifting on Sunday and a day off Monday, the Saints were back at work Tuesday preparing for the playoff game with the 49ers.
Payton did not have to issue a practice report because Tuesday is normally a day off when a game is scheduled for Sunday, so it wasn’t known if wide receiver Lance Moore, linebacker Jonathan Casillas and tight end John Gilmore were able to participate.
Moore (hamstring), Casillas (knee) and Gilmore (toe) all missed Saturday’s wild-card win over the Detroit Lions.
NO ADVANTAGE: Payton said 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin, who played for the Saints from 2006-10 before leaving in free agency this summer, doesn’t necessarily give the Niners an edge over his old team because of what he knows.
“I think it’s overrated,” Payton said. “Having played in the preseason, you get a feel for their personnel and we just played them in the regular season last year.
“Jonathan is a real smart player so how we identify (the middle linebacker) and protections, there might be (a familiarity), but generally all of that is on film. There’s not really that dark secret that’s fun to write about, but really doesn’t exist. All of it is on tape time and time again.”
ROAF TO BE CONSIDERED: Former Saints tackle William Roaf is one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012, which will be selected Feb. 4 in Indianapolis.
Roaf, who was voted to a club-record seven Pro Bowls as a member of the Saints from 1993-2001, was a finalist last year in his first year of eligibility.
Other finalists with local ties are former Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams, who starred at Southern University, and former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, a Saints consultant.
BREES A FINALIST: Six finalists have been named for the FedEx NFL Air & Ground Players of the Year awards, which will be handed out during Super Bowl week.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who won the weekly air award three times this season, is a finalist along with New England’s Tom Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
The ground award candidates are Baltimore’s Ray Rice, Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy and Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew.
Fans can vote online for one player in each category until 8 p.m. on Jan. 27 at www.NFL.com/FedEx.
MADDEN PROTECTORS: The Saints’ offensive line is one of five finalists for the third annual Madden Protectors Award presented by Prilosec OTC. The Saints were the recipients of the first award in 2009.
Fans can vote online through Jan. 23 at www.NFL.com/prilosecotc with the winner being announced on Feb. 1.