RENTON, Wash. -- Mike Singletary had a message for his 49ers the night before San Francisco played the Seattle Seahawks recently.
According to Seattle coach Jim Mora, Singletary said: "If you walk into Seattle and punch them in the face, they won't react."
"I know that's what Mike Singletary said on Saturday night before we played them two weeks ago," Mora said Wednesday during a fist-pounding rant in which he sought more meanness -- more "dirtbags" -- on his 5-8 team.
How did Mora know Singletary said the Seahawks were soft? A tip from the many pals Mora likely still has in the Bay Area, after being a 49ers assistant from 1997 to 2003 and before he became coach of the Atlanta Falcons for three seasons?
"Just, you know, got my sources," Mora said, chuckling. "And he'll probably deny it, and that's OK. He should. But you know what? Every coach says that. I said it [when facing Seattle]."
Singletary's 49ers lost that game on the final play in Seattle amid an avalanche of mistakes. He was already finished with practice and his availability when The Associated Press sought a reaction Wednesday.
Mora's characterization of his team made at least one Seahawk laugh -- one who has played for the fiery Mora in each of the four seasons he's been an NFL head man.
Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney played two playoff games in January 2008 with torn cartilage in his shoulder that required surgery weeks later.
"Talk is incredibly cheap, and the hardest muscle for anyone to control is their tongue," Kerney said.
"What's always funny to me is when people paint, you know, the Steelers as tough because they are from the Steel City," he said. "Well, no one from their team ever worked in steel mills, you know? It's like, 'West Coast teams are soft.' Well, none of us were ever flower children running around going to peace marches. I just laugh at that stuff. These perceptions that get made up are just humorous to me. Shoot, if you are an NFL player, you are tough."
But many on the current Seahawks aren't tough enough for Mora -- especially left tackle Sean Locklear and his mates on a faulty and makeshift offensive line.
They have angered the coach for weeks, for allowing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to get pummeled each Sunday.
Mora announced he is benching center Chris Spencer, replacing him with rookie Max Unger for Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the first of three weekends in which Mora says every Seahawk is being evaluated for 2010. Spencer, whose contract ends after this season, is now going to share snaps at right guard with Mike Gibson. Gibson will be making his season debut. Seattle signed the second-year player from California off the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad in late October.
But Mora saved most of his anger for Locklear. The five-year starter is the heir apparent at left tackle for Walter Jones, who may not play again following major knee surgery.
That is, he was Jones' heir apparent.
"I want to see him take a right end and keep him away from our quarterback for an entire game, that's what I want to see," Mora said of Locklear, pounding his fist on a table and raising his voice. "I want to see him, when we run the football, KNOCK SOMEBODY ON THEIR [rear ends]! When we run the football away, I want to see him cut somebody down. That's what I want to see. I want to see some NASTINESS!"
After a pause, Mora interrupted a follow-up question with a tense laugh and said, "There you go, baby!"
The coach said the nastiness that he sees as a prerequisite to being an effective blocker is mostly inherent.
"If you're going to be a good offensive lineman ... you've got to have -- can I say it? -- you've got to be a little bit of a dirtbag. Not as a person, but on the football field," Mora said. "Man, if you don't have some frickin' toughness, you're going to fail, you know? You're going to fail."
Locklear understood why Mora was mad, especially after a 34-7 loss at Houston on Sunday.
"He's angry, and rightfully so," Locklear said after practice. "We went down there and from the opening snap we got embarrassed. And he told us. We all knew it. We don't need to be told that. We were on the field playing.
"So he's upset. He's been upset. Even now, he's still got a chip on his shoulder," Locklear added. "So we all got to take it to heart."