In St. Louis, a simmering player revolt was quelled when the Rams met with their own Capt. Queeg, Dick Vermeil, and pleaded for a little mercy.

In San Francisco, which is to say Santa Clara, players were recently given three days in a row off and four of five overall at the insistence of the 49ers' own Mr. Rogers, Steve Mariucci.The difference is all philosophy, and we don't mean Freud vs. Jung.

"He's an old-school guy," 49er J.J. Stokes said of Vermeil. "Old-school guys do it that way. They work, work, work."

And what of new-school guy Mariucci?

"I'm very grateful," Stokes said.

So are the rest of the 49ers.

"It earns him more respect," special teams ace Curtis Buckley said. "Players don't mind giving it 110 percent for a guy who's going to be player-friendly."

Mariucci was hired to coach the 49ers because of his facility in designing an offensive game plan, but his skill as a football humanitarian - normally an oxymoron of the highest order - should not go without mention.

The man is world class when it comes to giving his players time off from this brutal meat-grinder of a game, whether it's canceling an afternoon practice in training camp or adding a third day to a weekend pass during a bye week.

That was the carrot Mariucci dangled in front of his players for their Monday night game in Washington before the bye - win and get the following Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. In the case of defensive end Chris Doleman, in his 14th and final season, Mariucci gave the Atlanta resident Monday off as well so he could string together five days with his family (including Tuesday, NFL players' official day off).

Is this guy a coach or a prince?

"Believe me, the veterans appreciate it," strong safety Tim McDonald said. "He's very attentive when it comes to the players' health. He does everything he can to keep guys healthy. He's really into allowing guys to spend time with their families. We understand the way you continue to have those things is to have success and work that much harder."

He knows it's important that he does, however. As a man with four children himself and a job that others haven't found enough time in the day for, Mariucci has a good sense of the balance in life.

"I like our team. I'd like to keep it healthy," Mariucci said. "If your intent is peaking the last quarter of the season, that's when you want to play your best and that's when you need to be healthy."