SANTA CLARA -- Safety Donte Whitner has printed up 125 T-shirts with the term "#LegalHitner" for his fans. At $28 each, he'll need to sell a slew more to cover the $21,000 fine he drew Tuesday, a result of his illegal hit that broke up a potential touchdown catch in the 49ers' win last Thursday at St. Louis.

Whitner planned to immediately appeal the career-high fine, and he twice noted how "the league is changing" in regard to legal hits.

"If the intent isn't there, I don't know what we can do as players. Maybe we should put flags on and pull those off," Whitner said. "Maybe fans will like that. Maybe not."

Linebacker Ahmad Brooks expressed disbelief over the fine and echoed Whitner's concerns about the NFL's direction.

San Francisco 49ers’ Donte Whitner (31) speaks to the media at their practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif. on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. (Nhat V.
San Francisco 49ers' Donte Whitner (31) speaks to the media at their practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif. on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

"Oh, it's definitely changing, and all for the offense," Brooks said. "Defense has no regulations in our favor, and it's messed up, especially on the defensive line. Ian Williams got chopped and is out for the year (with a broken ankle)."

After Whitner dislodged a potential touchdown pass from Chris Givens in the end zone, referee Jeff Triplette announced that Whitner had hit a defenseless receiver. A 15-yard penalty was enforced, and the Rams promptly scored their only touchdown on the ensuing snap.

"Still in my heart, it's legal and I can't change the way I play," Whitner said. "I was going to the midsection where the ball is with my shoulder. You can actually see me turn and lay off the hit. If I ran through him, I could see it."

A month earlier, the Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews clothes-lined Colin Kaepernick with a late hit and drew a $15,000 fine. Brooks got fined $12,750 for hitting Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A league spokesman said he couldn't immediately confirm Whitner's fine.

"To see $21,000, you'd think I knocked the guy out. But I didn't," Whitner said. " ... I don't know what Clay Matthews was fined, but I know (my) intent was not there."

Whitner claimed his coaches and even Givens told him after the game it was a legal, "good hit." He added that he is a first-time offender for such an unnecessary-roughness fine.

"(Givens) came over while I was doing an interview and said, 'Good hit.' He said it was legal," Whitner said. "If the guy who was hit thought it was legal, then I don't know what else to do."

Whitner suggested that the league use instant replay to verify such calls against defenders. In the 49ers' previous game, Whitner drew an unnecessary roughness penalty for his first-snap tackle of Ahmad Bradshaw. The NFL did not fine him for that play.

  • Rookie quarterback B.J. Daniels and fullback Owen Marecic were waived by the 49ers, who filled one of those roster spots by signing former Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham.

    The other vacant slot reportedly will be filled by former Cardinals quarterback John Skelton, a source told the Sacramento Bee. Skelton worked out for the 49ers on Sept. 3, and he auditioned Tuesday with the Tennessee Titans, according to The Tennessean.

    Daniels, a seventh-round pick out of South Florida, was not active for any game. Marecic, a former Stanford star under coach Jim Harbaugh, was signed two weeks ago but did not play in either game since then.

    Cunningham was a 2010 second-round draft pick by the Patriots, who released him at the end of this year's training camp. He served a four-game suspension late last season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, reportedly testing positive for Adderall. Cunningham started 11 games as rookie and has 31/2 sacks through 36 career games.

  • Left tackle Joe Staley said his left ankle is "perfect" and mocked how his career "flashed before my eyes" Thursday night, when he got hurt with two minutes to go after a LaMichael James run.

    For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.