The week leading up to games against USC definitely had an intense vibe, said former Cardinal players who are now with the 49ers. But it wasn't because Jim Harbaugh hated Pete Carroll. It was because Carroll and his USC Trojans were the kings of the Pac 10 mountain at the time, and Harbaugh desperately wanted to knock them off that perch.
"I think he emphasized SC just because they were a really good team and they were one of the powerhouses of the Pac 10 at the time," said guard Derek Hall, a member of the 49ers practice squad. "He was like, if you guys want to be at the top of the Pac 10. If you want to win Pac 10 championships and raise our team to the next level, we have to beat teams like this. This is who we have to beat."
And beat them Harbaugh did. The first, and most significant, win over Carroll's Trojans came in 2007 when USC was favored by 40 points. In that case, Carroll and USC were a convenient tool that Harbaugh used to motivate his team.
"At the time, obviously we were rebuilding," Hall said. "We were building our program up. One of the mottos he brought in from the start that really rallied everyone behind him that year was, 'We bow to no man, to no program.' He didn't care who they were. I think everyone really bought into that leading up to the game."
This year, Carroll again has what Harbaugh wants - an NFC West title. But the dichotomy between the two coaches is not what it was in 2007 or even 2009 when Harbaugh ran up the score on Carroll. In fact, the 49ers are favored Sunday -- it currently stands at 5 1/2 points -- against the Seahawks.
Both Harbaugh and Carroll joked about how much their relationship has been hyped. Harbaugh facetiously told everyone to "tune in" to their pre-game pow wow on the field while Carroll anticipated a lot of boom mics trying to pick up their every word.
"You know, anything that's been said before has been pretty well documented and over-documented," Harbaugh said. "And in the end, this is a 11-on-11 game, is that really that exciting, that intriguing to find out what they're going to talk about? What's relevant is that this game will be determined by the players and the coaches."
Odds & Ends
• Michael Crabtree (foot), Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) and Reggie Smith (knee) all took part in the early part of practice. Dashon Goldson (knee), however, was absent. If he can't practice this week, look for Madieu Williams to start at free safety Sunday.
• Harbaugh tried to sidestep David Garrard questions today. However, asked in general whether a veteran like Garrard could make the quarterback corps better, Harbaugh said, "We would investigate that, like we would anybody, any player out there who's available."
• As expected, Braylon Edwards' non-suspension will not clarify the 49ers' starting lineup. Both he and Ted Ginn are listed as starters opposite Joshua Morgan. "We feel Ted Ginn (and) Braylon Edwards are both starting caliber and we list them that way," Harbaugh said. "Pretty self-explanatory that way, Ted Ginn or Braylon are starting at that position." If I was a betting man - and I'm not - I'd say that Edwards plays significantly more snaps than Ginn Sunday.
• The last Colt quarterback to start a game other than Peyton Manning? That would be Harbaugh. "That was a long time ago," Harbaugh noted. 'What, 1997? That is amazing. Just a testament to the greatness of Peyton Manning. My goodness."
-- Matt Barrows