49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 31, 2013
Pool report: 49ers, Ravens hold simultaneous practices at Saints facility

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Here's John Clayton's pool report for Thursday:

Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013
San Francisco Practice Pool Report
By John Clayton
Pro Football Writers of America

NEW ORLEANS--First, it's the Harbaugh Super Bowl. On Friday, it will be the Harbaugh dual press conference. Thursday offered the Harbaugh dual practice.

Preferring to move from the field built on the baseball field at Tulane University, John Harbaugh moved the Baltimore Ravens practice to the New Orleans Saints facility in Metairie, La., putting both John and Jim Harbaugh in the same facility at roughly the same time as they prepared their teams for Super Bowl XLVII.

With the help of the Saints and local merchants, the NFL was able to acquire approximately 100 feet of piping drapes to block the views of both teams. The league covered up all the windows in the weight room. The brothers worked together on the arrangements while the NFL football operations staff did their best to create two separate, secure practice venues in the same site.

``Just cooperating spirits,'' Jim Harbaugh said.

This isn't the first time two teams practiced on the same field for a Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers both used the Houston Texans facility, which is located at Reliant Field.

Rain forced the Patriots to spend three days at the Texans facility because of soaked field at Rice University. The Panthers moved a Friday practice from the University of Houston to Reliant Stadium, meaning the two teams shared the facility for one day of practice and a Saturday walk-through.

The 49ers had a 100-minute practice that overlapped with the Ravens by about 10 minutes. The Ravens were scheduled to go on the field around 4 p.m. central. Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday that he would have no problems if the Ravens ended up practicing at the same facility. ``We're focused on what we're doing,'' Harbaugh said. ``I'm sure they are the same.''

For the second consecutive day, the 49ers practiced at a crisp pace. After working indoors Wednesday because of the winds, the 49ers went outside for the first time in New Orleans. The 49ers worked on their core offense, defense and special teams and devoted some time to situations.

"I thought yesterday was outstanding, but today was a photo copy of that,'' Harbaugh said. ``In some ways, it was maybe a little better. I'm real pleased, real pleased.''

January 31, 2013
Ravens LB Ayanbadejo: Culliver's anti-gay comments are chance for 'learning experience'

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NEW ORLEANS -- Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was a popular figure when the team met media at its hotel this morning. Ayanbadejo, a vocal supporter of gay rights, was asked about his reaction when he heard the comments made Tuesday by 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver that gays would not be welcome in the 49ers' locker room. Here is Ayanbadejo's response in full:

"You know, I think that in San Francisco, and being from the Bay Area myself, that's something that we really try to preach -- love and acceptance of everybody. And so I couldn't really even say anything negative to the young man. It's just one of those things where you have to live and you have to learn. And I said earlier on (a TV broadcast) -- in the words of Martin Luther King, you can't fight hate with hate. You have to fight hate with love. We've all made our mistakes, we've all been there and done certain things, and we've hurt people regardless if we meant to do it or not. But more than anything it's an opportunity to have a learning experience.

"I've preached since day one to my teammates that there's certain words you can't say. And when they're around me they know -- if B.A.'s around, you can't say 'gay' in a derogatory manner, you can't say the three-letter 'f' word. And I tell them, I go, you can't say those things. And if people hear you say those things, regardless if you mean them or not, they're going to fry you. And if it's in a public arena your whole reputation's going to be roasted for it.

So we've kind of seen it happen this time. So we just have to all learn from what happened, from this mistake. He apologized and hopefully he'll learn. And he's in the Bay Area, and it's really important there, it's pertinent there. So I think he's going to learn and he's going to grow to be a better person for it."

January 31, 2013
York talks Culliver, NorCal Super Bowl and fateful QB decision

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Jed York spoke for 40 minutes at the 49ers team hotel this morning, covering topics that ranged from Chris Culliver's anti-gay remarks to hosting a Super Bowl in Santa Clara to him turning into a werewolf on game days. He also spoke about the pivotal decision his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, made in November at quarterback.

York said he might visit Harbaugh in his office every few weeks or so. He did so before the Saints game Nov. 25.

"... just to see how he's doing and to see if he needs anything," York said. "And it's one of those (moments), and I said, 'What's your gut on this week? What are you thinking?' And he said, 'My gut's Kap.' And I said, 'Ok.' I can argue it either way at that point of the season. I understand what you're doing and I support you. I said, 'Is there anything you need from me?' And he's like, 'Nope. Let's go see how he plays.'"

York said one of his uncle Eddie Debartolo Jr's best pieces of advice was to stay out of the way and let the football experts handle that part of the franchise. He said Harbaugh didn't ask his opinion on the matter.

"And I wouldn't have said one way or the other," York said. "He's our head coach, he's going to make those decisions. And obviously it was a controversial decision at the time. But that's what leaders have to do. You have to make decisions that don't always make sense to everyone else in the moment, because they're looking three or four chess moves down the road. And that's what Jim was thinking about. And I think it's paid off, and we'll find out even more on Sunday."

January 30, 2013
Pool report: wind, rain send 49ers indoors; OLBs limited

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John Clayton today did what no reporter has done since Jim Harbaugh has become a head coach: He watched a full, in-season practice by one of Harbaugh's teams. Clayton is the pool reporter for the NFC, which means he watches the Super Bowl practice and then speaks with Harbaugh afterward. Here's his report:

John Clayton
Pro Football Writers of America

NEW ORLEANS -- Winds from the aftermath of a Wednesday storm sent the San Francisco 49ers into the New Orleans Saints indoor practice facility for their first full practice in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.

But the 49ers also breezed through the 95-minute session so efficiently that head coach Jim Harbaugh got through all of his team's work with approximately 15 minutes to spare. To say the least, the practice was spirited and focused.

"We were going to go outside and practice but the winds were a little too much," Harbaugh said. "We were worried about taking the lifts (for team photographers) too high. The winds were 20 to 25 miles an hour and we don't want to send our guys up there in those conditions."

The weird site was seeing the practice with a Sean Payton "Do Your Job" picture overlooking every 49er play. Harbaugh, in fact, stood near an endzone in which a Saints World Championship picture hung proudly above him, and Harbaugh had no problem with that.

"We're in their house," Harbaugh said. "We try to respect their hospitality."

Despite the winds, the 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens got a break when the rainy weather cleared up before noon. Lines of storm cells went through Southern Louisiana with heavy rain and threats of bad winds Wednesday morning, causing the NFL to make arrangements for indoor facilities for both teams if needed.

January 30, 2013
Culliver told radio host gays not welcome in 49ers locker room

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NEW ORLEANS - One day after news broke that a former 49er has been charged with beating up his boyfriend, current 49er Chris Culliver said that gays wouldn't be welcome in the team's locker room.

Shock jock Artie Lange interviewed Culliver, the team's nickel cornerback, during Media Day on Tuesday and asked him about gay players. Lange played the brief clip on his radio show later that night.

"I don't do the gay guys, man," said Culliver, 24. "I don't do that. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah...can't be...in the locker room man. Nah."

Culliver, who played 73 percent of the team's defensive snaps this year, said that any player who is gay should keep that a secret. "Yeah, come out 10 years later after that," he said.

The 49ers reacted Wednesday with a strongly-worded statement: "The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris," the statement read. "There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community."

That was followed by a statement from Culliver: "The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."

Homosexuality in the locker room already was topical this week after former 49ers first-round pick Kwame Harris, an offensive tackle, appeared in court on charges he beat up an ex-boyfriend. Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, meanwhile, has been a national story in recent months because of his vocal support for same-sex unions, including his backing of a successful referendum for marriage equality in Maryland.

January 30, 2013
Phone home: Jack Harbaugh got a draft scoop in 2011

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Jim Harbaugh is stingy when it comes to revealing strategy and information, even when it comes to his own parents.

His father, Jack Harbaugh, on Wednesday talked about a phone conversation he and his son had after the first day of the draft in 2011. The 49ers had selected linebacker Aldon Smith in the first round, and Jack was dying to know who they'd take in the second round.

"So I said, 'Jim, tomorrow in the second round, surely you're going to draft a quarterback. Which one is it going to be?'" Jack said of the call. "And it's dead silence. In fact, I can hear his voice (let's out a sigh)."

Said Jim: Are you talking to anybody?

-- I'm not talking to anybody. I'm your dad, you've got to tell me.

You're not going to tell mom who we're thinking about drafting?

-- Would you just tell me who it is? I promise you, I won't say anything to anybody.

"He said, 'We're drafting Colin Kaepernick.' He said, 'I not only think he's the best quarterback in the draft, I think that he's the best football player in the draft. And we're going with Colin Kaepernick."

Jack and wife Jackie held a very well-attended press conference today. Not surprisingly, it began with mom and dad belting out the family motto: Who's got it better than us? When they didn't think the reply from the crowd was boisterous enough, they performed it again, and this time the response met their satisfaction.

Jack also noted that the brother vs. brother battle won't be the only family rivalry at play on Sunday. Jim's son, Jay, is an assistant weight coach and also works in the film room for the Ravens. "You've got a father-son component Sunday as well," Jack said.

- Matt Barrows

January 30, 2013
Fangio family rooting for 49ers from afar ... specifically, Baltimore

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Jim Harbaugh today said he tried for two years to get Vic Fangio to leave the Ravens' staff and join him at Stanford. The issue? Fangio had settled into the Baltimore area and was reluctant to uproot his family and move them west.

He didn't.

His son and daughter remain in Baltimore. Christian is a junior at Towson University. His daughter, Cassie, is a sophomore in high school. Fangio reported that both are wearing the 49ers' colors proudly this week. "My kids are very passionate and tough about the 49ers," he said. "But they're kind of the Lone Rangers back there right now. We've got to win."

Fangio, of course, left Baltimore in 2010 and became Stanford's defensive coordinator. What made him change his mind? "Jim. He was persuasive," Fangio said.

- Matt Barrows

January 30, 2013
Moss: No disrespect to Rice, but I changed the game

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NEW ORLEANS -- Randy Moss today said he didn't mean to disrespect Jerry Rice on Tuesday when he said he, Moss, was the best wide receiver to have played the game. But he wasn't taking back his claim, either. "It just sent shock waves throughout the whole world," Moss said of his comment. "That wasn't the intention. It really wasn't."

"There's no disrespect, man. There's no animosity, there's no tension with Jerry Rice," Moss continued. "He started the thing. He came from a smaller school than Marshall. You know what I'm saying? And I followed his whole career and I've seen the plays that he's had."

"But I'm not going to sit here and degrade this man and disrespect this man for everything he's accomplished. Because he has accomplished more than me. He has the championships. He has the numbers. But what I said yesterday as far as the impact that I'm able to make on this game of football - I believe that I did change the game of football. And I don't mean that being cocky or anything like that. I'm confident in what I'm able to do."

Rice, who played 20 years in the league, is an analyst for ESPN. On Tuesday, he said he was surprised Moss referred to himself as the greatest. "You'd never hear me say I'm the greatest football player to ever play the game, " he said. "I let my body of work speak for itself, and I think I was able to be very productive on the football field."

"You have to look at the stats, you have to look at how you impacted the game, and it's all about winning this right here, this is it, the Super Bowl, and I was fortunate to win three," Rice continued. "Randy he finally has a chance to prove himself this weekend, and I wish him the best."

Moss has made one previous trip to the Super Bowl, in 2007, but his Patriots lost to the Giants.

- Matt Barrows

January 29, 2013
Paging Jerry Rice ... Moss believes he's the best of all time

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Randy Moss had answered 31 questions - 4,500 words worth of responses - when he got this one Tuesday during Media Day: When you were a younger player, did you aspire to be the greatest receiver ever? Was that something in your mind to accomplish?

Here's Moss' word-for-word answer:

RM: "Uh, I don't think (I wanted) to be the greatest receiver ever. Now that I'm older I do think I'm the greatest receiver to ever do it. I don't think numbers stand. Because you can talk about this and this .. I think that I've had ... this year has been a down year for me statistically. The year before I retired was a down year, then in Oakland was a down year. So I don't really live on numbers. I live on impact and what you're able to do out on that field. So I really believe that I'm the greatest receiver to ever play this game."

Somewhere out there, of course, Jerry Rice is loudly clearing his throat. In his 14th season, Rice caught 82 passes for 1,157 yards and nine touchdowns, and he played another six seasons after that and caught another 33 touchdowns. Moss' regular-season tally in this, his 14th season, is 28 catches, 434 yards and three touchdowns.

Moss acknowledged his "down year," and admitted he was frustrated at being a decoy, which usually is his role when he steps onto the field. "I don't really like that, but it's something that I'm used to.," he said. "I have to grow to understand and grow to like it. I've always been a team player. I've never been about self. Anything that is going to push our team to victory and hopefully win a Super Bowl, I'm willing to do."

Moss' answer, however, shouldn't come as a shock. If Vernon Davis were asked if he's the best tight end of all time, he would answer in the affirmative. (In fact, I think he has). As other players, including some 49ers, have noted today, every top-flight, competitive athlete thinks he or she is the best at what he or she does. That's what makes them competitive, top-flight athletes.

-- Matt Barrows

January 29, 2013
Moss wants to play next season. But where?

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Before he was asked about Kaepernick or catfishing - yes, that story is still rearing its head - Randy Moss was asked of he wants to continue playing.

"I've thought about it," said Moss, 35. "I do want to play another year."

With San Francisco?

"I don't know about that."

Moss, of course, did not play football in 2011, but he said he wasn't ready to leave the game. He said he needed to address some problems with his kids. During that time, he watched the NFL on television and realized that he not only missed the game, he loved it.

"I really did cry. I really did," he said. "I mean, I love this game of football so much. I mean, I don't like everything that comes with it. But going out on the field between the white lines is something I've always done. I've been doing it since I was six years old. For me to just walk away from the game knowing I wasn't ready, mentally or physically, it really hurt me and it really depressed me."

It's a shame that Moss spoke to reporters only six times since he was signed by the 49ers in March. He talked for an hour today about subjects ranging from his legacy, to his mentoring of younger players to him noticing something special about Colin Kaepernick as far back as April. More on that to come ...

- Matt Barrows

January 29, 2013
Alex Smith: Excited for next opportunity 'wherever that comes'

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Alex Smith says he's not sure what the future brings or where he'll be next season. But he's convinced he's never been a better quarterback than he is now.

He's got the statistics to prove it. He had a 104.1 quarterback rating - it would have ranked third in the NFL this year - when he left a Nov. 11 game with a concussion. In his last full game, he was 18-19 on pass attempts. And his second-to-last NFL pass was a touchdown to Michael Crabtree.

It seems that if there any silver linings in his bizarre, tough-luck season, it's that he can advertise himself to future employers as having been one of the top quarterbacks int the league when he got hurt.

"Yeah, I still feel like I have my best football ahead of me," said Smith, who has started 77 games but is only 28. "And in that sense, I feel like I've gotten better and better. ... I'm excited for my next opportunity wherever that comes. For me, it's being ready to go if that (opportunity) comes on Sunday here."

Tuesday, of course, was media day, the day when every coach and player arrived at the Superdome to be interviewed by thousands of reporters (one of them dressed as a super hero, another as a lucha libre wrestler, etc., etc., etc.). Fourteen 49ers, including quarterback Colin Kaepernick, were stationed at individual risers. The rest, like Smith, stood on the field to be mobbed with questions.

Smith, of course, did not spend the session complaining about his circumstance. He said he had nothing to do with a recent national report that said he wanted to be released - "No idea where that came from," he said - and that he felt it was necessary to set a dignified example for fans and his teammates.

He said his focus was on Sunday's game, but he also made it clear that he wants to be an NFL starter again.

"I want to win on Sunday. I want a ring," Smith said. "After Sunday, there will be enormous amounts of time to talk and think about that stuff. For me, it's just being focused and getting ready."

- Matt Barrows

January 29, 2013
LIVE CHAT: Matt Barrows shares his Media Day insights, noon

With annual Super Bowl Media Day having starting early this morning, Matt Barrows will have plenty of topics to discuss with you in his live chat beginning at noon today.

January 28, 2013
Harbaugh brothers unite against Obama's football comment

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Who says Jim Harbaugh is the less-entertaining of the Harbaugh brothers when it comes to media sessions? In fact, it's safe to say the 49ers head coach beat his older brother 1-0 in press conferences Monday after a charm-filled session that had reporters checking to see whether they were in the correct conference room listening to the right Harbaugh.

Some excerpts:

On President Obama saying that if he had a son, he would have misgivings about watching him play football:
"I have a four-month old, almost five-month old son, Jack Harbaugh, and if President Obama feels that way then there will be a little bit less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets old. It's still early. Like I said, Jack is only five months old. He is a really big kid. He has an enormous head. We don't have a forty- (yard dash) time on him yet, but his wingspan is plus one, and as soon as he grows into that head he is going to be something. It's early, but expectations are high for young Jack."

On the origin of the pen he wears around his neck on game days, which a reporter called "a necklace":
"Well, I take great offense that you call it a necklace. It's a whistle. It's a coaches' whistle that coaches have long worn around their neck. I believe every coach should have a whistle. It's hard to imagine going out to practice without a whistle. Then I just put a pen onto the whistle string. It's not complicated at all."

On the impact of losing to the Giants in last year's NFC Championship game:
"Life is full of bitter disappointments, and that was one. We were not defeated. You can kill a man but you can't defeat him, not as long as he has hope. We started from ground zero to approach a new season."

Of course, the Monday competition wasn't a shutout. John Harbaugh had his press-conference moments as well when the Ravens arrived at their hotel in the afternoon. He said he liked his brother's reaction to Obama's comment:
"It's one less kid to compete against. Football's a great game. And everybody who's played the game know what a great game it is and what it provides young people and what it provided someone like me - an opportunity to grow as a person. It's challenging, it's tough, hard. There's no game like football. It's the type of sport that brings out the best in you. It kind of shows you who you are."

John Harbaugh addressed the media in a black, double-breasted suit with a purple and gold striped tie. What does he think of Jim's khakis-and-fleece uniform?
"It's a good look for him. It cuts down on drag time in the morning, fewer decisions to make."

- Matt Barrows

January 28, 2013
Smith & Smith clean up on annual team awards

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If you're focused on the fact that Aldon Smith has gone five games without a sack, you're merely looking at the "low-hanging fruit," as Jim Harbaugh likes to say.

Smith played so well against the Falcons last Sunday that he received a game ball for his efforts. And his stellar play this season led Smith to win the team's Bill Walsh Award, which is given to the 49ers' MVP and voted on by players and coaches. "I think that speaks volumes for the kind of impact he had on our team," Harbaugh said today.

The team's highest honor, the Len Eshmont Award, went to another Smith, defensive end Justin, who is battling a partially torn triceps tendon in the playoffs. The two Smiths play next to each other, and Aldon Smith's franchise-record 19 ½ sacks this season are partly attributed to the fact that defenses use so many resources to stop Justin Smith.

Sacks, however, only tell some of the story, Harbaugh said. Aldon Smith didn't get any against Matt Ryan and the Falcons, but he did a good job of harassing Ryan throughout the game. "(He had) a number of pressures and hurries and really played the run extremely well," Harbaugh said. "(He) recovered the fumble, and overall it was a thorough, thorough game from Aldon."

Aldon Smith said Harbaugh surprised him with the award during a team meeting. "You've got guys on this team that are all-stars, that have made the pro bowl in consecutive years," Smith said. "The Patrick Willises, the Vernon Davises, the Frank Gores. I could go on. Then I come in my second year and I get the MVP. It means a lot."

Who got Aldon Smith's vote? Randy Moss. "I was a Randy fan growing up. I had a (no. 84) jersey."

The 49ers haven't announce their full slate of team awards yet. However, Anthony Davis tweeted last month that he had won the Bobb McKittrick Award as the team's best offensive lineman. Gore won the Garry Niver Award given by the local media.

- Matt Barrows

January 28, 2013
Report: Former 49ers tackle Harris faces assault charges

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Former 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris is reportedly facing charges of assault and domestic violence stemming from a dispute at a restaurant last August. According to the San Mateo Daily Journal, Harris, who played for the 49ers from 2003-07, is due in court today "on charges he assaulted his former boyfriend at a Menlo Park restaurant during an argument over soy sauce and underwear."

Harris, 30, reportedly has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The Daily Journal reported that the alleged victim, Dimitri Geier, is also suing Harris for assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.

According to the report, Geier claims Harris "became upset when he poured soy sauce on a plate of rice" and later "tried pulling (Geier's) pants down and accused him of stealing his underwear, according to the suit." The two reportedly exchanged punches that left Geier requiring medical attention. An attorney for Harris told the Daily Journal that Geier threw the first punches and that Harris' actions were a "pure self-defense case." Harris has also filed a legal response denying the claims of Geier's lawsuit, according to the report.

The full report can be found here. Harris played in 72 games over five seasons for the 49ers from 2003-07, and played one season for the Oakland Raiders in 2008.

-- Matt Kawahara

January 28, 2013
Transcript: Kaepernick talks Favre (hooray!) and T.O. (boo!) with reporters

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(on how beneficial it is to have a head coach who was a NFL quarterback)
CK: "It is very beneficial. He knows what you are looking at, and he knows what you are going through. It makes it easier for him to relate."

(on how he would describe the locker room right now)
CK: "It is really like a family. We are around each other more than we are around anybody else. The time we spend together, and the hard work we put in together, it is going to build a close team."

(on what his greatest Super Bowl memory as a fan was)
CK: "I don't know. I can't pick one out. I just remember growing up watching the Super Bowl and being a big fan of it."

(on who was his favorite quarterback)
CK: "I was always a (Brett) Favre fan. I was born in Wisconsin, and my whole family was Packers fans, so I grew up watching him."

(on his preparation for the Super Bowl)
CK: "It is just head-down, keep working. This isn't a time to relax and get out of your routine or stop working hard. This is when you should be working your hardest."

(on how much he sees of himself in head coach Jim Harbaugh)
CK: "I think both of us are very competitive. We want to do whatever it takes to win, so that is where the emotion and the excitement comes from."

(on if too much is made of the quarterback play in the pistol and read-option)
CK: "I think people have put too much focus on me. I don't think they realize the other weapons we have on this team. I don't think they realize the great offensive line that we have. There are a lot of other parts on this team that do great things to make it easy for me to go out there."

(on what he remembers about Ray Lewis as a player and person)
CK: "I have never met him, but his intensity that he brings to the game and the passion that he plays with is very admirable."

January 27, 2013
Armed and ready: Justin Smith reports progress, ribbing from teammates

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NEW ORLEANS -- Defensive end Justin Smith said the worrisome tear in his left triceps tendon isn't growing with every game he plays. If anything, it's getting better, he said today.

"I can do more stuff every week," said Smith, one of six 49ers given 'podium duty' today in front of the media. "I think it heals up, obviously, as more time goes by and it's feeling better."

Smith has played two games since partially tearing his triceps tendon, which attaches the triceps muscle to the elbow, on Dec. 16. Like Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who had a similar injury this season, Smith is wearing a brace that restricts the movement of the arm and ostensibly prevents a greater tear.

Smith said he's also gotten more accustomed to playing with the brace. The most encouraging part, he said, is the feeling that he can play with more abandon on Feb. 3. "I know how many games I have left now - four more quarters," he said.

Smith has said he will have surgery after the season no matter if the tear expands or not.

The long-time iron man has never had a serious injury since he started playing football, and he acknowledged he was alarmed by the "pop" he felt in the second half against the Patriots. He also has never spent much time in the 49ers' training room, where he has been a mainstay since the injury.

His teammates have noticed.

"I usually give guys a hard time in the training room; now I'm one of those guys," he said with a laugh. "So karma came back to get me, I guess."

************************
Both Smith and center Jonathan Goodwin were wearing trucker's caps with "49ers" and their names on the front. Goodwin said it was like the blue-collar mechanics shirts Jim Harbaugh passed out last year.

"They have to be earned," Goodwin said. "It's a hard-working hat, a blue-collar hat. But it definitely has to be earned."

- Matt Barrows

January 27, 2013
Routine trip? 49ers say Super Bowl no different than stay in Youngstown

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NEW ORLEANS - How are the 49ers going to handle the pressure, bright lights and the sheer foreignness of Super Bowl week?

Eh, it shouldn't be that much different than a week in Youngstown, Ohio or the one the team spent in London England in 2010, both Jim Harbaugh and some of his players said Sunday. The 49ers have taken a week-long trip in each of the past three seasons and are 3-0 in those games.

Of course, their trips to Youngstown didn't begin with a water-cannon sendoff at the San Jose airport, which is how the team left the Bay Area Sunday afternoon. And when they arrived in London, there weren't 20 camera crews and a hundred reporters from dozens of different countries waiting for them at their hotel entrance.

There also wasn't a lot to do on the Ohio trips aside from filling up on scoops of Chocoholic Chunk at Handel's Ice Cream across the street. There are decidedly more distractions in downtown New Orleans, which is already in the midst of its annual Mardi Gras celebration.

The 49ers' team hotel is on the edge of the French Quarter, and notoriously boozey Bourbon Street is only two blocks to the north. Harrah's casino is a block and a half in the opposite direction, and the 49ers won't have a curfew until Tuesday night.

Still, the goal this week, said Harbaugh, is to make things as normal as possible. The schedule is very much like the trips the team has made to Youngstown the last two years. The 49ers arrived in Ohio on a Sunday night and then basically used a hotel as their headquarters as they prepared for the upcoming contest. They've even used an adjacent parking lot for walk-through practices.

"This week - we're going to try to make it like a normal week," Harbaugh said. "Being here on Sunday and getting started Monday like it's a week leading up to a Sunday game."

As the home team, the 49ers will wear their red jerseys on game day and also will train at the Saints facility in nearby Metarie. The Ravens, who arrive at 4 p.m. local time Monday, will practice at Tulane University.

The Ravens will have one less day of media duties. But they also will have less time to familiarize themselves with their surroundings.

The 49ers even encroached on the Ravens team hotel. While some teammates were tasked with sitting at podiums and talking with reporters, others - including quarterback Alex Smith - were three blocks away at the Hilton Riverside, the Ravens' home this week, having dinner.

-- Matt Barrows

January 25, 2013
No charges to be filed against 49ers Crabtree

No charges will be filed against 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a San Francisco hotel early on Jan. 13.

"The San Francisco Police Department -- Special Victims Unit completed and submitted a thorough investigation of the allegations against Michael Crabtree," said a statement from San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. "Following a review of all the evidence, my office has determined that no charges will be filed against Michael Crabtree at this time."

A report in The San Francisco Chronicle this week said that two other women at the W Hotel at the time said an assault did not occur. Crabtree cooperated with police and was interviewed by them Jan. 18 before the 49ers left to play the Falcons in the NFC Championship game. Crabtree, the team's leading receiver this season, started that game and will start the Super Bowl Feb. 3.

The day after the allegation surfaced, Crabtree's attorney issued a statement saying his client was confident in the legal process and would not comment further during the investigation.

Said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke in a release: "We are pleased to learn of the San Francisco District Attorney's announcement following a thorough review of the matter. Michael and the team can now put this behind us and move forward."

- Matt Barrows

January 25, 2013
49ers list 11 players as "probable" for Super Bowl

The 49ers list 11 players as probable for next Sunday's Super Bowl showdown against the Ravens.

There's one questionable player, tight end Garrett Celek, who is dealing with a foot injury. Ahmad Brooks (shoulder) is listed as questionable. He was limited in practice today. Fullback Bruce Miller (shoulder) was a full participant after being listed as limited for the last several weeks.

Probable: LB Navorro Bowman (shoulder), LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), CB Tarell Brown (shoulder), RB Frank Gore (ankle, shoulder), LB Clark Haggans (shoulder), G Mike Iupati (shoulder), RB LaMichael James (back), RB Bruce Miller (shoulder), LB Aldon Smith (shoulder), DT Justin Smith (elbow, triceps), LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

The Ravens, meanwhile, list 19 players as questionable for the game, including Ray Lewis, whose injury is described as "other."

Questionable: WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (foot), WR Tandon Doss (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle, back), S James Ihedigbo (knee), CB Asa Jackson (thigh), RB Vonta Leach (knee, ankle), LB Ray Lewis (other), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), RB Bernard Pierce (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (thigh), S Bernard Pollard (chest), WR David Reed (thigh), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles, biceps), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder).

Of that group, Pitta and Ellerbe were the only players who didn't practice in full today. Both were listed as "did not practice."

-- Matt Barrows

January 25, 2013
Brooks is back: OLB rejoins practice; team missing only one player

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Ahmad Brooks, who missed the last two practices with a shoulder injury, was back on the field for the start of Friday's session. Brooks was in a black, no-contact jersey, so expect him to join cornerback Tarell Brown, fullback Bruce Miller and linebacker Aldon Smith as limited on today's practice participation report. All four have shoulder injuries.

Earlier in the day, Jim Harbaugh spoke at length about Brooks and said he's expected to be on hand for the Super Bowl. "Well, been fantastic for us," Harbaugh said. "He's played at a really high level. His opportunity to be an every-down player this year and last year, well documented the season he had last year. This year, he's been fantastic."

"Vic Fangio made the comment the other day that the smartest thing we did as an organization was pay Ahmad Brooks and keep him as a 49er. We would all concur with that," Harbaugh said, citing Brooks' offseason contract extension. "He's done it with very little fanfare in terms of how he talks about himself, but he's been a tireless worker. I go back to the first days of the off-season program. Don't know if he ever missed a day. Been a great contributor, great leader and real fine performer on the field."

Tight end Garrett Celek (foot) was not taking part at the start of practice and it looks like he will miss his third straight session.

- Matt Barrows

January 25, 2013
Mystery man: Akers pushing on despite field-goal struggles

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SANTA CLARA -- Count 49ers kicker David Akers as being just as puzzled as anyone about his field goal struggles this season. Akers made just 69 percent of his attempts during the regular season -- one year after setting an NFL record for total field goals made (44) last season -- and missed his lone attempt in the NFC Championship Game. The 38-yarder against the Falcons clanged off the upright.

The 49ers, though, have maintained their support of Akers this week. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said Akers' leg has looked good in practices. Akers echoed that today, and said he's not sure why his practice and pre-game success isn't carrying over into games.

"You look at the kicks, they're so minute on how far they're off," Akers said. "And we're talking inches on a lot of kicks. And that's the frustrating thing, because an inch is a mile in our game, from the (63-yard attempt against Green Bay in Week 1) hitting the pole and going over, to hitting the top of the eyelet last week. One's in, one's out.

"You look at those things, you're like, what's the difference? You look at the film, you see your form, form looks pretty good. It's just one of those things that I just scratch my head, talk to a lot of guys that I talk to when I'm doing well and when I'm not. And they say, hey, just keep fighting through it. And that's the only thing I can do."

January 25, 2013
Harbaugh eats up Madden's advice: Winners don't complain

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The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but it doesn't get the Vince Lombardi Trophy. This, according to John Madden, who had 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in rapt attention and jotting down notes when Harbaugh appeared on Madden's radio show this morning.

"I just know the team that complains the most usually loses," Madden said on KCBS 740-AM. "The other thing I know is, you haven't done anything yet. The team that celebrates having gotten there the most usually loses a little focus."

Harbaugh liked that message so much, he had the players gather around him following the late-morning walk-through and relayed it to them. "I thought it was really good insight - some that I've never heard before and shared it with the team just a few minutes ago," Harbaugh said during his Friday press conference.

Harbaugh, who was an assistant coach when the Raiders went to the Super Bowl in 2002, said he would have a set of rules and curfews for his players in New Orleans, which he declined to discuss. But he insisted he wanted the 49ers to enjoy the experience.

"I want them to enjoy every minute and especially enjoy the competition," he said. "And that's the most exciting thing to look forward to - playing the game, that ball being kicked off."

This was Harbaugh's second press conference since the 49ers' 28-24 win over the Falcons Sunday. He will have to address the media six times beginning Sunday, and he's bound to get the sort of questions he doesn't like - such as ones he's answered before - during the week. Given Madden's advice, is this going to be an issue for him?

Said Harbaugh: "I don't know where you've gotten the impression that I don't enjoy talking to the media or the fans. I do enjoy these sessions." (a few guffaws ensued).

Harbaugh also said he's been in contact with another former pro coach from the Bay Area, Tony La Russa this week. Asked what La Russa told him, Harbaugh said, "Nothing that I would share. Tony doesn't quite like it when I do that."

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The reporters who cover the 49ers on a daily basis voted running back Frank Gore the winner of the annual Garry Niver Award. The honor is given to the player who is most professional and cooperative in dealing with the media. Niver was a long-time beatwriter who covered the 49ers for the San Mateo Times.

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The 49ers will hold their final practice of the week tomorrow (Saturday) before taking off to New Orleans on Sunday.

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Running back Kendall Hunter, who tore his Achilles tendon in New Orleans Nov. 25, has been out of a walking boot for two days. Hunter said he's trying to "take it slow" as far as his rehabilitation but that he aims to be at full strength before training camp in July.

- Matt Barrows

January 25, 2013
Maul Me Maybe: The secret behind the 49ers o-line success

The 49ers' cohesion along the offensive line has been explained in a number of ways: It's due to the talent along the line, to the fact that all five men have started all 18 games this season, to outstanding coching from Mike Solari and Tim Drevno.

The real reason the line has such impressive choreography this year? It will be obvious when you watch the video below. (The people in the apartment below want their deposit back).

-- Matt Barrows

January 24, 2013
A shoulder's story: Brooks misses second straight practice

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A shoulder epidemic has struck the 49ers. The latest to suffer the injury is linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who sat out his second straight practice on Thursday.

Brooks briefly was on the sideline during the first quarter Sunday while trainers attended to his injury. Veteran Clark Haggans - who along with Jonathan Goodwin is the only active 49er to have won a Super Bowl - filled in for three plays.

Brooks returned to the game and made three pivotal plays. He batted down two passes, the first of which came on a crucial three-and-out in which the Falcons had to punt deep inside their own territory. The 49ers got a good return from Ted Ginn, and the offense quickly scored a touchdown to give San Francisco its first lead.

On the Falcons last full offensive possession, Brooks swatted away another one of Matt Ryan's passes on third down. On an earlier play, he hit Ryan as he threw, giving the quarterback a Grade 2 shoulder separation on his left, non-throwing shoulder.

Brooks is one of nine 49ers listed as having a shoulder injury. That includes his counterpart on the right side of the defense, Aldon Smith, who was limited in practice. Like Brooks, backup tight end Garrett Celek (foot) missed his second straight practice.

January 24, 2013
Kaepernick: two sides to being an NFL quarterback

Here's the transcript of Colin Kaepernick's media session today. The next time the 49ers quarterback addresses the media will be Sunday after the team arrives in New Orleans.

Q: Hey Colin, what is it like to wake up as Colin Kaepernick these days, pinched yourself yet?
CK: "It's the same as it was six months ago."

Q: Did you expect when you took over the starting job that you'd be standing here, still playing in February?
CK: "I was hoping so."

Q: How have you been able to handle all of this? Just seems the stages get bigger and bigger and is there something or someone, whatever it is, that's helped you get through all the pressure that's been on you the last six, seven, eight weeks?
CK: "I just try to keep my head down, keep working and not worry about anything else."

Q: Do you remember growing up watching a specific Super Bowl and kind of that moment where you're like, I want to be there someday? And if so, which game was it?
CK: "I can't say an exact Super Bowl. I just remember watching a lot of them growing up."

Q: With the 49ers legacy here with QB Joe Montana and QB Steve Young, have you had a chance to meet those guys or appreciate what they've done here?
CK: "Yeah, I've met both of them, talked with both of them briefly. They did great things here."

January 24, 2013
49ers notes: Willis talks No. 52; Kaepernick's special delivery

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The popular myth about Patrick Willis and his jersey was that he was specifically given No. 52 by Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary in 2007 because they wanted him to be the heir to another No. 52, Ray Lewis, as far as NFL middle linebacker lineage goes. Both Nolan and Singletary had coached Lewis with the Ravens.

Well, that's not entirely true.

Willis today said it was his choice to wear No. 52 and that he chose it partly in homage to players who have worn it before him, namely Lewis. But he said the bigger reason is that he liked the number.

"They had some weird numbers (available)," Willis said. "I think they had 51, 52 a 50 and a 57. It was the best number out of the numbers they gave me. And also I've known some guys, and one guy in particular, Ray, who have worn the No. 52." (Note: Willis wore no. 49 at Ole Miss).

But he had to have known that he would bombarded with Lewis comparisons as soon as he picked No. 52, right?

"I didn't know that," Willis said. "I didn't know six years later that people would compare (me) to him. I just told myself, wherever I get drafted, I want to go out and make it my home and play the best football I can possibly play."

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The 49ers are conducting a rare practice on their artificial turf field today because of the rain in the South Bay. Jim Harbaugh doesn't want any last-minute injuries due to a slick field. Besides, the Super Bowl will be played on an artificial surface.

January 24, 2013
O Brother, Must Thank Thou

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Did you know the head coaches in the upcoming Super Bowl are brothers? It's true! This will be the dominant theme in the run-up to the big game, and the Harbaugh family, Jackie, Jack and sister Joani, had a conference call this morning. ("John from Baltimore" crashed the call, asking if it were true that he was the favorite child. Touche, John).

Many of the stories you'll read over the next 10 days were written last November when the Harbaugh brothers met in Baltimore. That includes this one about how the two men really owe their success to each other ...

By Matthew Barrows
The Sacramento Bee
November 24, 2011 - 2:00 AM

BALTIMORE -- Football is a game of inches, and Jim and John Harbaugh have been pushing and tugging over exactly that for more than four decades.

"In my memory, it was always about space -- on the couch, in the back seat of the car," said their younger sister, Joani Crean, who served as a buffer between brothers on family trips. "I just remember Jim would always shove me to John's side and John would shove me down to Jim."

A turf war that began in the back seat of their father's 1962 Chevy Biscayne moves onto a national stage tonight.

That Jim's 49ers and John's Ravens lead their respective divisions already makes for a good football game. The fact that they are the first head-coaching brothers to meet in the NFL -- and are doing so on Thanksgiving -- makes for a compelling family drama.

Joani and her parents, Jack and Jackie, are in Baltimore today for a gathering of the extended Harbaugh family, and they hope to get together with the brothers for a brief moment before the game. After that, they'll head for cover.

Said Jack Harbaugh, who coached football at the high school and college level for 43 years and encouraged his sons' competitive instincts: "We're going to find a basement somewhere, a nice dark basement somewhere with no lights and maybe a couple of Bud Lights."

More than 335 sets of brothers have played professional football at the same time, from the Abiamiris (Rob and Victor) to the Zolls (Marty, Carl and Dick). Thirteen sets are playing this year. That includes identical twins Mike and Maurkice Pouncey they both play center and the Gronkowskis. Rob Gronkowski plays tight end for the Patriots. Chris is a fullback for the Colts. Another brother, Dan, also played tight end for New England but was released this month.

January 23, 2013
Alex Smith among those impressed by Kaepernick

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Count Alex Smith, the man who lost his job to Colin Kaepernick, among those impressed by what the second-year quarterback has accomplished in the last nine games. And it's not just the quarterback's athleticism and play-making ability, Smith said.

"I knew that, I think guys around here knew that," Smith said of Kaepernick's big arm and fast feet. "It's the lack of young mistakes that has really jumped out at me. Most young guys come in - yeah, they show flashes and they think they can play good at times. But then they also seem to have those young moments as well, you know, rookie moments and kind of bone-headed things. And he hasn't done it. He's played good ball. He's really played patient and played smart."

Smith, of course, was in the midst of his best season and had led the 49ers to a 6-2 record when he suffered a concussion Nov. 11. Kaepernick had a stunningly successful performance the following week against Chicago, and the week after that Jim Harbaugh decided to stick with Kaepernick over a healthy Smith.

How does Smith feel about watching another quarterback lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl? His feelings are mixed.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little bittersweet," he said. "Yeah, I want to be out there. It's what you work for coming into the season. That was the mindset, that was the goal for me. But at the same time, it is a team sport and these are my teammates. You go through so much together, especially these guys who have been here for a chunk of time. If you can't be happy, there's something wrong with you."

Smith also noted that he got the starting job at Utah after starter Brett Elliott got hurt in 2003 and that it would be hypocritical of him to fume over how things transpired this season. Smith led the Utes to a win over Cal - he had 71 rushing yards and touchdown - the following week that season and never relinquished the starting job until declaring for the NFL draft. The 49ers made him the No. 1 pick.

"It's the nature of sports, you know?" he said of Kaepernick's rise. "Yeah, he got an opportunity, stepped up and made the most of it. That's the deal."

-- Matt Barrows

January 23, 2013
Brooks on the sideline as 49ers begin Super Bowl preparations

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The 49ers went through a light practice under threatening skies today. The only two players who didn't appear to be practicing were outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (shoulder) and tight end Garrett Celek (foot). Brooks left Sunday's game for a few plays in the first quarter. He returned and had three critical plays - two batted passes and a knock-down of quarterback Matt Ryan that injured Ryan's shoulder.

Clark Haggans, who is one of two 49ers to have won a Super Bowl (Steelers), entered when Brooks was on the sideline. The other 49er with a Super Bowl ring is center Jonathan Goodwin (Saints).

Meanwhile, practice squad receiver Ricardo Lockette - perhaps the fastest player on the 49ers' roster - is playing the role of Ravens speedster Torrey Smith in practice. A former track star at Fort Valley State, Lockette ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL combine, which matched the fastest time by a wide receiver.

Chad Hall, who stands 5-8, is portraying Anquan Boldin, who had a string of big games against the 49ers when he was with the Cardinals earlier in his career. Boldin also had a strong game in the Ravens' 16-6 win over the 49ers last year. He led all receivers with four catches for 63 yards.

- Matt Barrows

January 23, 2013
NFL socks it to Frank Gore, fines him $10,500

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Frank Gore's calves were too much for the NFL's fashion police.

The league fined Gore $10,500 for wearing his socks too low during Sunday's NFC Championship game, his second such violation of the year. The fine was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Gore certainly had a lot of camera time Sunday. He led all rushers with 90 yards and scored two touchdowns, including the 49ers' go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

He also will come out well ahead as far as money. He and the rest of the 49ers earned $40,000 bonuses for Sunday's victory. If they win on Feb. 3, they will get $88,000. The losers get $44,000.

-- Matt Barrows

January 23, 2013
The first battle: Harbaugh vs. Super Bowl media

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In a typical week, Jim Harbaugh will address the media four times: After Sunday's game, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Friday session is typically brief and there usually are only a handful of reporters present.

Those quaint settings are no more. Harbaugh is scheduled to address the Super Bowl media every day save Saturday next week beginning when the 49ers arrive in New Orleans Sunday. That's a lot for a man who once ran from reporters following his Orange Bowl victory and who tends to be, at best, terse during his press conferences. (To be fair, Harbaugh also can be charming and witty, but there's about a 1:3 ratio between Charming Jim and Prickly Jim).

All of which sets up an interesting battle between Harbaugh and hundreds of reporters determined to reveal something - anything - from him in the run-up to the Super Bowl.

SUPER BOWL XLVII TEAM MEDIA AVAILABILITY SCHEDULE
The Super Bowl XLVII media availability schedule in New Orleans for the AFC Champion Baltimore Ravens and NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, beginning on Sunday, January 27, 2013, is as follows:

Sunday, January 27 (all times local to New Orleans - CT)
7:30 pm (approx.) Arrival of San Francisco 49ers charter at New Orleans International Airport (photo opportunity).
8:30 pm (approx.) San Francisco 49ers - Media availability with head coach Jim Harbaugh, followed by quarterback Colin Kaepernick and four-six players at the New Orleans Marriott.

January 23, 2013
Report: Case against Crabtree is weak

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The allegation of sexual assault against 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree appears to be flimsy, according to a report in today's San Francisco Chronicle.

The paper cited a law enforcement source in reporting that two other women who were with Crabtree at the W Hotel in San Francisco after the team's Jan. 12 playoff game said the alleged assault didn't occur. San Francisco police also did not find any evidence of a physical attack, according to the report.

Crabtree has been cooperating with police and was interviewed Friday before the team left for Atlanta. He has not been charged.

Crabtree, 25, started the contest and finished with six catches for 57 yards. He fumbled at the goal line, but the mistake did not end up costing his team, which took its first lead on the next possession. Crabtree was San Francisco's top pass catcher this year, becoming the first 49er with more than 1,000 receiving yards since Terrell Owens in 2003.

The report said police chief Greg Suhr  said he hoped the investigation would be complete in 10 days - that is, before the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 3.

- Matt Barrows

January 22, 2013
Film review: Brooks, Kaepernick, Davis shine; would Ault get a ring?

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I just finished watching the replay of the NFC Championship game (Spoiler: 49ers won). Here are some observations as the team begins preparing for the Ravens.

I wish Terry McAulay and his crew were working the Super Bowl. Yes, you can argue - and Jim Harbaugh certainly did, with Shakespearean flair - that Harry Douglas didn't have control of the ball on the challenged, 22-yard pass play on the Falcons' penultimate drive. But the officials mostly stayed in the background, which is the mark of a good crew.

There were only six penalties, two of them delay-of-game calls against the 49ers. There was only one "ticky tack" penalty, and it went against the Falcons - the illegal hit when A Falcons defender raked Colin Kaepernick's facemask.

Otherwise, McAulay and co. let the teams play a physical game, which didn't give either a decided advantage. The Falcons wide receivers and tight end got away with push offs. The 49ers defensive players got away with big hits on the quarterback, including a sliding tackle by Patrick Willis in which the linebacker tackled Matt Ryan around the neck and helmet. No, I don't think it should have been a penalty. But in a day and age in which quarterbacks are treated like Faberge eggs, it certainly could have been called.

January 21, 2013
Notes: Hall hasn't leap-frogged Jenkins at WR, Harbaugh says

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers fans watching Sunday's NFC Championship Game may have done a double-take on Colin Kaepernick's third-quarter pass to No. 14 -- wondering who No. 14 was. That was Chad Hall, the wideout activated from the practice squad Saturday to fill the roster spot created when the 49ers waived kicker Billy Cundiff. Kaepernick targeted Hall on a 3rd and 5 play with 5:55 left in the third but the pass fell incomplete.

Rookie wideout A.J. Jenkins, meanwhile, was one of two active 49ers players to not get into the game (quarterback Alex Smith was the other). Jenkins, the 30th overall pick in the last draft, does not have a catch in his rookie season. But head coach Jim Harbaugh said today that doesn't mean Hall, who has previous game experience with the Eagles, leap-frogged Jenkins on the 49ers' receiver depth chart.

"We had a specific play that we felt Chad would be very good at," Harbaugh said. "And that play got called in the game."

Harbaugh added: "A.J. was ahead of Chad on the depth chart had something happened to Michael (Crabtree) or Randy (Moss)."

* Harbaugh stood by his challenge of a fourth-quarter completion from Matt Ryan on Harry Douglas, on which he argued the ball hit the ground before Douglas secured the catch. Douglas stumbled before making the catch on a 3rd and 2 play from midfield that gained 22 yards. Harbaugh challenged the play and was livid when officials upheld the ruling, jumping in disbelief and knocking off his own headset.

The 49ers ultimately held the Falcons on 4th and 4 from the San Francisco 10 to preserve the win. Still, after comparing the replay with the explanation he received from officials during the game, Harbaugh said, "Definitely think it was a worthy challenge."

* One more note: Harbaugh was asked whether he ever dreamed of coaching in the Super Bowl, especially in light of his father Jack's long coaching resume that included stops at Michigan under Bo Schembechler and as a successful head coach at Western Kentucky.

"No, don't think I had that dream," Harbaugh said. "But I will share this with you: Just the way Colin Kaepernick runs, the gracefulness of his stride, the ground that he covers, it reminds me of me when I run. And then I wake up."

-- Matt Kawahara

January 21, 2013
Jim Harbaugh: Super Bowl match-up 'a blessing and a curse'

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh today described the upcoming Super Bowl meeting between the 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, coached by his brother John, as a "blessing and a curse." It's the first time that two head-coaching brothers will meet in the Super Bowl, and Jim Harbaugh is already aware -- perhaps drawing from the experience of the Thanksgiving 2011 meeting between these two teams -- just how much attention that storyline is going to draw over the next two weeks.

"(It's) a blessing because that is my brother's team," Harbaugh said. "And also personally I played for the Ravens, have great respect for their organization, worked with (general manager) Ozzie Newsome and (former owner) Art Modell, his love and passion for the National Football League. Know many of the Baltimore Ravens players and have great respect for them and their team and I'm happy for them. Happy for us that we've made it to this point.

"The curse part would be the talk of two brothers playing in the Super Bowl, and what that takes away from the players that are in the game. Every moment that you're talking about myself or John, that's less time that the players are going to be talked about."

Harbaugh said he'll try to answer "as few as possible" questions when the teams get to New Orleans about the brother angle.

"I can choose to take the approach that this is our football team and we have to do what's best for our football team to win the next game," he said. "Our focus is always that, so it's easy to do that. The next game is the biggest game. The opponent we're playing is the opponent. We have to prepare. It doesn't matter who the coach is, what relationship you have with somebody on the opposite side. You're trying to beat them. That'll be my approach."

* Harbaugh indicated in no uncertain terms that David Akers is the 49ers' kicker going forward. Akers made just 69 percent of his field goals in the regular season, won an open practice competition at the beginning of the playoffs to keep his job, but missed his lone attempt from 38 yards on Sunday against Atlanta.

"The decision's been made," Harbaugh said. "David Akers is our kicker."

If the 49ers were looking for kicking help, they would not be able to return to the man they had in camp just last week. CSN Bay Area reported earlier today that league rules stipulate that because Billy Cundiff was waived during the playoffs, he is ineligible to join any team until after the Super Bowl.

-- Matt Kawahara

January 21, 2013
49ers hold off Falcons, can't hold back emotions after win

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Sunday's come from-behind-win had some players dancing wildly in the middle of the locker room and left others quietly wrestling with their emotions in front of their lockers.

Jed York, the young owner whose tenure has corresponded with the team's turnaround, discreetly walked through the room, shaking hands along the way. Asked how he handled the tug and pull of a game that saw Atlanta jump out to a 17-0 start, York's eyes filled.

"Down 17-0, my son was with me. Picked him up," he said, his voice trailing off for a few seconds. ". .... held him for our first touchdown, and I knew we were going to win."

"That's what it's about," York continued. "It's about family, and I think of this as a family."

That was the mantra of the team's former owner, and York's uncle, Eddie DeBartolo, with whom York is close. San Francisco's trip to New Orleans is the franchise's first Super Bowl berth since DeBartolo relinquished control of the team to his sister, Denise DeBartolo-York, and her husband, John York. DeBartolo Jr, of course, won five Super Bowls with the 49ers, and he's currently a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Players who had been in the league the longest seemed to have the hardest time reconciling what had happened on the Georgia Done field. Frank Gore, who arrived in 2005 and had played on non-winning teams until 2010, had to cut off his interview. "I'm done," he said to a half dozen camera spread around him. Still in uniform even though the game handed ended an hour earlier, Gore stared straight ahead for several more minutes.

Justin Smith also was part of those bad 49ers squads as well as a 2-12 in Cincinnati team after he first joined the league. Smith has been one of the emotional tone setters for the team. On Sunday he was struggling between celebrating a trip to the Super Bowl and reminding himself there's still work to be done.

"Definitely toward the end of the my career, getting a win like this," Smith said. " It's an awesome feeling. ... It's unbelievable. You've got to win it, or else it's all for nothing. So the pressure's really on us."

- Matt Barrows

January 20, 2013
What? Me worry? 49ers stick to plan, stick it to Falcons

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ATLANTA - Their fans may have been pulling out their hair when the 49ers fell behind by 17 points and losing bucketfuls of sweat as the Falcons drove toward a go-ahead score with two minutes to go.

But the 49ers insist they never cracked and never veered from their game plan.
"Cool, calm and collected," said defensive end Justin Smith.

"We don't fold under pressure," said tight end Delanie Walker.

"It's hard to break us," said running back Frank Gore.

Indeed, for the second straight week the 49ers showed impressive resilience and bounce-back ability, coming back from a 17-point, second-quarter hole - the biggest deficit ever in the NFC Championship game - and then staving off a final, frantic drive by a Falcons team that had won in dramatic, last-minute fashion the week before.

The 28-24 win sends the 49ers to New Orleans with a chance to tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for an NFL-best six Super Bowl victories. It's the 49ers' first trip to the Super Bowl since 1995.

"It's all about believing who's on your team," linebacker Aldon Smith said. "If we didn't do that, we could have pushed the panic button. But we believe in each other and know what we're capable of. And we know our goals."

January 20, 2013
Death from above: Davis provides lift, but 49ers can't slow Atlanta air attack

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There's been a Vernon Davis sighting in Atlanta, and Mr. January has helped turn what seemed like a Falcons runaway into a 10-point contest.

The 49ers tight end, who has virtually disappeared from the San Francisco offense since a Nov. 19 game against the Bears, has four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in the first half of a 24-14 game. Davis, of course, was the team's offensive MVP in the playoffs a year ago, accounting for four touchdowns and 292 yards.

The 49ers desperately need an uptick in offensive production considering their defense has allowed The Falcons to score on four of their five offensive possessions.

Davis' big-play counterpart on the Falcons has been wide receiver Julio Jones, who has seven catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. A broken coverage allowed Jones to get free on a 46-yard touchdown pass in the first half. He was well-covered by Tarell Brown on another score, but grabbed the ball in the corner of the end zone and got both feet in bounds.

Jones also snatched away an interception opportunity by safety Dashon Goldson in the opening quarter. Goldson had a chance for two interceptions in last year's NFC Championship game, but both fell harmlessly incomplete in a game in which the 49ers did not have a single takeaway.

January 20, 2013
Crabtree active in Atlanta ... and so is newcomer Hall

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Michael Crabtree is active for the 49ers, and so is recently promoted wideout Chad Hall. Crabtree, of course, was interviewed in connection with an alleged sexual assault last week in San Francisco. He has not been charged, and his presence in today's game never was in doubt.

Hall was on the practice squad at this time yesterday. The 49ers promoted him largely because of a league rule that requires players with three years on the practice squad, such as Hall, to move up to the 53-man roster when there is an opening. The 49ers had an opening after releasing Billy Cundiff last week.

After Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham were lost for the season with ACL tears, the 49ers had been activating just four wide receivers on game day. Today they will have five.

The other 49ers inactives are: Scott Tolzien, Jewel Hampton, Ca, Johnson, Joe Looney, Trenton Robinson, Tony Jerod-Eddie and IanWilliams.

For the Falcons, defensive end John Abraham will start as expected. Abraham was injured in last week's divisional playoff game and is listed as questionable. The Falcons inactives: QB Dominique Davis, WR Tim Toone, G Phillipkeith Murray, G Harland Gunn, T Lamar Holmes, DE Lawrence Sidbury and DT Travian Robertson

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Tight end Delanie Walker, who had two prominent drops last week against Green Bay, said he spent the week of practice honing his hands, a process that included catching 500 passes from the JUGs machine.

Interestingly, he said he made sure rookie wideout A.J. Jenkins, who dropped his only pass attempt of the season, joined him.

"Every time defense was up (in practice), I run to the JUGs machine," Walker said. "I even brought A.J. with me because he's going to be a key factor this year, I mean, in this game -- making sure he's catching balls with me. Really, that's what we need. We need guys to make plays when they come to them. I consider me one of the playmakers here."

Walker played receiver in college and was an excellent pass catcher when he arrived in 2006. However, he said that his main focus since has been becoming a better blocker, and that his receiving skills may have suffered because of it.

"My mindset was just focused on becoming a better blocker, year by year and I stopped thinking about catching the ball because everyone said I couldn't block. So I think I became so good of a blocker, I forgot how to catch the ball. ... I've got to get back to my old self."

- Matt Barrows

January 20, 2013
Chat live: Matt Kawahara hosts 49ers-Falcons game chat

January 20, 2013
49ers promote Chad Hall to active roster; move not related to Crabtree

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The 49ers filled Billy Cundiff's former roster spot with practice-squad wideout Chad Hall. The 49ers acquired Hall (5-8, 187 pounds) in November. He has regular-season experience with the Eagles having played both receiver and running back and having returned punts.

The move comes on the heels of the news that wideout Michael Crabtree was interviewed in connection with an alleged sexual assault on Friday. While the 49ers are short on wideouts -- with Hall, they now have five on the active roster -- the two storylines are unrelated.

Instead, under league rules someone like Hall, who has been on a practice squad for three seasons, must be elevated to the active roster if there is an opening on game day. You might recall that Hall was briefly released from the practice squad earlier this season when the 49ers had a similar roster opening on game day. He was re-acquired at the beginning of the next week, allowing the 49ers to circumvent the league rule.

-- Matt Barrows

January 19, 2013
Crabtree attorney: Receiver cooperating with investigators

Michael Crabtree's San Carlos-based attorney issued a statement on Saturday saying that his client has cooperated with investigators regarding an alleged sexual assault last weekend and that "we have confidence in the process."

"Michael Crabtree voluntarily met with the San Francisco Police Department and provided a statement," Joshua Bentley wrote. "... Out of respect and integrity for the process, we have no further comment at this time."

According to the 49ers, Crabtree is in Atlanta and will play in Sunday's NFC Championship game. Crabtree is the team's leading receiver -- the first 49er to surpass 1,000 receiving yards since 2003 -- and he had two touchdowns and 119 yards last week against Green Bay. The alleged assault occurred in a San Francisco hotel early Sunday morning, hours after the 49ers had beaten the Packers.

-- Matt Barrows

January 18, 2013
Crabtree interviewed in connection with SF sexual assault

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Receiver Michael Crabtree was interviewed by police in connection with an alleged sexual assault that occurred early Sunday morning in San Francisco, according to a statement by the San Francisco Police Department.

The alleged assualt took place in a city hotel room following the 49ers divisional playoff win over the Green Bay Packers. Crabtree had 119 receiving yards in that game and scored two touchdowns.

The statement said Crabtree was interviewed with his attorney present and has cooperated with the probe. The receiver hasn't been detained or arrested, and he agreed to be available for further questions in the future. The incident is being investigated by the department's Special Victims Unit.

The 49ers released a statement from general manager Trent Baalke. "We are aware of the allegation against Michael and understand that he has fully cooperated with authorities," Baalke said. "The 49ers take such matters very seriously. We will have no further comment at this time as the legal process is ongoing. Additional requests for comment should be directed to Michael's attorney."

The 49ers flew to Atlanta, where they will play the Falcons in the NFC Championship game, earlier this afternoon. Crabtree is in Atlanta and is expected to play on Sunday.

-- Matt Barrows

January 18, 2013
Harbaugh transcript: "I don't give speeches. I give information."

Here's Jim Harbaugh's final press conference of the week. Transcript courtesy of the 49ers public relations staff:

JH: "I can tell by the audience that we've probably ploughed through all the ground there is to plough through."

You don't want to answer any questions today?
JH: "No, I didn't say that. I said judging by the sparseness of the crowd, we probably have covered everything."

Keeping the farming reference going, have you guys, is the hay in the barn at this point?
JH: "No. No. We try to take the approach that it's never in the barn"

How would you characterize the week? How things went? Were you happy with the way everything went?
JH: "Really happy. Really happy. Our Wednesday, our Thursday practices were outstanding. Our Friday practices have been really good the last three, four weeks. I think today was as good as those, or better. So, good preparation."

Looks like you guys have been finishing early? Have you been working through the script with a good tempo?
JH: "Yeah, we have been working at a very good tempo. And we had a couple extra ones today. There was a few times when a defensive player's asked to have the play repeated because they wanted to get it right. And I thought that was good, taking ownership on their part."

January 18, 2013
Ain't that a kick: 49ers waive Cundiff

The 49ers' kicking battle is officially over.

The team this afternoon announced it had waived Billy Cundiff, who was brought in 17 days ago to compete against struggling David Akers. Akers won the right to kick against the Packers and apparently has had the better week of practice leading into Sunday's game against the Falcons.

Akers made his only field-goal attempt -- from 36 yards -- against Green Bay, but he didn't have any long or pressure-filled attempts. Akers (69 percent) has been wobbly from beyond 40 yards this year.

Cundiff's release means the 49ers have only 52 players on the roster. Under Jim Harbaugh, the team has preferred to promote a player from the practice squad rather than sign a free agent from outside.

-- Matt Barrows

January 18, 2013
Harbaugh: Randy Moss would be welcomed back for 2013

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Jim Harbaugh says he plans to ask Randy Moss to stick around one more year, and Moss' teammates said they want the veteran receiver back, too.

"I, for one, definitely want Randy to come back," Harbaugh said today. "Hope he feels the same way." Moss, however, said he hasn't decided yet on another year. "We'll know once the season's over, bro," he said at his locker.

The 35-year-old wideout signed a one-year deal a year ago. He began the season as part of a receiver rotation that also included Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams. ACL tears, however, knocked Williams and Manningham out for the season, and Moss has had an increasingly large role as the wideout opposite Crabtree.

Moss finished the regular season with 28 catches, 434 yards and averaged 15.5 yards a reception, second only to Delanie Walker's 16.4-yard average. He had two catches for 25 yards against the Packers on Saturday.

January 18, 2013
Live chat, Sunday: Talk about 49ers-Falcons game while it's being played

If you are looking to discuss the 49ers-Falcons NFC Championship game while it's being played, join our live chat, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., an hour before kickoff on Sunday, and running throughout the contest.

The Bee's Matt Kawahara hosts.


January 18, 2013
Live chat: Matt Barrows previews 49ers-Falcons playoff game, 11 a.m.

The 49ers are one victory away from returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. To get there, they must defeat the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game on Sunday.

With so much on the line, there's plenty to talk about. Join Matt Barrows at 11 a.m. today for a live chat to discuss the game and how it might turn out.

January 17, 2013
Harbaugh transcript: from Chris Berman to Barney the dinosaur

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Thanks to Matt Kawahara's speedy transcriptionist skills, here's the media session with Jim Harbaugh from earlier today. Prepare to be riveted:

Q: Any interesting guests this week?
A: "Uh...no."

Q: Sometimes you do.
A: "Yeah, sometimes. Ah, Chris Berman was here yesterday. He said a few words to the team."

Q: How do you feel about the preparation this week?
A: "It's been good."

Q: Justin Smith said the feeling is a little different this year. Do you agree?
A: "As I said, the preparation's been good. Not gonna attempt to dissect the attitude of every single guy. We'll do what we always do, and speak for myself. Pack a toothbrush and a great attitude and get ready to play football."

Q: Your Dad advised you "get ahead and stay ahead." Is that a new one?
A: No, he's said that one often, going back several years. Breaks it down Barney-style. Great advice.

Q: He let you interpret "get ahead" however you want?
A: "Yeah."

Q: When did you start looking at the Falcons in earnest?
A: "In earnest, after they won the game."

Q: Didn't start much before that?
A: "Yeah, there was computer breakdowns on all the possibilities, all the possible teams we could play if we advanced. That's a standard element to our preparation."

Q: Did you save Frank Gore a bit for the playoffs?
A: "No.Every week, we were going into it as that game being the most important game. I wouldn't say there was an eye toward the playoffs on that, specifically, with Frank."

Q: How important is it to have him playing healthy and fresh?
A: "It's very exciting to hear. I know that Frank has mentioned that a few times this week, a few times last week, that he feels great. Body feels great, his mind feels good. There's great attitude. So, that's a real positive for us."

Q: Happy with how LaMichael James has stepped in?
A: "Yeah, we're all happy with the way LaMichael has stepped in and has really given us a boost. It's been good."

January 17, 2013
49ers notes: Falcons defense feels it's well-prepared for Kap attack

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Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson said he and his teammates are confident they can stop Colin Kaepernick this weekend despite struggling against other mobile quarterbacks earlier this season. Seattle's Russell Wilson, for instance, threw for 385 and two touchdowns and ran the ball seven times for 60 yards on Sunday. Carolina's Cam Newton had 202 rushing yards in two games against the Falcons.

"I think we've done some good things against the running quarterbacks," Robinson said on a conference call. "We've been hurt by some running quarterbacks, and we've done some good things against some running quarterbacks. If we want to continue to play, if we want to continue to be the team we know we can be, then this is the time for us to stand up on Sunday and do whatever it takes to get this win."

Despite giving up yardage, the Falcons went 3-1 against Wilson, Newton and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III this year. The lone loss came against Newton's Panthers in Carolina. Atlanta knocked Griffin out of the game in Washington with a concussion on Oct. 7.

Robinson said Kaepernick was most like Newton and that he presented an additional challenge because the 49ers offensive line is so talented.

January 17, 2013
Jags raid Seahawks', not 49ers', staff for their head coach

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Will the 49ers go into Year 3 of the Jim Harbaugh era with their original coaching staff mostly in place?

That possibility grew stronger this morning when the Jaguars hired a prominent NFC West coordinator for their head-coaching job, but not 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Instead Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell tapped Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to replace Mike Mularkey.

Bradley spent the last four seasons in Seattle, and his defense, which features physical cornerbacks and outstanding safeties, finished first in points allowed per game (15.3) and fourth in yards allowed (306.2). Bradley also was believed to be a favorite of the Eagles before Oregon coach Chip Kelly had a change of heart and decided to accept the Philadelphia job.

Roman, meanwhile, was roommates with Caldwell at John Carroll University where Caldwell was a linebacker and Roman was a defensive lineman. The 49ers will be in Atlanta this weekend, which is only a short plane flight to Jacksonville. Furthermore, Roman's offense also was on display this past weekend, setting a 49ers franchise record for yards gained (579) in a postseason game.

Last year, the 49ers only lost one assistant coach, offensive quality control coach Bobby Engram, who took a job as the receivers coach at the University of Pittsburgh.

Another Roman acquaintance, San Diego general manager Tom Telesco, hired former Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to be the Chargers head coach. Telesco also played alongside Roman at John Carroll University. The only team that hasn't filled its vacancy is the Cardinals. Arizona has interviewed five candidates to this point.

The 49ers will play the Jaguars in London on Oct. 27.

- Matt Barrows

January 16, 2013
49ers list 14 on injury report; Staley not one of them

The three players wearing black jerseys today - cornerback Tarell Brown, fullback Brice Miller and linebacker Aldon Smith - were listed as limited participants on the 49ers' practice participation chart.

Another dozen 49ers, including starters Frank Gore (knee) and Alex Boone (knee), fully participated in the practice. Left tackle Joe Staley, who said he was dealing with a bone bruise on his right arm after Saturday's game against Green Bay, is not listed on the report.

Full Participation: G Alex Boone (knee), LB Navorro Bowman (shoulder), TE Garrett Celek (foot), CB Chris Culliver (knee), S Dashon Goldson (shin), LB Tavares Gooden (knee), RB Frank Gore (knee), LB Clark Haggans (shoulder), G Mike Iupati (shoulder), DT Justin Smith (elbow, triceps), LB Patrick Willis (shoulder).

Boone, Culliver and Gore were not listed on last week's final injury report; Carlos Rogers (knee) and Will Tukuafu (neck) were on last week's report but are not listed this week.

Falcons

Limited
DE John Abraham (ankle), DT Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder), CB Christopher Owens (hamstring)

Full Participation in Practice
S William Moore (hand), LB Stephen Nicholas (foot)

Matt Barrows

January 16, 2013
Remember when: Harbaugh reminds players where they came from

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Anytime a 49ers player stands at his locker this week, he comes face-to-face with his former self. Posted above every player's locker is a placard with their high school or junior college picture and some of their recruiting ranking information. Asked about the placards today, head coach Jim Harbaugh said he thought it would be a "fun thing" after having a conversation with several players over their experiences with high school recruitment.

Harbaugh, though, has tapped into his creative side before to motivate players. Last year he handed out blue-collared work shirts with players' first names on them to foster a blue-collar work ethic (the idea was borrowed from his brother John, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens). The 49ers are heading into an NFC Championship Game in which they are favored over the Atlanta Falcons despite having to go on the road.

"I think there's a message behind it," said defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois. "To show you how hard you grinded from high school to the NFL. And he just wants you to grind the same way you did in high school to now."

Harbaugh was quixotic when asked about the meaning behind the pictures, saying: "I think just as far as what it means, it means something different to the beholder that's looking at it. To me as I looked through every single picture of every single guy, I was moved by the eyes. It's always in the eyes. They're cheerful and undefeated. And it was nice to put those up."

Beyond that, players are getting a kick out of seeing what their teammates looked like in their late formative years. A favorite is the picture of 35-year-old receiver Randy Moss, which looks like more like something you'd find in a yearbook than on a recruiting website. Moss appears to be wearing a suit jacket and -- as several players pointed out with glee -- it's a black and white photograph. Above it, somebody wrote on a piece of athletic tape: "B.C. 1202."

"That's saying some years," Jean Francois said.

-- Matt Kawahara

January 16, 2013
Justin Smith: 49ers were giddy last year, all business this year

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Last year at this time, there was a giddy feeling in the locker room. The team had just beaten the Saints in dramatic fashion, and the 49ers suddenly and unbeleivably found themselves within a win of going to the Super Bowl. This year, the 49ers expected to be in the same position, and the atmosphere is all business.

"I think everybody feels it," said defensive end Justin Smith, one of the players who sets the tone for the 49ers players. "The majority of those guys in that locker room were here last year and felt the disappointment. We were so excited after winning the Saints game. I didn't feel the same - like, oh, we did it! and this and that - after the Packers game. And we beat a heck of a team in the Packers."

Other players echoed Smith today.

"This year, it feels like we have a completely different level of confidence," linebacker Larry Grant said. "We know what we're capable of, and we're acting on it this year. Last year, it was still new. We went from a below .500 team to the best in the NFC last year or damn near the best year in the NFC. This year we understand things a little bit more."

One of Smith's themes, which began in the spring, has been windows of opportunity and how the 49ers must take advantage of them while they're open. The veteran defensive end is a case in point - playing with abandon Saturday against Green Bay despite a partially torn triceps tendon in his left arm.

Smith today said he came out of the game well and that, with a game under his belt, he should be even more comfortable Sunday against the Falcons. Smith is playing with a 16-ounce brace made of hollowed carbon fiber on his left arm. To read more about the brace, click here.

"It's a love-hate relationship right now," he said of the brace, which restricts movement at the elbow. ". ... It's doing its job. It felt pretty strong, and like I said, doing anything a second time is better than the first time. So I expect it will be a lot better, a lot more comfortable and everything."

- Matt Barrows

January 15, 2013
Nolan on Kaepernick: He's a game-wrecker

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Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan today said that he thought Colin Kaepernick was more like Carolina's Cam Newton than the quarterback Atlanta faced - and struggled with - on Sunday, Seattle's Russell Wilson.

"He's got great open-field speed," Nolan said of the 49ers quarterback during a session with Atlanta-area reporters today. "He's probably as fast as any of those guys in the open field. He's elusive like the other guys. But he's a bigger target. I think that Greg Norman (sic), the offensive coordinator, does an outstanding job of utilizing the players' strengths. It's the same thing he did in college - I'm talking about the quarterback - it's what he did."

Continued Nolan: "I actually think it's been two years running where they've probably been doing those same things in practice with him, so that when he got the opportunity to play he would be using those (skills). ... He's a game-wrecker as we would call him. He's a good player."

Nolan and 49ers coordinator Greg Roman presumably are competing for head-coaching jobs this season. To be fair, Nolan got Roman's name right later in the session, so we can chalk his mistake up to a slip of the tongue, not disrespect.

Of course, Nolan's Falcons had just as hard a time against Newton and the Panthers this year as they did against Wilson. The teams split the season series - it was one of just three Atlanta losses - and Newton rushed for 202 yards in the two games.

January 15, 2013
Chat live during 49ers-Falcons game, beginning 11 a.m. Sunday

Living rooms and bars hold only so many people, and we guess there are so many opinions that will arise during the NFC Championship game between the 49ers and Atlanta Falcons that one room can't hold them all.

We, on the other hand, can. If you join our live chat beginning at 11 a.m. and running throughout the game, you'll be able to tell a whole lot of people why the game is working out the way it is. And they can tell you.

Matt Kawahara -- the Sacramento Bee reporter who wrote that great piece on Colin Kaepernick last Friday -- will host the chat, posting your comments, answering your questions and offering his own take on the game as it unfolds.

Join Matt K. at 11 a.m. for warm-ups and check in throughout the game.


January 15, 2013
Matt Barrows hosts 49ers-Falcons live chat, 11 a.m. Friday

If you're looking to share your thoughts with Matt Barrows about the 49ers and how they will fare in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons, a live chat at 11 a.m. Friday will be your chance.

Matt will offer his insights, listen to yours and answer questions as the 49ers prepare to play for a berth in Super Bowl XLVII.

You can participate through your computer or mobile device.

In the meantime, are you or any of your friends "Kaepernicking"? If we have to tell you what it is, then you haven't been doing it.

If you have, though, and you have pictures of it, please share them with us on the 49ers fan photo gallery.

January 15, 2013
Alex Smith: No beef with Mike Nolan

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Alex Smith says he has no resentment toward the coach that drafted him, Mike Nolan.

Nolan, of course, is now running the Falcons' defense, and he's a candidate for some of the head-coaching openings around the NFL. And if Smith were still the 49ers' starting quarterback, their relationship would be the biggest story of the week.

If you're not familiar, their history goes something like this:

* In 2005, Nolan and then personnel chief Scot McCloughan made Smith the No. 1 player in the draft.

* Four games into the 2007 season, Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard burst through the 49ers offensive line and buried Smith into the Candlestick Park grass, leaving Smith with a Grade 3 shoulder separation.

* Smith tried to play later that season, but the shoulder - which would go on to require two surgeries - did not respond and Smith played terribly.

* Nolan said Smith's arm is fine but questioned his confidence; Smith said he felt undermined in the locker room. The 49ers went 5-11 that season.

Smith today noted that the two spent most of the 2008 season together - Smith missed it because of his second shoulder surgery - and that the relationship mended at that point.

"I think the thing when we had that little - I don't know what you want to call it - the difference is I was still young, I was in my third year," Smith said. "But we had that whole next year where I feel I really grew up a lot, I learned a lot from that entire situation."

"We got along really well after that. I think we both kind of .. I know I saw my fault in it," Smith continued. "But I think we definitely moved on. No hard feelings from me at this point as well. I for sure look back at that as, what could I have done differently as a young player in this league. I sure didn't know that stuff then, but you learn from it. But, yeah, no resentment at all."

- Matt Barrows

January 15, 2013
Golden boys: Kaepernick, Harbaugh make SI cover

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Captain Comeback and Kaptain Bounceback are on the regional cover of Sports Illustrated this week. It's the first time the 49ers have made the magazine's famous cover since ... well, since this time last year. If you'll recall, center Jonathan Goodwin, quarterback Alex Smith, fullback Bruce Miller and tailback Frank Gore were featured after beating the Saints in the divisional round.

There are a couple points to be made here. The first is that the two covers illustrate - pun intended - just how much the 49ers have changed in a year. The 2012 cover not only has Smith at quarterback, it has the 49ers in a very traditional backfield formation. The 2013 cover is all about Kaepernick, a most un-traditional quarterback, and the story by Austin Murphy zeroes in on Jim Harbaugh's colossal decision to play Kaepernick over Smith earlier this year.

Another point: The national attention and praise the 49ers are getting this year fits a pattern, and it's not a good one for San Francisco. It seems that whenever the 49ers have won a momentous, prime-time game this year - Detroit, at Arizona, at New England - they've received an avalanche of kudos and have jumped to the top of everyone's power ranking (which, by the way, are about as useless as mock drafts).

The same thing is happening this week. The 49ers are favored to win on the road in Atlanta and are every pundit's pick to play in, if not win, the Super Bowl. As every true fan knows by now, the 49ers haven't fared well will a lot of praise on their shoulders. They lost the next game in each of the weeks listed above and usually came out very flat in those games.

It's hard to see them beginning Sunday's game in a such a torpor given the huge stakes involved. But there's something to be said about the team's distinct WWL pattern this year, and to me it's that they are far more comfortable in the role of the underdog.

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Have any pics of you, a spouse, a child, a dog engaged in "Kaepernicking"? If so, The Bee is putting together a gallery and is interested in your pics. Best one gets a free Bee T-shirt. Please log onto http://www.sacbee.com/49ersphotos/ and download them there.

-- Matt Barrows

January 14, 2013
Roof overhead: 49ers readying for Georgia Dome noise

SANTA CLARA -- Corral 70,000 people in a group just about anywhere and you can generate a lot of noise. Put a giant bowl over their heads and you might get something like what the 49ers will experience Sunday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, site of the NFC Championship Game and the fourth indoor game the 49ers will play this season.

The 49ers are 1-2 this year in indoor stadiums, losing at Minnesota and St. Louis and winning at New Orleans. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who will have to communicate across the din, started the latter two of those games.

Offensive tackle Joe Staley said Monday on 95.7 The Game that the Georgia Dome is "a loud stadium just like any of the other domes in the NFL, so we expect that. But we've played well on the road in hostile environments.

"As far as offense, we really prepared," Staley told the radio station. "We took a lot of time throughout the season. It's not just going to be, oh, well, we're playing in a loud environment this week, so we've got to practice just for one week. We've been practicing and preparing for loud environments all season, so we'll be ready to go."

The Falcons are 34-8 at home, including 1-1 in the playoffs, in five seasons under head coach Mike Smith. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Monday the 49ers will take the usual measure of pumping crowd noise into practice this week. Of course, the 49ers wouldn't mind playing another indoor game after Sunday. Super Bowl XLVII will be played at the Superdome in New Orleans.

-- Matt Kawahara

January 14, 2013
Harbaugh on Akers: 'David's our kicker'

SANTA CLARA -- After holding off Billy Cundiff last week in a competition for kicking duties against the Packers, David Akers converted his lone field goal attempt in the 49ers' 45-31 divisional round win -- a 36-yarder that gave San Francisco a 24-21 lead going into halftime. It appears that was enough for Akers to maintain his hold on the job.

Asked today if the two kickers would compete again this week in practice, head coach Jim Harbaugh responded: "David's our kicker." Cundiff, though, remains on the 49ers' roster. The 49ers will be playing indoors Sunday at the Georgia Dome, against the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.

Akers converted 69 percent of his field-goal attempts during the regular season. Four of his 13 misses came in the three games the 49ers played indoors, in which Akers went 5-for-9 on field goals. Two of the misses were blocked attempts -- from 43 yards at Minnesota and from 33 at New Orleans. The others were a 50-yard attempt at New Orleans (wide left) and a 51-yard attempt at St. Louis (wide right). He was 4-of-4 from inside 30 yards and also converted a 33-yard kick at St. Louis.

Akers revealed earlier this season that he had double-hernia surgery last February, and it was after the New Orleans game, in which Akers went 1-for-3, that the 38-year-old flew to Philadelphia for treatment after aggravating the injury.

* Harbaugh said defensive anchor Justin Smith, who played for the first time Saturday since partially tearing his left triceps tendon Dec. 16, made it through the game "about as clean as possible." Smith was on the field for 91 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps (53 of 58).

Harbaugh did not have an update on left tackle Joe Staley, who said Saturday night that he played much of the game with a bone bruise in his forearm. Staley played a big part along with guard Mike Iupati in protecting quarterback Colin Kaepernick from Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and in helping pave the way for the 49ers' 323 rushing yards.

-- Matt Kawahara

January 13, 2013
Running story: Nolan's Falcons have struggled with mobile quarterbacks

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The bad news for the 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick: The Falcons have had good looks at mobile quarterbacks and the read option this season having played Carolina's Cam Newton twice, Washington's Robert Griffin III once and Seattle's Russell Wilson on Sunday.

The good news - Atlanta mostly has done a poor job of stopping them.

Wilson, of course, had a career game against Mike Nolan's unit. He threw for 385 and two touchdowns and ran the ball seven times for 60 yards. Other rushing quarterbacks have had success as well, especially on the ground. Newton ran nine times for 86 yards on Sept. 30. In the rematch on Dec. 9 he had nine carries for 116 yards.

The only rushing quarterback who had a so-so outing was Griffin. He rushed once for seven yards before he was knocked out of the game.

Each of those teams has a mobile passer and has read-option plays in its offense. As the Packers will verify, the 49ers and Kaepernick ran the read option to perfection Saturday. Green Bay could not handle the inside-outside combination of Frank Gore and Kaepernick, and the latter set a record for running yards by a quarterback.

"The execution for the 49ers on the read option was excellent," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "... We did not do a very good job of keeping (Kaepernick) in the pocket. He was able to get out of the pocket for a number of big conversions there in the first half. We weren't able to get off the field and try to make some adjustments in our defensive calls, pass-rushing lanes and so forth. We did not accomplish that.

January 13, 2013
Atlanta it is: 49ers will face Falcons in NFC Championship Game

The 49ers' road to the Super Bowl still runs through Atlanta and the Georgia Dome. The top-seeded Falcons held off the Seattle Seahawks 30-28 in the NFC's other divisional playoff game and will host the 49ers on Sunday at noon in the NFC Championship Game.

It will be the first time the 49ers, who beat the Green Bay Packers 45-31 in the divisional round Saturday night, have faced the Falcons under head coach Jim Harbaugh. The teams' last meeting came on Oct. 3, 2010, a 16-14 Falcons win at the Georgia Dome.

Actually, the 49ers might want to just ignore recent history altogether this week. The 49ers have lost their last five road playoff games, with their last postseason road victory coming in the 1988 season's NFC title game against the Chicago Bears. Their last road playoff game overall was a 31-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 12, 2003.

The Falcons led Seattle 20-0 at halftime before needing a last-minute field goal to win today -- and prevent an all-NFC West conference championship pitting Harbaugh against his arch-nemesis, Pete Carroll.

Instead, the task of figuring out how to defend Colin Kaepernick -- who threw for 263 yards and ran for an NFL quarterback single-game record 181 yards in the win over the Packers -- this week goesto Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who went 18-37 over four seasons as the 49ers' head coach from 2005-08.

-- Matt Kawahara

January 12, 2013
Kaepernick leaves Packers, rushing records in his dust

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SAN FRANCISCO - Colin Kaepernick left the Packers defense in his dust Saturday, and Michael Vick Roger Craig and several old rushing records were back there, too.

The 49ers quarterback opened the game with a worst-case scenario -- an interception that left him sprawled on his stomach swiping at cornerback Sam Shields, who dashed down the sideline for a 52-yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead for Green Bay.

Catastrophe? Not for this quarterback, who's shown a knack for bouncing back from bad plays this season.

He did so so quickly in the 49ers' 45-31 win. Kaepernick scored two touchdowns with his legs - one of them for 20 yards on the possession immediately after his interception -- and two more with his right arm, and he set the NFL's postseason rushing record for a quarterback along the way.

His 181 yards were 62 more than Vick's total in 2005. And they were 46 more than former 49ers running back Craig, who had previously held the 49ers postseason rushing mark from a game in 1989.

The 49ers, who hogged the ball and hammered the Packers defensive line throughout, steamrolled their way 352 yards on the ground, setting team records for both rushing and total yards (579) for the postseason. They ran 75 offensive plays to Green Bay's 56 and held the ball for 38 minutes.

For the second straight season, the 49ers are a win from going to their sixth Super Bowl and will await the winner of today's Seahawks-Falcons game. If it's the Falcons, the 49ers will travel to Atlanta next week. If the Seahawks win, they will visit Candlestick Park, the third - and decisive - meeting between the arch rivals from the NFC West.

January 12, 2013
Kaepernick bounces back from mistakes, 49ers lead by three

For the last two months, Jim Harbaugh has raved about Colin Kaepernick's ability to bounce back.

The second-year passer has done so twice already, responding to bad decisions with touchdowns as the 49ers lead Green Bay 24-21 at the end of the first half. The difference in the game: a 36-yard field goal by David Akers as time expired.

In trouble on 2nd and 6 on San Francisco's opening drive, Kaepernick threw to his left to Vernon Davis. Packers cornerback Sam Shields, however, read the play and stepped in front of Davis for the interception, then scooted past Kaepernick's tackle on his way to a 52-yard touchdown. Kaepernick's dubious decision immediately put a floodlight on Harbaugh's controversial move to replace veteran Alex Smith with Kaepernick earlier this season.

But Kaepernick has shown a knack for coming back from mistakes, and he did so on San Francisco's ensuing drive. The quarterback led the 49ers on an eight-play, 80-yard drive that he capped off himself with a 20-yard touchdown run.

Later in the half, Kaepernick - who has run for 107 yards in the first half - scrambled for a first down inside the red zone. But he threw the ball at the feet of two packers defenders, drawing a 15-yard taunting penalty that virtually negated his gain. The first-half rushing record for a quarterback is 119 by Michael Vick.

January 12, 2013
Cundiff inactive; Justin Smith to start at defensive end

The 49ers, as expected, only have one kicker active for today's game, and that kicker is David Akers. The other kicker on the roster, Billy Cundiff, is one of the seven inactive players as the 49ers open the playoffs today against the Packers.

In the last few games, the only active player who hasn't seen the field for the 49ers has been the backup quarterback, Alex Smith. The 49ers also have question marks at defensive line. Justin Smith will start at his familiar right defensive end position, but he is dealing with a partially torn triceps tendon. How long Smith can play today is unknown.

Also active is defensive end/fullback Will Tukuafu, who is dealing with a neck injury. Tukuafu missed the regular-season finale against the Cardinals.

The other 49ers inactives: QB Scott Tolzien, RB Jewel Hampton, G Joe Looney, S Trenton Robinson, DL Tony Jerod-Eddie and NT Ian Williams.

The inactives for the Packers are: CB Davon House, WR Jarrett Boykin, RB Alex Green, LB Frank Zombo, TE DJ Williams, DT Jordan Miller, DE Jerel Worthy

-- Matt Barrows

January 12, 2013
All-Pro: Score is 49ers 6, Packers 0

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Saturday's early score: 49ers 6, Packers 0.

That's the number of players who made the Associated Press' All-Pro first team. For the 49ers, it was a record haul. Safety Dashon Goldson, guard Mike Iupati, punter Andy Lee, outside linebacker Aldon Smith and inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman all made the list. For Iupati, Goldson and Smith, it was the first time they've been honored as All-Pros.

Last year, kicker David Akers, Bowman, Lee, Willis and defensive lineman Justin Smith made the list. This year, Justin Smith, who missed two and a half games with a triceps injury, was named to the All-Pro second team, as were linebacker Ahmad Brooks and tackle Joe Staley.

"As an organization, we take great pride in the success and recognition of our players," general manager Trent Baalke told the Associated Press. "This type of acknowledgement only comes from hard work and a team-first mentality, which all six of these men exhibit on a daily basis. They play the game the way it was meant to be played, and are very deserving of this honor."

For the Packers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews made the second team.

The 49ers also had more players voted to the Pro Bowl than the Packers by a 9-3 to margin. And evidently, the Packers have been using those discrepancies as motivation in the week leading up to today's game.

Kickoff is at 5 p.m.

First-team All-Pro

January 11, 2013
Thirteen 49ers -- including Justin Smith -- listed as 'probable'

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Thirteen 49ers are on the team's injury report as 'probable' for Saturday's game, including defensive lineman Justin Smith and his tender triceps. Smith was a limited participant in all three full practices this week and is expected to start Saturday at right defensive end.

The other nicked but ready-to-roll 49ers: LB Navorro Bowman (shoulder), CB Tarell Brown (shoulder), TE Garrett Celek (foot), S Dashon Goldson (shoulder), LB Tavares Gooden (ribs), LB Clark Haggans (shoulder), G Mike Iupati (shoulder), RB Bruce Miller (shoulder), CB Carlos Rogers (knee), LB Aldon Smith (shoulder), DT Will Tukuafu (neck) and LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

Tukuafu's injury could mean that Ian Williams is active against the Packers. The conditions of both Tukuafu, who left the Week 16 game against Seattle, and Justin Smith are still fuzzy, and the 49ers may need as many healthy bodies as possible along the defensive line.

For the Packers, receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, both of whom missed a practice earlier this week, practiced in full on Friday.

Out
WR Jarrett Boykin (ankle), DE Jerel Worthy (knee)

Probable
WR Randall Cobb (illness), TE Jermichael Finley (hamstring), RB Alex Green (knee), LB Clay Matthews (knee), LB Dezman Moses (hamstring), WR Jordy Nelson (ankle), RB James Starks (knee)

- Matt Barrows

January 11, 2013
Live chat: Matt Barrows previews 49ers-Packers playoff game, noon

The 49ers' first postseason game of the season is 5 p.m. Saturday against the Green Bay Packers. Matt Barrows will lead a live discussion of that matchup during a live chat at noon today.

January 11, 2013
Brace yourself: The device protecting Justin Smith from further damage

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When I asked Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday how exactly the brace on Justin Smith's left arm will protect him from further damage, he suggested I speak to the brace manufacturer.

So I did.

Smith's brace, made by DonJoy, weighs about 16 ounces, is made of hollow carbon fiber and is very similar to the DonJoy brace being worn by Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis to protect his still-healing triceps. In fact, there's a fraternity of players - Brace Brothers, if you will - wearing one this weekend, which is odd because triceps/elbow injuries have been relatively rare to this point in the NFL.

J.J. Watt, who suffered a dislocated elbow in the offseason, is wearing a DonJoy brace on his left arm. DJO Global representative Brian Moore said other players in the playoffs also are wearing such a brace, but he couldn't provide their names because the fact that they're wearing elbow braces hasn't become public knowledge yet. (Watt has since recovered from his elbow injury but has continued to wear the brace so that his grandmother can better pick him out on the field; As if he needed help in winning defensive player of the year).

Smith's brace, called the CE Elbow Brace, isn't exactly the same as Lewis' and Watts' because each was custom fit to the player's arm. A representative from DonJoy took measurements of Smith's arm and the brace was built within 24 hours. "A lot of times a guy will be injured on Sunday, and the team will want him in a brace Monday," Moore said. "They want it yesterday."

Smith, of course, has a partially torn triceps tendon, which attaches the triceps to the elbow on the back of the arm. The size of the tear - whether it's above or below 50 percent torn - has a huge bearing on everything from how much strength Smith has in the arm to recovery time to his risk of suffering a complete rupture. Harbaugh also declined to discuss the size of the tear.

The brace is designed to limit both the extension and the flexion of the arm, both of which put stress on the triceps tendon. The brace also keeps the upper arm and forearm better aligned. "They don't want that thing to move anywhere but perfectly in track," Moore said.

And while it's virtually indestructible, the brace is not foolproof when it comes to preserving Smith's tendon. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, for example, was wearing a knee brace built on the same principles as Smith's elbow brace when he further damaged his knee Sunday. Smith has said he understands the risks involved.

"There's no guarantee," Moore said. "We're talking about an injury. It's like trying to guarantee that a concussion won't happen while wearing a helmet."

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I'll be hosting a 49ers chat today at noon. All questions -- except: Do you think the 49ers can trade Alex Smith for X -- are welcome. In addition to the 49ers, I'm also knowledgeable about ornithology, land mammals and the Civil War. Www.sacbee.com/live.

- Matt Barrows

January 11, 2013
DeBartolo gets another shot at reaching Hall of Fame

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If at first you don't succeed, try, try again to get Eddie DeBartolo voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That will be the challenge for some voters again this year after meeting resistance last year on the famed 49ers owner who won five Super Bowls and who set a standard for operating a professional sports franchise.

DeBartolo on Friday became one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Hall. Three others, defensive end Charles Haley, linebacker Kevin Greene and guard Larry Allen also played for the 49ers. Semifinalist Roger Craig did not make the cut.

Haley was a fourth-round pick by the 49ers in 1986, and he is the only player in NFL history to have played on five winning Super Bowl teams. Haley twice was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1994) and was voted to five Pro Bowls over his career.

DeBartolo, meanwhile, did not make the cut from 15 to six finalists last year. With so few inductees each year, it has been difficult to vote in non-players. One of the arguments made against DeBartolo in recent years is that, unlike other owners already in the hall of fame, such as late Raiders owner Al Davis, DeBartolo did not have an impact on the formation of the league and merely wrote checks for talented lieutenants like John McVay, Bill Walsh and George Seifert.

January 10, 2013
Reunited? Alex Smith's take on 'head coach' Greg Roman

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What would Alex Smith think about a reunion with head-coach Greg Roman? That possibility grew a bit stronger today, which was new Jaguars general manager David Caldwell's first day on the job. Caldwell did two things: 1.) He fired Mike Mularkey and 2.) He made it as clear as humanly possible that Tim Tebow - you may have heard of him; played some ball down the road in Gainesville? - was not coming to Jacksonville.

"I can't imagine a scenario where he would be a Jacksonville Jaguar," Caldwell said at his introductory news conference.

So you're saying there's no chance?

Those two moves left opening for Roman, who is a former roommate of Caldwell's, to be the head coach and for Smith to perhaps join him in Jacksonville. The Jaguars went 2-14 this season and their quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, averaged a league-low 5.98 yards per pass attempt.

But would the two want to be reunited? After all, Roman is part of the coaching staff that passed over Smith this season in favor of Colin Kaepernick. While Roman has not been asked this question, Smith certainly didn't sound like he held a grudge.

I asked Smith about Roman's qualifications for being a head coach. Here's what he said:

"He's someone I have tremendous respect for in both his work ethic and as a coach. No question, I can see that about him. Everyone has respect for Greg and the way he carries himself."

On Roman's gifts as an offensive coach:

January 10, 2013
Harbaugh sticks with Akers for playoff opener

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David Akers, who is in the midst of the worst season of his 14-career, has held off Billy Cundiff to be the 49ers' kicker on Saturday against Green Bay, Jim Harbaugh announced today. The 49ers signed Cundiff last week after Akers missed field goals from 40 and 44 yards in the regular-season finale against the Cardinals.

"He responded like a football player does," Harbaugh said of Akers and the six-day competition.

Harbaugh said that Cundiff would remain on the 53-man roster but probably would not suit up for the team's playoff opener against the Packers. Akers kicked a record-tying 63-yard field goal in Week 1 in Green Bay, but he has struggled from long distances since. He's missed 11 of 19 kicks from 40 yards or more and has a 69 percent field goal percentage on the season.

Only one full-time kicker, Green Bay's Mason Crosby, fared worse during the regular season.

Cundiff and Akers have been splitting practice repetitions since the 49ers started practicing on Thursday and Friday of last week. Before the Monday practice, Harbaugh said "a leader in the clubhouse" -- presumably Akers -- had emerged. Akers is the only one of the two who has kicked during a game inside Candlestick Park.

Cundiff took his first Candlestick repetitions on Monday afternoon.

- Matt Barrows

January 10, 2013
Four 49ers make PFWA all-star team

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Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America released its all-NFL team today. It includes four 49ers, guard Mike Iupati, linebackers Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis and punter Andy Lee. With the exception of Lee, all those players also were voted to the Pro Bowl.

The Associated Press is expected to release its All-Pro team Saturday.

Offense
QB Peyton Manning / Broncos
RB Adrian Peterson / Vikings
RB Marshawn Lynch / Seahawks
WR Calvin Johnson / Lions
WR Brandon Marshall / Bears
TE Rob Gronkowski / Patriots
C John Sullivan / Vikings
OG Mike Iupati / 49ers
OG Marshal Yanda / Ravens
OT Duane Brown / Texans
OT Ryan Clady / Broncos

Defense
DE J.J. Watt / Texans
DE Cameron Wake / Dolphins
DT Geno Atkins / Bengals
DT Vince Wilfork / Patriots
OLB Von Miller / Broncos
OLB Aldon Smith / 49ers
MLB Patrick Willis / 49ers
CB Richard Sherman / Seahawks
CB Charles Tillman / Bears
S Earl Thomas / Seahawks
S Eric Weddle / Chargers

Specialists
PK Blair Walsh / Vikings
P Andy Lee / 49ers
KR Jacoby Jones / Ravens
PR Leodis McKelvin / Bills
ST Matthew Slater / Patriots

MVP/Offensive MVP -- Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
Defensive MVP-- Texans DE J.J. Watt
Coach of the Year -- Colts offensive coordinator/interim head coach Bruce Arians
Comeback Player of the Year -- Adrian Peterson
Rookie of the Year/Offensive Rookie -- Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
Defensive Rookie of the Year -- Panthers LB Luke Kuechly
Most Improved Player -- Cowboys WR Dez Bryant
Executive of the Year -- Colts GM Ryan Grigson
Assistant Coach of the Year -- Bruce Arians
Golden Toe (Best Placekicker or Punter) -- Vikings PK Blair Walsh

-- Matt Barrows

January 10, 2013
Away game: Cundiff said he'd treat Candlestick as if he were the visitor

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Billy Cundiff says he'll treat Candlestick Park as if he's the visiting kicker if he he's tapped to kick field goals Saturday against the Packers. Cundiff never set foot inside the 49ers stadium until he took some practice kicks Monday, but he said the situation will be no different than what a visiting kicker goes through.

"I've got a lot of practice at that," said Cundiff, who's been kicking since 2002, "and I just have to treat it like any other game."

Candlestick Park is one of the quirkiest venues in the league as far as kicking. It sits on Candlestick Point, which juts out into the San Francisco Bay. That means there are a lot of shifting winds, which are further altered by the oddball configuration of the stands.

Kickers and punters will watch the pre-game fireworks to see which way the resulting smoke blows. Oftentimes it will blow one way, reach another elevation and then start moving in a different direction.

Cundiff said that when he kicked on Monday - during the day - there was no wind but that the balls still drifted toward the scoreboards (the bay) when he kicked. He also said the grass was dry but that punter Andy Lee and holder Brian Jennings said that it tends to gain moisture as the sun goes down. Kickoff is scheduled for just after 5 p.m.

The only other venues Cundiff hasn't played in are Miam's and Denver's. Is he confident he can do it if called upon? "I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe I could do it," Cundiff said.

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As expected, new Jaguars general manager David Caldwell dismissed head coach Mike Mularkey today. As you probably know by now, Caldwell is tight with 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman from their playing days at John Carroll University. Roman can interview with the Jags on Sunday if the 49ers are knocked out of the playoffs Saturday. If they win, he can't interview until the bye week before the Super Bowl.

- Matt Barrows

January 9, 2013
Crabtree seeking playoff opportunities he felt were missing last year

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Immediately after his one-catch performance in the NFC Championship game a year ago, an exasperated Michael Crabtree said he hadn't been given enough opportunities in the narrow loss.

"You've got to give people chances to make plays," Crabtree said in a somber Candlestick Park locker room that night. "You've got to make plays ... Half the time, you ain't going to be open. That's why they call them playmakers. You give them chances. I can't say anything else."

Crabtree hasn't forgotten those words, and he's not backing away from them, either. But the wide receiver has said in recent weeks that he shares responsibility for the loss to the Giants a year ago, and that the failure is very much in the front of his mind as the 49ers return to the playoffs on Saturday.

"With how bad I did last year, in my opinion, I feel like I didn't do what I was supposed to do," he said after the regular-season finale. "I feel like I get another chance. We're back again and ready to win."

Crabtree had one catch for three yards against the Giants. A week earlier against the Saints, he caught a touchdown pass but also had three drops in the game. This year, the wideout has been perhaps the team's most reliable offensive weapon. He's has had the best season of his career, and he became the first 49ers receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003 to surpass 1,000 receiving yards.

What's notable is his connection with Colin Kaepernick.

January 9, 2013
Conditions at Candlestick: grass is thin but footing is stable

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Longsnapper Brian Jennings confirmed what a few photos taken at Candlestick Park earlier this week seemed to suggest: the playing surface for Saturday's game looks a bit bedraggled.

"The footing's good, but the grass is a little thin," said Jennings, who was there on Monday to help new kicker Billy Cundiff acclimate to the new stadium. Cundiff had never set foot inside Candlestick until Monday.

As was the case last season, the 49ers resurfaced the field late in the year. According to Jennings, the team already has played two games on the new grass - vs. Miami on Dec. 9 and vs. Arizona Dec. 30. Jennings noted there was a lot of rain in the month of December and that tarps on the field may have diminished the grass somewhat.

Said Jim Harbaugh of the conditions: "I thought it was ok, yeah. It's not like it is in September. Most grass fields tend not to be as lush in the winter months."

The conditions at Candlestick Park have come under scrutiny after pictures of Cundiff's Monday session appeared on social media and showed more dirt than blades of grass. Poor field conditions at FedEx Field on Sunday are believed to have claimed at least one victim, Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons, who suffered an ACL tear and was placed on injured reserve.

The forecast for Saturday calls for mostly cloudy skies, temperatures around 50 degrees but little chance of rain.

As far as the team's kicking competition, Harbaugh said he wasn't ready to announce who will kick against the Packers, Cundiff or David Akers. He said it's "conceivable" the team wouldn't reveal the winner until 90 minutes before kickoff when the inactive lists are announced.

- Matt Barrows

January 9, 2013
Fangio describes QB Rodgers in near-mythological terms ... again

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The legend of Aaron Rodgers has morphed over the last four months. Here's how 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio described the Packers quarterback on Sept. 6, three days before the 49ers took on the Packers in Green Bay:

"Well, a great way to explain him is he's Drew Brees with great scrambling ability, and actually a little stronger arm. And the guy right now is at the top of his game and many people think he's the best quarterback in the NFL."

And here's what Fangio said about Rodgers Tuesday:

"... he reminds me of Dan Marino in the pocket with his quick, accurate release. And he reminds me of Steve Young out of the pocket. And that's a hell of a tough combination to defend."

How did Rodgers go from Bionic Brees to a half-Dan, half-Steve whose right arm was dipped into the River Styx? Perhaps Fangio was trying to keep his quotes fresh for the beatwriters because he knows we won't get much out of some other prominent figures this week. (See: Harbaugh, Jim; Kaepernick, Colin).

More likely: He wants to pump up Rodgers - to his players, to the media and to Rodgers. The stakes are higher this go around, so the Rodgers myth has to be a bit juicier. Also comparisons to Brees aren't quite as effective now as they were at the beginning of the season. The 49ers beat Brees in New Orleans earlier this year, sacking him five times, holding him to 267 passing yards and returning two interceptions for touchdowns.

Indeed, Fangio's defense faced the Top 5 quarterbacks from the 2011 -- Brees, Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Eli Manning -- and beat all but one of them, Manning.

- Matt Barrows

January 8, 2013
Roman's buddy lands GM job in Jacksonville

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The Jaguars have tabbed Falcons player personnel director Dave Caldwell to be their new general manager, as first reported by FOX's Jay Glazer, and the two sides are working on a deal. Jacksonville is one of the spots where the 49ers' director of player personnel Tom Gamble has interviewed as well.

Caldwell has ties to 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The two were on the same team at John Carroll University in the early 1990s, and one of their first coaching stints was with the Carolina Panthers in 1996. Roman did not have any interview requests last week. "I'm not going to talk about any of that stuff," Roman said. "I'm focused on the Packers coming in."

He did acknowledge his friendship with Caldwell, but said he wouldn't be contacting his former teammate any time soon. "Dave's in Atlanta, and we might end up playing them, so not really talking to Dave right now," he said.

The 49ers' assistants had a one-week window last week to interview for coaching vacancies. None of them, including Roman, is believed to have received an interview request. Roman, of course, could interview if the 49ers lost on Saturday; a 49ers win means the next time he can interview is after the NFC Championship game.

The Jaguars retained head coach Mike Mularkey but gave his assistants permission to interview for other jobs, an indication that Mularkey could be replaced.

Another Roman chum from John Carroll University, Tom Telesco, is a finalist for the San Diego job, which reportedly will be decided tomorrow. If Roman left, the 49ers' top internal candidates would be quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, receivers coach John Morton and offensive line coach Tim Drevno. Stanford's Pep Hamilton also would be a possibility.

- Matt Barrows

January 8, 2013
Roman: confident A.J. Jenkins will perform when called upon

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Seventy one NFL rookies caught at least one pass in the NFL this year. Not one of them is named A.J. Jenkins, who saw one pass go his way during the 2012 regular season -- during Week 17 -- and dropped that opportunity.

Jenkins is one of the bigger unknowns as the 49ers prepare to open the postseason. He was inactive for 11 games this season but certainly will be in uniform Saturday against Green Bay given the 49ers' dearth of wide receivers. After starters Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, the only two wideouts on the 53-man roster are Ted Ginn and Jenkins.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman today said that Jenkins' quiet year was related to opportunity and not ability. Before the season began, Jim Harbaugh said he felt he had five No. 1 wideouts - Crabtree, Moss, Ginn, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams - on the active roster, and Jenkins was buried beneath him.

Still, Harbaugh, Roman and receivers coach John Morton were able to carve out roles for each of those five players - Ginn's, obviously, mostly came on special teams - during the season. They never had one for Jenkins even after Williams and Manningham were lost for the season with injuries.

As a result, the 49ers are left in a situation where they might have to depend on a player who has very little regular-season experience.

"Those are things you have to weigh week to week," Roman said. "Every week, you've got to look at what you have and what gives you the best chance to win. But at the same time with an eye to the future. But we have every confidence that A.J. will perform very well when he gets that opportunity."

Top 10 Rookie receivers

1. Justin Blackmon (JAC) 64, 865 yards
1. Kendall Wright (TEN) 64, 626
3. Josh Gordon (CLE) 50, 805
4 T.Y. Hilton (IND) 50, 861
5. Michael Floyd (ARI) 45, 562
6. Chris Givens (STL) 42, 698
7. Rod Streater (OAK) 39, 584
8. T.J. Graham, (BUF) 31, 322
9. Alshon Jeffery (CHI) 24, 367
10. Ryan Broyles (DET) 22, 310

-- Matt Barrows

January 7, 2013
Harbaugh says one of his kickers has taken the lead

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Jim Harbaugh said "there's a leader in the clubhouse" as far as the two-man competition to be the 49ers' kicker Saturday against the Packers. Then again, he said there's also a "good chance" both David Akers and Billy Cundiff would remain on the roster when the 49ers play Green Bay.

Could both be active, Jim? "That's conceivable," Harbaugh said.

To this point, Akers and Cundiff have practiced only two days - Thursday and Friday. Harbaugh would not reveal who had taken the lead in that competition but indicated that it would continue this week. He said the specialists would head up to Candlestick Park today to kick there. Cundiff seemed like the stronger kicker in the small window of practices that are open to reporters; the vast majority of each session is closed.

Punter Andy Lee, who holds on field goals and extra points, said there have been no wrinkles in practice to this point as far as the kicking battle is concerned. He said the sessions have been held as they normally would, only that the field-goal scenarios have been divided between two players. Cundiff, for example, said he had five attempts in the Thursday practice and made all five.

Akers, of course, has a lot more experience kicking at Candlestick Park, a notoriously windy venue and one with tricky kicking conditions given the oddball configuration of the stands. He's attempted 60 field goals there since 2002, making 48 of them (80 percent). Cundiff, meanwhile, had never set foot in the building until Monday.

Would that give Akers an advantage in the competition?

"We've been weighing as many factors as we can," Harbaugh said. "It's predominantly based on how they're kicking now, head to head."

- Matt Barrows

January 7, 2013
Willis watched in Week 1 game vs. Packers

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When the 49ers played the Packers in Week 1, cornerback Perrish Cox ended up playing more snaps than a perfectly healthy Patrick Willis. That is, the team's no. 4 cornerback was on the field more than a six-time Pro Bowler who is the leader of the defense and the face of the franchise.

The Packers used so many four-receiver sets - and also used wideout Randall Cobb in the backfield - that the 49ers were forced to play their dime defense for most of the game. In that situation, Cox joins fellow cornerbacks Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver on the field, and one of the inside linebackers comes off.

To keep things fair, Willis and NaVorro Bowman (merely a one-time Pro Bowler) ended up rotating as far as who left the game. Cox averaged 7.3 defensive snaps in the other 15 games but played 51 against the Packers. Willis was on the field for 46 snaps; Bowman for 56. Both typically play close to 100 percent of the team's defensive snaps; indeed, that's what makes the 49ers' defense so unique.

Will the 49ers play their most critical game of the season Saturday with their star linebacker frequently watching without his helmet on? That depends on the Packers, who have grown more balanced as the season has gone on. If they continue to dedicate a significant - for them, at least - portion of their offense to the run, Willis will be on the field.

It also may depend on the health of the Green Bay receivers. Starter Jordy Nelson was dealing with a knee injury in the run up to Saturday's game and was last seen hobbling off the field after being tackled.

January 5, 2013
Battle of the Bays II: 49ers different this go around

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When the 49ers and Packers met in Week 1, Colin Kaepernick's lone contribution was a 17-yard run at the end of the half to set up a 63-yard field-goal attempt for David Akers. Kaepernick will have a decidedly bigger role in the rematch.

Green Bay's 24-10 win over Minnesota on Saturday means the 49ers will host the Packers Saturday in a divisional playoff game that starts at 5 p.m. It will be the sixth time the teams have met in the postseason, and the first at Candlestick Park since Terrell Owens caught a touchdown pass from Steve Young as he was crunched by two Green Bay defenders with three seconds left in a Wild Card game in 1999. The Packers lead the postseason series 4-1.

In Week 12, Kaepernick officially took over the 49ers' starting quarterback job from Alex Smith, who was 20-16 for 211 yards with two touchdowns in the 30-22 win at Lambeau Field earlier this year. Smith had a 125.6 passer rating in the game (one of five 100-plus ratings in eight complete games for Smith) and out-dueled friend and former draft-class rival Aaron Rodgers, who had two touchdowns, an interception and a 93.3 rating.

How friendly are they they? Rodgers defended Smith after the quarterback switch had been made in San Francisco. "He's a great quarterback," Rodgers said on NFL Network last month after ticking off Smith's stat line. "He just needs to go somewhere he gets appreciated for the skills he has, and hopefully he gets a chance next year."

There have been other, significant changes since the teams' Sept. 9 meeting.

January 4, 2013
49ers playing odds, warming up for Packers

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The 49ers could face one of three opponents next Saturday. But today they were preparing for one in particular.

When practice began today, practice squad receiver Chad Hall was in a No. 18 jersey while wideout Ricardo Lockette was wearing No. 87. Tight end Garrett Celek, meanwhile, was dressed in a No. 88 jersey. The logical conclusion: The 49ers are getting a head start on preparing for the Green Bay Packers and their offensive weapons Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley.

The 49ers could host the No. 3 seed Packers, the No. 5 Seahawks or the No. 4 Redskins on Jan. 12. Cornerback Tarell Brown said the 49ers spent most of Thursday looking at Washington, the only team of the three San Francisco hasn't played this season. Friday was dedicated to the Packers, whom the 49ers faced in Week 1. The 49ers played the Seahawks twice this year, including on Dec. 23.

Brown said the 49ers haven't done any in-depth work on any of their possible opponents yet. "We just went over the basics, the vanilla - watched their game against us," Brown said of the Packers. "But they're playing a lot better. Their defense is getting a lot of turnovers. Offense is scoring points, as usual. So it will be exciting this weekend to see who comes out with that victory."

The Packers host the No. 6 seed, the Vikings on Saturday.

* Justin Smith was on the field for the second straight day. He's still wearing a brace on his left arm. The brace presumably prevents him from bending his elbow all the way and stretching his partially torn triceps tendon.

* Jim Harbaugh once again was intently watching his kickers during warm-ups. Both David Akers and Billy Cundiff were accurate, but Cundiff seemed to have a little more pop. His kickoffs reportedly were impressive when he tried out earlier this week.

-- Matt Barrows

January 4, 2013
Crabtree's toss costs him $10,500

Michael Crabtree threw a ball into the Candlestick Park stands after his touchdowns Sunday. But the freebies came with a price.

The league this week fined Crabtree $10,500 for the action. Handing or gently tossing balls to fans is permitted. But the league worries that throwing a ball willy nilly into the stands could be a safety issue if fans start leaping over each other and fighting for incoming footballs.

Meanwhile, Aldon Smith was not fined for the block he threw on Cardinals guard - and former 49er - Adam Snyder following a late interception. Snyder had to be helped off the field and Smith was penalized for unnecessary roughness.

***Addendum*** Frank Gore also was fined for throwing the ball into the stands after his rushing touchdown Sunday.

- Matt Barrows

January 3, 2013
Akers says roller coaster year involved sports hernia

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David Akers today said that he would gladly trade his NFL record-tying kick in Green Bay for the potential overtime winners he missed in two games against the Rams.

"It's been disappointing to say the least," Akers said. "Obviously, two games came down to missed kicks. And I hated to be the reason why we tied one and lost another one."

Today was the first day of competition between Akers and Billy Cundiff, the 10-year veteran the 49ers signed Wednesday after Akers missed two more kicks in Sunday's finale against Arizona. Neither man has been told exactly how the competition will work or when it will be decided.

They just know that the player who performs better in practice will be the kicker for the Jan. 12 playoff opener at Candlestick Park. "For me, it's been laid out very clearly," Cundiff said. "It's, 'Go out and practice well. Don't worry about anything else. Just give it your best.' And it's our head coaches decision and the management's decision on who's going to kick."

Akers revealed that his "up-and-down year" began in February with double hernia surgery. He said he recovered well, had a good training camp and then booted the 63-yard field goal in Green Bay in Week 1 that tied a record for the longest field goal ever made.

January 3, 2013
Saddle up: Justin Smith returns to practice

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Justin Smith today was in uniform for the first time since his Dec. 16 triceps injury. Smith, wearing a plastic brace over his left arm, warmed up with his fellow defensive linemen and went through individual drills. It was the defensive lineman's first on-field injury since partially tearing his triceps tendon in the third quarter against New England.

Smith, nicknamed "Cowboy," was voted to his fourth straight Pro Bowl last month. His streak of 185 starts had been the NFL's third longest and the most for a defensive lineman until his recent injury. Smith missed most of the second half against the Patriots and the next two games vs. Seattle and Arizona.

Smith was the team's most dominant player in the postseason last year. He told The Bee last week that he's felt stronger and more confident about his arm as time has gone on and that he would be on the field for the team's Jan. 12 playoff opener. The 49ers will host the Packers, Seahawks or Redskins.

The defensive linemen isn't much of a talker, but he spoke at length in the spring about windows of opportunity and how quickly they can slam shut. Smith noted that a 49ers defense that boasts six Pro Bowlers this year mostly is full of youngsters or players in their prime. Smith, 33, is closing out his 12th season.

"I figure I got three more good years in me, four more good years," Smith said at the time. "I don't want to be the guy that becomes the third-down guy, plays 17 (snaps), I don't want to do that. I'm figuring, let's go.

"Time is of the essence for me, personally," Smith continued. "Not everyone else. We have a young defense. But I think everyone feels the urgency ,and we've got the guys right now. Let's not wait."

- Matt Barrows

January 3, 2013
Snap judgments: A look at 49ers playing time in 2012

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Here are some observations, thoughts about the 49ers' snap count information this year.

* Last year the 49ers' defense was on the field for 1,014 snaps. This year, that number was 1,057. That difference is roughly an additional game's worth of plays, another reason why the bye week was so valuable to a 49ers defense that seemed to flag a bit - at least in Weeks 15 and 16 - toward the end of the season. What accounts for all the additional snaps? The 49ers played two, nearly full-time overtime sessions against the Rams and were on the field for a boggling 92 snaps against the Patriots.

* Running back Frank Gore, who declined at the end of last season, actually played more snaps this year than last, 728 vs. 687. However, he's carried the ball less - 258 carries to 282 last year - and said he feels fresher than a year ago. "I feel a lot better. I feel great," Gore said. "I've got to thank (strength and conditioning coach) coach (Mark) Uyeyama, the training room., just for keeping me healthy. The coaches watching me during the week at practice. And I feel great. I'm ready for the postseason."

* Colin Kaepernick ended up playing more snaps than Alex Smith - 525 vs. 484 - despite playing one fewer complete game. How is that possible? Kaepernick, of course, got a few WildKap plays early in the season and was the quarterback during both overtime periods.

* The 2011 rookie class - Aldon Smith, Chris Culliver, Kendall Hunter, at al. - played a whopping 2,451 snaps last year. This year's class: 350 snaps. The leader of that group wasn't even drafted. Tight end Garrett Celek had 184 total plays, 103 of them on offense.

* Remember when Jim Harbaugh said he had five No. 1 wideouts in Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams? Well, the division of labor among the team's wideouts went like this:

January 2, 2013
Hit the sack: Aldon Smith's snap count more than doubled this year

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Aldon Smith's snap count more than doubled from his rookie year to this season, and Jim Harbaugh said the second-year outside linebacker is one of the players who should benefit from the bye week. The players had Tuesday and today off and will not practice this weekend.

"I think Aldon will benefit from some of the rest that that he has an opportunity to take, you know to rest his mind, to rest his body," Harbaugh said this morning on KNBR. "I think watching the tape, he's somebody that can use it, that needs (the rest)."

Last year, Smith was a pass-rush specialist and played 489 of the team's 1,014 defensive snaps. He was an every-down player this season and played 1,003 snaps on defense and 68 more on special teams. Smith has gone without a sack in the last three games and didn't play well in the Week 16 loss to Seattle. That mostly has been attributed to the absence of teammate Justin Smith, but fatigue is another likely factor.

Two 49ers were on the field for 100 percent of their unit's snaps. Offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Alex Boone, a newcomer at guard, played all 1,004 offensive snaps. The snap-count winner - by a healthy margin - was safety Dashon Goldson, who played 1,147 total snaps, including 121 on special teams.

49ers top 10 snap counts includes special teams

1. Dashon Goldson 1,147
2. Tarell Brown 1,100
3. Anthony Davis 1,091
4. Alex Boone, 1,090
5. Aldon Smith 1,071
6. NaVorro Bowman, 1070
7. Mike Iupati 1065
8. Patrick Willis 1064
9. Ahmad Brooks 1045
10. Carlos Rogers 1036

- Matt Barrows

January 2, 2013
Q&A: What are the consequences if Gamble lands a GM job?

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First of all, happy New Year! Secondly, some fantastic questions, and I apologize I can't answer all of them. (See: last question for reason)

Q: 49ers Podcast ‏@49ersCast: How the team could be affected if Tom Gamble ends in JAC or another team? Is he that important for the organization?

A: Tom Gamble has a ton of respect around the league, and the 49ers surely will miss him if he goes elsewhere. However, there are a lot of smart, talented guys - Mike Williams, Matt Malaspina, Ethan Waugh, Justin Chabot -- in the scouting/personnel department and the 49ers will adjust accordingly. The bigger consequence may be in whom Gamble takes with him. Gamble mostly has been associated with Jacksonville to this point.

The Jaguars reportedly are a lock to sign Tim Tebow in the offseason. Is that a deal-breaker for a prospective head coaches? I don't think it would be so for Greg Roman, who A.) Really wants to be a head coach and B.) Probably thinks he can squeeze a lot of productivity from someone like Tebow. Jim Tomsula's name also has been associated with that job. If either of those guys leave, there might be a domino effect on the rest of the 49ers' staff and with potential free agents.

Obviously, Alex Smith would not go to, say, Jacksonville if Tebow is there. (Follow Norv Turner's wherabouts for Smith's destination). But Delanie Walker would be a good pickup by the Jags if Roman's there; Sopoaga or Jean Francois would go if Tomsula's in Jacksonville.

Q: Lewis Wiltshire ‏@LewisWiltshire: Would Niners have considered re-signing Nedney during the kicker troubles? Good kicker in his day and roughly same age as Akers.

A: I spoke to Nedney a couple of days ago. He said he dreams of being signed by the 49ers in the playoffs and then booting a game-winning field goal for them. However, he noted one needs cartilage in one's knee for the scenario, and he has precariously little after all the knee injuries he's had. I wondered about Jeff Reed, whom the 49ers brought in after Nedney got hurt in the 2010 and who missed only one field goal in 10 attempts for the 49ers that year. A number of Reed's kicks came in bad-weather games, and I was impressed by his focus and resolve that season. Reed has plenty of playoff experience and wants to get back in the game but did not receive a call from the 49ers during their kicker search.

January 1, 2013
The kicking news: 49ers sign Cundiff, keep Akers

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*****Update***** The 49ers waived OLB Eric Bakhtiari, who has been waived twice already this season, to make room for Billy Cundiff on the 53-man roster.

The 49ers are going with option C -- keeping two kickers on their active roster and having them compete to be the team's kicker in the playoffs.

After a two-man tryout today, the 49ers signed 10-year veteran Billy Cundiff, who was cut by both the Ravens and Redskins earlier this season. Cundiff, who reportedly has had two strong workouts for the 49ers, will compete with incumbent David Akers, who has struggled from beyond 40 yards this season, according to a league source.

Cundiff and Bay Area native Justin Medlock were the only two kickers who auditioned today. Medlock, 29, went 21-22 on field goals during the tryout with one attempt going off the upright. Cundiff had two attempts hit the upright, but both went in. He was 22-22 and also distinguished himself on kickoffs.

On Monday, Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers had three options: Keep Akers, replace him with a newcomer or keep two kickers on the active roster and have them compete for the job. The 49ers had 53 players on the roster, and it's not yet known how they will make room for Cundiff. They can make as many moves as they want until 1 p.m. Wednesday; after that they are limited to four transactions throughout the playoffs.

Cundiff, 32, is best known for missing a 32-yard kick for the Ravens at the end of last season's AFC Championship game. He was beaten out for a roster spot by rookie Justin Tucker and was picked up by Washington, where he also struggled. He was released in favor of Kai Forbath. He has played for 10 different teams in as many seasons.

Cundiff has a career 75.5 field goal percentage but made only 7-12 (58.3 percent) of his chances in five games with the Redskins. Akers has a 69 percent accuracy rate, the lowest mark of his career and one that ranks 30th among full-time kickers this season.

Cundiff is right-footed while Akers is a lefty. That means holder Andy Lee will have to switch back and forth as the two compete this week and perhaps next. Lee did that in 2010 when left-footed Joe Nedney got hurt and the 49ers replaced him with right-footed Jeff Reed.

-- Matt Barrows

January 1, 2013
49er assistant shuffle? Follow the GM searches

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As I peck away at this keyboard, no 49ers assistant coaches are on their way to interview for any of the NFL's seven head-coaching openings. The Eagles reportedly have offensive coordinator Greg Roman on their list of candidates, but a formal meet and greet has yet to take place, and Oregon coach Chip Kelly appears to be their top choice.

San Francisco assistants can interview this week. But once the Wildcard weekend ends, they can't interview until the team is out of the playoffs. Someone like Roman or defensive coordinator Vic Fangio or defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, of course, wouldn't be able to join a team until after the 49ers' season is over. That may be why there's no rush to interview them now.

Of course, the interview requests could heat up quickly, especially if Tom Gamble lands a job as a team's general manager. The 49ers' director of player personnel is interviewing with the Jaguars, Jets and Chargers, according to various reports. As general manager, Gamble presumably would hire the head coach, and after spending the last eight seasons with the 49ers, he is very familiar with the team's staff. (The Jaguars have retained head coach Mike Mularkey for now).

Roman could follow Gamble. And he has ties to two other general manager candidates. Falcons director of player personnel David Caldwell is seen as an up-and-coming personnel man. Both he and Roman played at John Carroll University in the early 1990s, and both were in the Carolina Panthers organization in 1996. (Roman was a defensive assistant, which is another reason he might make a good head coach: He's held an array of coaching jobs).



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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