NEW ORLEANS -- They have been in the Crescent City since Sunday evening, but the San Francisco 49ers had not yet practiced when they talked to reporters on Wednesday morning. After the nuttiness of Media Day and the other non-football obligations of Super Bowl week, they could not wait to get back on the field.
“I'm extremely excited about practice,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “I love practice because that's where you get better. That's where the great ones become great. We have to continue putting our game plan in, and I'm excited.”
The 49ers are working out at the New Orleans Saints' facility, and the Baltimore Ravens practice on Tulane's campus. Asked if it would be hard to conduct a normal practice amid all the distractions of Super Bowl week, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh objected to the premise.
“I don't know that it has to be a normal one,” he said. “It can be an exceptional one. It can be an extraordinary
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Wednesday for us. That would be our intent, and really our expectation, to make this the best Wednesday of the entire season.”
Harbaugh has been more relaxed in his talks with the media than he was in the regular season. His players appear comfortable, too, and cornerback Tarell Brown said it was no act.
“We don't sweat,” he said. “I think the biggest thing about this team is that we don't sweat. We understand the situation. We understand what got us here. We will always have confidence in ourselves.”
Lee retains record: Andy Lee was sure his status as the NFL record-holder for net punting in a season would be history after one year.
Lee set the mark in 2011 with a net of 44.0, but New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead was ahead of that pace entering the final game this year and needed only a decent day against Carolina to snatch the record.
Instead, he had his worst outing of the season. He shanked his first punt out of bounds for 26 yards, and his final punt was returned 69 yards, dropping his net to 43.2.
Lee remains the king. He even beat Morstead for season net honors. Both averaged 43.2, but Lee got the edge by few hundredths of a yard.
“I thought the record was gone,” Lee said. “I was worried about it. I didn't want it to be broken. Thomas is a great punter and he does a great job, but I wanted to hold it for more than one year.”
He knows he likely will have to break the record again himself if he wants to keep it for a while. Gross and net punting averages are getting higher in the NFL every year.
“I think the punters have just gotten better,” Lee said. “We're working harder and there are more situations that call for long punts rather than directional punts.”
Lee had a net of 48.3 yards on three punts against Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game, atoning for an off day against Green Bay in the divisional round when he netted 37.7 yards, his first sub-40 day in eight games.
Mixed emotions: Mario Manningham signed with San Francisco in March because he wanted to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Although his judgment was correct, he will be watching rather than playing this Sunday.
Torn knee ligaments against Seattle in Week 16 sidelined him for the rest of the season.
“It's been tough, especially when you know that you can make an impact on the field,” he said. “Plus, when you know your team is good and you can see the road that they've taken, you can see everything unfolding. It's crazy.”
Manningham had 42 catches for 449 yards and a touchdown before getting hurt.
Last year, his spectacular over-the-shoulder catch of an Eli Manning pass sparked the Giants' winning drive late in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLVI against New England.
He won't get an opportunity for a similar moment this time, but he won't mind picking up another Super Bowl ring if the 49ers win.
“I just wanted to make an impact and come in and contribute to this team knowing that I played against them last year and I knew how tough they were,” he said. “I wanted to come bring my toughness with me so that we could be right where we are right now.”