Nowhere to hide, not even in London

After arriving in England, the 49ers met the media and faced the usual questions about American football. But they also were asked about failed expectations and what comes next.

Considering what happened to them on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers couldn't have gotten far enough away if they'd flown to the moon. But London will have to do.

The team arrived in England on Monday still licking its wounds after an emotionally crushing 23-20 loss to the previously winless Carolina Panthers, who scored 10 points in the last two minutes. Unfortunately for the Niners, news travels fast.

The British media was well aware of the 49ers' struggles and their 1-6 record – a mark that betters only the 0-6 Buffalo Bills. But even after they had time to think about it, the answers still didn't provide much insight.

Asked about the team's failure to meet high expectations this summer, linebacker Patrick Willis said: "We're 1-6, so it's obviously not the same vibe we once had. But there's still a lot of fight in this team and there's still a lot of football left. We've just got a big hole we've got to dig ourselves out of."

The Niners will keep their usual practice schedule this week, giving players Tuesday off before resuming workouts on Wednesday. Coach Mike Singletary, who met with the media shortly after the team's arrival, said he had no word yet on quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a shoulder injury and spent the morning at a hospital waiting to be checked. He was expected to have X-rays taken.

"It's all right. Could be better," Smith told reporters after the team arrived at its hotel.

Singletary, meanwhile, said he believes the trip to London came at a good time.

"For us, it's a nice chance to kind of get away, regroup and rethink," he said. "I think it came at a good time. … It really works out to be a bonus for us. It gives us a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the NFL. To come over here and think through some things, look at maybe some changes you need to make, it gives you a chance to slow down the pace a bit."

In the meantime, players and coaches will have to take on the added burden of being ambassadors for the game at a time when their season has sunk to its depths. Despite Singletary's proclamation on Sunday, there is no real hope for the playoffs.

Tight end Vernon Davis said British fans seem to have a passion for American football. "I was surprised actually when I had a chance to get in front of them as an audience," he said. "They were really pumped and couldn't wait for us to get over here."

Willis said: "We know soccer is the sport over here, but to bring American football here is really big. Hopefully we can give them a show to remember."

Unlike Sunday, which was a show to forget.

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