The 49ers' playoff-opening game in Green Bay is almost a week out, but early weather reports say it's going to be cold. Bitterly cold.
But Jim Harbaugh didn't seem overly concerned, nor does he have a plan to prepare for the weather while the team practices in Santa Clara this week, where it will in the 50s and 60s.
"We want to play hard. We'll keep our bodies warm by playing hard," he said Monday.
"Football weather is any weather."
The Michigan native and University of Michigan alum is no stranger to bitter winters up north. And he's carved his team's mindset to resemble Bo Schembechler's Wolverines. A tough defense and physical running game travels in any weather, which could be to his advantage come Sunday.
"I think once your body gets running around whether it's the first time you played in a zero-degree weather game, it doesn't feel any different than 30 or 40-degree weather game," said Harbaugh.
The 49ers coach was far more calm and focused during his Monday press briefing compared to last week's following the dramatic Monday night win over the Falcons. He said he plans on watching all the Packers' games over the last two seasons to prepare for Sunday's game. He also mentioned beating Green Bay three times over the last 16 months doesn't necessarily give his team an advantage.
"It's a chance at the ultimate chance. I don't have a percentage for you of who has more of an advantage. Just like I don't have a way to prepare for the cold weather," he said.
Another Week-long Excursion?
Harbaugh was asked about a potential plan to stay somewhere on the other side of the country should the team win Sunday and play in Carolina next week. That only happens if the Saints beat the Eagles - forcing the sixth-seeded New Orleans to travel to Seattle in the second round.
In 2011 and 2012, the 49ers spent separate weeks in Youngstown, Ohio to avoid consecutive trips across the country. In Harbaugh's first season, the team spent the week between Week 3's win in Cincinatti and Week 4's win in Philadelphia in Youngstown. It was an early bonding experience for the coach and his team. It led to a return trip the next season after loss in Minnesota and a 34-0 trampling of the New York Jets.
"I've given it some thought," Harbaugh said of the idea. "I'll keep you posted."
This year, the team had a similar week-long outing in London to prepare for the Jaguars. But winning Sunday paired with an Eagles win over New Orleans means the 49ers will have to travel to Seattle for Round 2.
Either way, it sounds like preparations are being made to cut down on travel time and jet lag. The 49ers and their football operations staff will have the luxury of knowing the outcome of the Eagles and Saints game Saturday before San Francisco plays Sunday. But it's unlikely anything concrete will come from the team before it plays the Packers.
Harbaugh didn't have much to say Monday that was devoid of his typical closed-off approach. But he was very complimentary of rookie wideout Quinton Patton, who made a key 29-yard reception along the sideline that set up Phil Dawson's game-winning 40-yard field goal Sunday.
"I was very excited for Quinton. He injured his foot the fourth game of the season. That was a good eight, nine-week, almost 10 weeks of recovery there to get that healed up. To come back and practice and worked the way he's done has been really good to see," Harbaugh said.
Patton fractured his foot in Week 4's win over the St. Louis Rams after making just one catch for exactly zero yards. It took until the last game of the regular season for Patton to get his first positive yardage as pro. He finished with two receptions for 34 yards in Arizona.
The rookie fourth-rounder had not been active until Mario Manningham hit the shelf with his knee injury prior Week 16's game against Atlanta. With Manningham going on injured reserve last week, Patton will be the No. 3 receiver going forward and could see passes his way as defenses look to stop Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin.
"I liked the way he competed," Harbaugh continued. "I liked the way he came through. I liked the way he made the tough catch. I always liked that about him. I think he's a competitor, competing for balls, competing to get in position to make a block, competing when he's running with the football."
When Manningham returned from his eight-game absence while recovering from his ACL and PCL tear suffered late last year, Colin Kaepernick struggled to get him the ball. He completed just 9 of 20 targets and threw two interceptions for a passer rating of 17.7, the lowest to any of his receivers this season.
Kaepernick has completed three of his six targets to Patton so far and showed a great deal of trust to go his way on the key play late against the Cardinals.
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