Erickson saving emotion for opener

This is no brave, new world for Dennis Erickson. He has been through it all before. And the first-year 49ers coach wants to make darn sure it doesn't happen quite the same way it did in his first go-around in the NFL, particularly in his first game with his first NFL team eight years ago. This time, Erickson intends to have it all work out differently, beginning with his debut as 49ers coach Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

Erickson can't forget first NFL game with the Seattle Seahawks, whom he coached from 1995-98. That's not to say it's something he likes to remember.

"I recollect getting my butt kicked if I remember correctly, and I do, " Erickson said of his first game as an NFL coach, when his Seahawks collapsed before the home fans in Seattle during a 34-10 whipping at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. "We can't let that happen again."

There are a lot of things Erickson will do differently than during his first NFL stint in Seattle, which ended when he was fired after three consecutive 8-8 seasons left him with a 31-33 record in four seasons with the Seahawks.

But the feeling of opening day isn't much different.

"It is my first game back as a coach in the NFL and it will be the first one that will count," Erickson said. "So, yeah, I'm excited about it. This is something that I have been waiting for, it seems like a long time. I'm very excited and I'm very aware. Opening day, I don't care where you are, I remember my first game at Billings Central (High School) back a few years ago, that feeling then as a head coach is no different than it is now."

But Erickson lies. This is much different. One of the most successful college coaches of era, this is Erickson's big chance to make his mark at the highest level of the sport. He has learned a few things in the time since he began in Seattle.

"I try to stay calm during the week," Erickson said. "The biggest thing for me, as coaches, is that we have to prepare this team. We have to have our game plan, we have to execute our practices, show them what they need to see so when Sunday comes around, they have seen everything and they can go 100 percent. Sunday, when you get out there in the heat of battle, the emotions obviously come out. That's the name of the game. If you're not emotionally involved, then you probably shouldn't be in the business."

But, Erickson said, he tries to detach himself from emotion during final game preparations. He says his pre-game speech Sunday will be nothing to get too excited about.

"My speech is everything I do during the week in preparation," Erickson said. "I think that pregame speeches are highly overrated. If they're not ready by the time we come out of that locker room or by the time I get to talk to them, then we have a problem. It's done during the week. We'll talk about things we ought to think about before the game or the night before the game, but Knute Rockne I'm not. If I had a Gipper, we'd be all right."

And the 49ers should be all right under Erickson. Despite injuries, the team is ahead of where it was at this time last year under former coach Steve Mariucci. That must translate into victories immediately for Erickson, who was hired to win now and take the Niners farther than Mariucci ever could.

So far, Erickson has shown no visible signs of that kind of pressure. But he knows that now is the time for him and his team to perform - or else that kind of pressure will start coming down on Erickson's head like a sledgehammer.

"I know I'm having fun right now," Erickson said. "I'm enjoying it. I think we've made a lot of progress. The coaching staff and I have come together really well and we're on the same page. I think having fun is the most important thing, and we'll find out Sunday exactly what happens here."


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