San Francisco not acknowledging rivalry

While it is a big week for professional football fans in the San Francisco-Oakland area, the 49ers don't appear likely to get wrapped up in the provincial rivalry.

Both teams have plenty of problems, heading into Sunday's game. The 49ers are coming off a 41-0 shellacking at the Chiefs. They see their hopes of contending for a playoff spot starting to evaporate.

So bragging rights or anything else that could come from a good showing against the Raiders have been pushed aside, as the 49ers try to take care of their own business.

"Maybe if we were 4-0, I'd say it would be that way, but the fact we're in the situation we are, it's more about us at this point," 49ers linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. "We got to turn the ship around. It's less about a rivalry and this and that, and more about getting our ship right."

The 49ers (1-3) are not in a position to take any of their opponents lightly, including the Raiders (0-3). The 49ers have actually been established as a 31/2-point favorite for the game.

"We just played a Kansas City team that was 0-2 and they came out and wanted that win," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "Here's another team that's winless and I'm sure they'll be hungry for that first one as well. We need to anticipate getting in a dogfight every week. There are not going to be easy wins. We need to expect battles."

The 49ers went back to practice this week with a lot to learn about themselves. Smith, a second-year pro, is gaining some valuable experience during his first season as the full-time starter.

"I'm learning as I go through these things," he said. "I think this team has continued to come together. I can see it. It's apparent this team wants to be good. It has that drive and motivation. Right now it's a matter of understanding how to get there. I think we're learning that. The potential is there for this team to be good; the pieces are in place to be successful. Now it's a matter of how to go about things and prepare."

Receiver Antonio Bryant said he has been on teams when he heard players in the locker room counting down the games until the end of the regular season. He said he believes he sees a commitment among his teammates to turn things around. The 49ers have lost the past two weeks to the Eagles and Chiefs, getting outscored 48-3 in the first half of those games.

This week, coach Mike Nolan enacted a new policy in order to have his players take control of the team. Instead of selecting a different set of team captains for every game, Nolan had the team vote on captains for the entire season. Quarterback Alex Smith, left tackle Jonas Jennings, defensive lineman Bryant Young, cornerback Walt Harris and special-teamer Keith Lewis were voted by their teammates to represent the club at midfield for the coin toss prior to games.

The fact that Smith was the leading vote-getter on the team, according to Nolan, can only be seen as a positive sign for the direction the 49ers are going.

"Alex being a second-year player, it says a lot about what the players expect from him," Nolan said. "It says more about what they think of him."

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