The NFC-champion San Francisco 49ers arrived in town Sunday night a full week ahead of their Feb. 3 matchup with the Ravens, vowing to enjoy the experience but not get caught up in the Super Bowl XLVII hype.
"What we've done — and it's been successful so far — our team has been really focused on winning, focused on the unity of the team," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said at a news conference at a downtown Marriott hotel that will serve as the team's headquarters this week. "I think it's the best focus on unity and winning that I've ever seen and been a part of. This week, we tried to make it like a normal week."
So normal that San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick joked that the only difference between this trip and regular-season road trips was that the 49ers took a bigger plane.
The Ravens are scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on Monday at 4 p.m. central time. Ravens coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco and several players are expected to have their first Super Bowl news conference about an hour later.
That meant for one night in New Orleans, the 49ers had the Super Bowl spotlight all to themselves. The 49ers are 5-0 in franchise history in Super Bowls. Jim Harbaugh, the younger brother of the Ravens' coach by 15 months, paid homage to the team's history, but said that his current group is trying to write its own chapter.
"The organization has a tremendous history and we're very proud of it, [but] this is new business and our team is focused on winning a championship," he said.
San Francisco went 11-4-1 in the regular season, beat the Green Bay Packers 45-31 in the divisional round and then upended the Atlanta Falcons, 28-24, in the NFC championship game to advance to the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh made a bold move to help them get to this point, going with Kaepernick as his starter over veteran Alex Smith, who led the team to the NFC championship game last season. Kaepernick, a second-year signal-caller, has thrown for 496 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in two playoff games, while rushing for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
Most of the questions at Harbaugh's news conference were about his decision at quarterback, which he said came down to "what we thought was best for the team, what we thought would give us the best chance." Not exactly known for his patience and charm during sessions with reporters, Harbaugh then added a bit of levity when the former NFL quarterback was asked if he sees any of himself in Kaepernick.
"When Colin is running, the stride he has, the gracefulness with his stride, the ground that he covers, how fast and quick he is, reminds me of myself. And then I wake up," Harbaugh joked. "When I have dreams and visions of how I run personally, it's the way Colin runs."
Much of the attention in the days ahead will surely be on the first head-coaching matchup between brothers in Super Bowl history. Kaepernick is obviously a major subplot, though 49ers safety Dashon Goldson said that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has his team's full attention.
Flacco has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three postseason games. Goldson said that he was watching film of the Ravens' offense on the flight to New Orleans and he was impressed by how Flacco extended plays with his pocket presence.
"He's done a good job for that football team," Goldson said. "I know that there is a lot of talk and criticism about him. But I always thought he was a good quarterback."