Last week was the first time I covered an NFL team in the week leading up to a Super Bowl, and yesterday was the first time seeing an NFL team clean out their lockers in person. While the mood was noticeably different in Santa Clara than in New Orleans, it wasn’t as much of a morgue in that locker room as one might think.
The players mostly took a somber tone in their comments to the assembled media, which was to be expected. But there were plenty of smiles, too. It was almost like a bunch of students saying goodbye on the last day of school. In lieu of yearbooks, the players autographed footballs for each other. They packed their belongings into cardboard boxes, and lingered in the parking lot, chatting and sharing a few final laughs before heading home.
49ers fans, take note — if the team itself has brushed away the tears and started to replace “what if” thoughts with plans to congregate together and train in the South Bay and Atlanta (where Colin Kaepernick plans to start working on building chemistry with receivers like A.J. Jenkins as soon as next week), maybe that’s our que to move on as well. I’m not saying the players aren’t disappointed after the first Super Bowl loss in franchise history, just that this setback isn’t tearing them apart by any means. So, perhaps it shouldn’t ruin an entire offseason for the group of supporters known as “The Faithful.”
The man who looked the most battered was, not surprisingly, Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh’s press conference was difficult to watch, and not just because Lowell “Miss Manners” Cohn asked him about his sideline demeanor. The 49ers head coach didn’t look like he had slept a wink since the Super Bowl.
Moving on, and assistance with moving:
– I asked Kyle Williams if he had talked to LaMichael James about his Super Bowl fumble. “Real quick, for about two seconds,” he said. “He’ll be fine. Make a play. Done.”
– Larry Grant said he’d talk to his agent about potential opportunities to get more playing time elsewhere. The former JUCO National Player of the Year at City College of San Francisco also added, “I love being home. I definitely wish I could be here longer, but we’ll see what happens.”
– Patrick Willis talked about the defense allowing more points than usual over the last several weeks: “I guess it’s like gravity, just as you go up, you’ve got to come down at some point,” he said. “We didn’t play up to what we are capable of as a defense, and that’s what hurts … We let ourselves down, along with our team in that aspect. We understand what happened and we’ve just got to come back to work and see that it don’t happen again.”
– Bruce Miller on the Ravens’ style: “They’re loud, intimidating. That’s the way they try to be. Didn’t work.”
– Randy Moss didn’t talk to reporters (surprise, surprise), but I saw him in the driver’s seat of his car, talking to a couple teammates. He was grinning from ear to ear about something, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d ever see him in Santa Clara again.
– I also saw Aldon Smith helping Ricky Jean-Francois load a large box into his muscle car, which was parked next to the media trailer. The box wouldn’t fit, so Aldon was turning it diagonally and trying to force it into the trunk with brute strength. That’s a friend, right there. I bet if RJF called Aldon and asked him for help moving, he’d be over there in 15 minutes.
– While the situation wasn’t gloom and doom, it wasn’t exactly easy to cover the scene. If one or two plays went the other way, I would have been walking downtown and joining a million folks along Market Street yesterday morning for a parade, instead of fighting the traffic down 101. Still, covering the 2012 49ers from training camp through the Super Bowl was an experience I’ll never forget. Thanks to all of you for reading the stories and watching the videos. I can’t wait to drive down to Santa Clara again in May when OTA’s begin.