NEW ORLEANS — Coach Jim Harbaugh stepped onto the podium at the Marriott, the 49ers’ home for the next eight days, surveyed the huge mass of reporters and cameras and said:
“Nice to see everyone. We’re super excited to be here.”
His voice conveyed little, if any, excitement.
Even though his star defensive end, Justin Smith, would a short time later compare San Francisco’s time here with “a dudes’ trip,” Harbaugh and his players know that despite Super Bowl XLVII being in the city made to party, this is a business trip.
“The team is really focused, focused on winning,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s the best focus on unity and winning I’ve ever been part of. This week we’ll try to make it like a normal week.”
The 49ers do have some experience in a situation like this — in each of the last two years the team has spent a week during the season in Youngstown, Ohio, the hometown of franchise CEO Jed York.
Harbaugh sees that as a plus.
“I think it’s a good thing that we’ve done this the last two years, stayed in a hotel, had meetings in a hotel, go to a [different] facility to practice, and go to the game,” he said. “We’ll have the same approach as always, really — enjoy the moment, the preparation.
“That’s what this team enjoys the most: The practice, meetings, especially the competition. Gearing up for the competitive nature of a football game, a championship game, we’re very excited about it.”
Safety Dashon Goldson, who spurned a contract offer from the Patriots in 2011 and opted to stay in San Francisco, said he and his teammates have to deal with the change of scenery this week as best as they can.
“We have to. We’ll be here for the week; we have to adapt,” Goldson said. “We’ve been in this situation before. The only difference now is the media.”
And San Francisco may have another factor that may provide even a small amount of comfort: when the team came here to play the Saints on Nov. 25, it stayed at this Marriott and the Superdome is not a completely foreign stadium.
That game also was Colin Kaepernick’s first road win as the starting quarterback.
Smith, wearing a trucker cap with the 49ers logo and his own name on the patch, took things a step further when talking about keeping things status quo as much as possible.
“If you usually go out two times a week, go out two times this week. If you don’t usually go out, don’t go out,” he said.
The Pro Bowler, who has been playing through a torn triceps muscle, is happy to finally see for himself what the Super Bowl experience is all about. He revealed that he and former Patriots left tackle Matt Light are close friends, and they’ve talked on several occasions about Light’s trips to the big game.
Smith said he and Light trained for the 2001 combine together and had the same agent at that time, so they spent a couple of weeks together in Pittsburgh working out.
For Harbaugh, who at times seemed annoyed by having to take part in the dog-and-pony show that these opening press conferences can be, did have one moment of levity.
Asked to compare Kaepernick’s style of play with his style during his 14 years as an NFL quarterback, Harbaugh quipped, “When Colin’s running, that stride that he has, the gracefulness, the ground that he covers, it reminds me of myself.
“And then I wake up.”