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49ers land in New Orleans, look for normal week

The SportsXchange

With 6:57 showing on local clocks Sunday, the National Football Conference champion San Francisco 49ers made a nationally televised touchdown at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans and deplaned at the west cargo ramp to begin a week of preparation for their Super Bowl XLVII battle against the Baltimore Ravens on Feb. 3.

Their arrival was as casual as quarterback Colin Kaepernick's attire -- a running suit, T-shirt, knit cap with headphones and a backpack. Coach Jim Harbaugh, wearing a 49ers cap, carried his daughter and a small piece of luggage across the tarmac.

They boarded buses that took them to their home for the week, the New Orleans Marriott Hotel, where they held a small, brief press conference.

"This week we will try to make it like a normal week," Harbaugh said when asked how he is preparing the team. He added that he didn't think the Super Bowl was a distraction. "We are focused, we have a plan, we will practice and lead up to the game like a Sunday game."

Most of the questions centered on the November switch in quarterbacks, from Alex Smith to second-year player Colin Kaepernick. When Smith was sidelined by a concussion, Kaepernick stepped in and Smith became No. 2. Harbaugh was asked if he second-guessed the move, especially considering Smith led the 49ers to the NFC title game last year and was having a good year.

"We made the decision we thought was best for the team," Harbaugh said. "Alex had played 26 or 28 really good games. I thought it was a unique situation. Usually when it comes to choosing between two quarterbacks, it is two quarterbacks who are struggling. But we were looking at two quarterbacks who were playing extremely well. I made the decision I thought was best for the team."

Harbaugh was asked if he reflected on his own days as an NFL quarterback and if he saw any of himself in Kaepernick in terms of his attitude and passion. His answer included retelling a story he first mentioned a week earlier.

"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," Harbaugh said with a wry grin. "And then I wake up. But when I dream, the visions of how I run personally is the way Colin runs."

Harbaugh did have a sharp response to a question about how Kaepernick may be used against the Ravens defense. Would Harbaugh allow Kaepernick to use the read-option or would the 49ers use a more conventional attack?

"First, I wouldn't classify Colin as a read-option quarterback," Harbaugh said. "Colin is extremely talented at the read-option and throwing the ball as well, so there are a lot of directions we can go."

Kaepernick handled his first Super Bowl press conference with ease, seemingly unmoved by questions about the pressure of the situation.

"Pressure I think comes from lack of preparation," Kaepernick said. "This isn't going to be a pressure situation, it is a matter of going out and performing physically."

He deflected questions about his sudden and celebrated ascent to starting quarterback as if it were no big deal.

"At the start of the season, I was just hoping to get on the field somehow," he said. "When I first started, I just wanted to focus on winning games. Things have gone right, and we are here."

But Kaepernick did note one obvious change this week after the 1,880-mile flight from San Jose to New Orleans.

"We had a bigger plane," he said.

The 49ers will work out this week at the New Orleans Saints' facility in Metairie, La.
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