SANTA CLARA -- As the 49ers prepare for Sunday's NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium, the team is continuing the tradition of rewarding three scout team players for their work impersonating San Francisco's opponent.
This week a familiar face was on the field wearing one of the three honorary jerseys during Friday’s practice — reserve quarterback C.J. Beathard.
Beathard, who returned to the facility a week ago after the tragic loss of his younger brother, had the notable responsibility of playing as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during this week’s game preparation. Both he and No. 2 quarterback Nick Mullens took turns mimicking the veteran.
The biggest challenge for Beathard in portraying Rodgers was the veteran’s ability to extend plays in the pocket while still making the tough throws. Fortunately, he had an important factor working in his favor -- the style of offense used by the Packers' head coach and Kyle Shanahan disciple.
“[Matt] LaFleur’s offense is very similar to ours,” Beathard said. “That made it easier this week.”
One thing that has not made it easy on the 49ers' quarterbacks in practice has been lining up against their own defense. Beathard noted he immediately felt the difference when training camp started.
The addition of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to San Francisco's defensive line brought speed to a group that already was solid in the interior. The group ranked second in total yards allowed during the regular season, allowing an average of only 281.8 yards per game.
Beathard believes that any opposing quarterback, including Rodgers, faces a difficult challenge with the stout 49ers defense that held the Minnesota Vikings to just 147 total yards and seven first downs in last week's divisional-round victory.
“It’s one of the best defenses in the league,” Beathard said. “You could just tell. This is the real deal. They are quick.”
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.