The same 49ers veterans have taken the podium each week during this exemplary playoff run and they’ve been asked the same question every week.
How does playoff experience help while advancing through the postseason? What advice can you give the young pups going through it for the first time?
We’re at the point now where we can substitute “Super Bowl” for “playoffs” in the experience question.
This time, however, it matters just a little more. Here’s why: The game’s still the same, save longer in-game commercial breaks and more pre-game media attention. Like, lots more.
Players can handle all that. Say nothing into the microphone a half hour a day, hole up in the hotel and get prepped for the championship bout.
The biggest change, however, may come from family, friends and long-lost cousins and acquaintances who somehow tracked down their real cell number. They all want tickets and party invites during what will be an insane week building up to Super Bowl LIV between the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs.
That’s why guys with Super Bowl experience preach an important lesson everyone learned way back when from a D.A.R.E. officer.
Just say no.
Or, you know, find someone else who can.
“Something I can really draw from that is just how chaotic it is when you get down there,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “I’ve been telling a lot of the younger guys what to expect and make sure the distractions that come with that game are not so much the game, but they're like all of a sudden you have 20 family members down there, everybody wants to have an experience.
“It’s important to manage all that, making sure you have someone, like I tell my mom and my wife, hey you're going to be the ‘no’ person. We're going to have a set dinner we'll go to, but this is a business trip for me. I tell a lot of the guys the same thing, is to manage their expectations of your family, what you're supposed to do down there and really focus on the game.”
The 49ers made a concerted effort to get ticket requests and family arrangements done this week, during a bye before the 49ers leave for Miami on Sunday. They wanted to put all that in the rearview and focus on the game plan, which is being dispensed this week so there will be less stress during an already taxing week in South Florida.
“Prepare all week like you're getting ready to play a game on Sunday because if you don't, by the time we get out to Miami, it's going to be chaos,” said 49ers receiver Emmanuel Sanders, heading to his third Super Bowl. “We've got Media Day. We've got all kinds of obligations. It's not going to be like a regular schedule that we are used to in terms of getting off of work, going home, hanging out at home. It's going to be- you're going to be pulled left and right in terms of different obligations that you've got to do. You've got to handle all that.”
We’ll hear plenty about it being just another game, but there are pinch me moments along the way. Staley experienced one during his previous Super Bowl when the 49ers and Baltimore Ravens squared off in the Harbaugh Bowl.
“You go out there for pregame warmups, and that was the only time for me that I actually felt like, just because there's so many people around, you realize in that moment that you're playing in the Super Bowl,” Staley said. “And I think too just embrace that understand you're playing in a game, but it's also something you've been doing your entire life, you've prepared for this moment. I think that's something you can really fall back on is just the preparation and understanding what you're going into and accepting it and going forward, but once the whistle blows and you play the first snap, everything is just the same old.”
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).