Redskins

49ers more prepared for playoffs this time

49ers more prepared for playoffs this time

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Andy Lee's nerves came on a full day before San Francisco's playoff opener a year ago, not just leading up to his first punt as is typically the case each game. Tight end Vernon Davis was surprised at his butterflies stepping onto the NFL's big stage for the first time, too.

Last January, most of the 49ers had never been part of a playoff game and were suiting up for a rookie NFL coach. So much was made of the playoff inexperience at the time. Now, it's just the opposite.

These days, Jim Harbaugh's team is a playoff-tested bunch of veterans determined to make this a special postseason run that goes one step further - to the Super Bowl.

The NFC West champion Niners (11-4-1) can move closer to that goal when they host the Green Bay Packers in the divisional playoffs on Saturday night in a rematch of the season opener won 30-22 by San Francisco in September at Lambeau Field.

``A lot of guys don't know what it's like until they get out there,'' Davis said. ``For me, last year was kind of like, `Wow!' The energy, the atmosphere was on a whole other level. If you don't know, you might want to ask somebody so you won't be too surprised like I was. I was very surprised at the stage. I had an idea, but until I got out there, I was like, `Wow.' I was nervous, more so than usual.''

Not that it ever showed.

In a 36-32 upset of Drew Brees and the favored New Orleans Saints, Davis made a leaping 14-yard touchdown catch under pressure on a perfectly thrown ball from Alex Smith with 9 seconds remaining in the NFC divisional playoffs. Davis had another spectacular outing in the NFC championship game, catching touchdown passes of 73 and 28 yards in the Niners' 20-17 overtime loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

If only Davis could do it again after a quiet year in which defenses keyed in on him and made others in a revamped receiving corps beat them.

``There are definitely more of our players who have been through the playoffs and can personally share with the first- or second-year players who haven't been through the playoffs what that experience was like for them,'' Harbaugh said. ``They can personalize it from conversation to conversation. I hope our young guys are taking advantage of that.''

So much was different about this season. San Francisco never ran off with the NFC West this time, yet still captured a consecutive division crown. There were no long winning streaks - and the Niners even had a frustrating home tie mixed in - and fewer victories than in Harbaugh's Coach of the Year debut season. Yet, here they are again as the NFC's No. 2 seed and fresh off a bye week to rest and prepare.

``We know what to expect going forward,'' left tackle Joe Staley said. ``I think last year a lot of the players had to draw from the older veterans. We all have playoff experience on this team. We know what kind of atmosphere it's going to be.''

Harbaugh, his coaches and the players have been fueled day in and day out ever since that loss to the Giants last year to get this franchise back to the Super Bowl at last. The Niners haven't been since winning a championship after the 1994 season with Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young leading the way.

``The football gods have a different outcome for that last game than we did,'' Harbaugh said. ``Now is a new team, a team I feel very good going into the playoffs with and understands the challenge and the task that's up against us this time around.''

Lee certainly expects to be less anxious, without the worries of added pressure and expectations now that he has been through the playoffs once.

``I would say last year I didn't know what to expect,'' Lee said. ``It was a little nerve-racking, a little more than I thought it would be. This year, it's what we planned on, what it's supposed to be, just another game - a big game at that - but the best way we can approach it is it's just another game. There's a little bit more of that feeling in it than building it up as much and getting nervous about it.

``It's a little easier to go into it with a good, clean mind,'' Lee said. ``I felt a little nervous the day before the game. I never really do that. But I don't feel that will be part of it this year.''

Cornerback Tarell Brown knows the 49ers learned plenty during last season's playoff near miss, even some simple messages they will take into this weekend's game.

After beating Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay in Week 1, plenty has changed for both teams as they prepare to meet again.

``You've got to treat it like a normal game - we understand that. It's no pressure on us,'' Brown said. ``We have another opportunity to show the world we're one of the best teams in the league. We love playing these big games.''

Notes: Harbaugh said defensive lineman Justin Smith is expected back after he partially tore his left triceps. ``We look very much forward to having him back in the lineup,'' Harbaugh said. ... Harbaugh's father, Jack, told the former NFL quarterback last week that he had been the victim of Ray Lewis' first career sack. ``My legend grows ... Ray Lewis' first sack,'' Jim Harbaugh quipped. No, he doesn't recall the hit. ... Playoff tickets for Saturday sold out in less than 3 minutes Monday.

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Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Following the Redskins' Week 2 preseason win over the Jets on Thursday, Jay Gruden said both Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine were "OK" after the two running backs each left the game with injuries. Marshall's was labeled a lower-leg issue, while Perine's injury was called a twisted ankle.

Timetables for their recoveries were then reported on Friday, and while the two members of the backfield escaped anything too severe, they will each be sidelined for decent chunks of time.

Perine will miss a week, according to Mike Garafolo. Marshall, meanwhile, is looking at a longer two-to-four week recovery, per Tom Pelissero. Those pieces of news hurt them in more ways than one.

Derrius Guice's torn ACL in Week 1 of the team's exhibition schedule meant that Marshall and Perine both had a big-time opportunity to step up and earn a spot on Washington's 53-man roster, spots that were harder to envision for them when Guice was healthy.

Overall, the two were slated to compete with Kapri Bibbs for what will likely be two spaces on the depth chart behind the absolutely safe Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley. Now, though, they'll be forced to sit until they're healed up, giving Bibbs more chances in practice and the two remaining August contests to earn Jay Gruden's trust.

Against New York, Bibbs struggled on the ground but led the offense with seven grabs, including a 29-yard gain off a screen play. That performance absolutely brought him closer in the race with Marshall, who scored vs. the Patriots a week earlier. Next, he'll need to prove he can run effectively between the tackles vs. the Broncos in Week 3, which will put some heat on Perine as well.

The 'Skins have 15 days left until they have to finalize their regular season roster. As things stand now amongst the running backs, Bibbs presently has a real shot at stealing a job from the two shelved RBs. But with the way this race has unfolded thus far, that can all change in a split second. 

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

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Associated Press

Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

Despite being a brand new franchise with a new roster and new facilities, the Capital City Go-Go will carry into their inaugural season a level of continuity. Both their general manager and head coach are familiar with what they are getting into and the people they will be working with.

GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu is no stranger to the D.C. community and the Wizards franchise. He made a name for himself starring at George Washington University, spent time with the Wizards as a player in their 2013 training camp and remained a frequent visitor to Wizards games as a scout for the Spurs in recent years.

"To be back in the community and the first general manager of the G-League team is special," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us."

Head coach Jarell Christian played college ball in Virginia and goes back several years with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Christian joined the Oklahoma City's G-League staff when Brooks was in his final year as head coach of the Thunder.

Christian began his coaching journey with an eye trained on how Brooks goes about his job.

"My introduction to pro basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies. A lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation," Christian said. "I got a chance to know him through training camp and throughout that season. He and I developed a bond and a relationship that stood the test of time. To this day, we still talk often. It’s just another chance for me to reconnect with him and to continue to grow our relationship."

The Go-Go intend to make what they do as similar to the Wizards as possible. When guys like Devin Robinson, one of their two-way players, is called up he can step right in without a learning curve of the playbook or how they practice.

Having Christian in place will help that process in particular.

"There won’t be any issue or any slippage with guys going up and down to know what’s in store for them," Christian said. "A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we will implement with the Go-Go. Just some offensive and defensive concepts. Some of the playcalls and the terminology will be the same."

"Whatever you see the Wizards doing, you will probably see the Capital City Go-Go doing, too," Mensah-Bonsu said.

The symmetry between the G-League and the NBA teams will also be helped by the fact they will share the same practice facility. Their proximity will come with many advantages from the Go-Go perspective.

"I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level."

"The exposure our players get with the Wizards [front office], the Wizards personnel, being able to watch them practice daily, watching their practice habits and what their routines may be, is really big," Christian said.

That element will also apply beyond the players. Christian, who is just 32 years old, will get to watch how an NBA coaching staff operates on a daily basis.

Christian has yet to take a tour of the new building in Ward 8, but he has seen blueprints. Among the amenities the Go-Go will enjoy that other G-League teams do not usually have is a dedicated dining area.

Many G-League teams do not go to that length.

"A lot of organizations do not provide food for their players on a daily basis, but we will. That’s the No. 1 thing in my opinion that’s gonna set us apart from our competitors," he said.

The Go-Go won't take the floor for their first game until November, but it seems like a good foundation is starting to take place.

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