Wizards

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.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Bradley Beal won't require surgery for shoulder, Wizards GM says

Bradley Beal won't require surgery for shoulder, Wizards GM says

Bradley Beal's right rotator cuff injury is enough to keep him out of the NBA's restart in Orlando, but not enough to require surgery, according to Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard.

Sheppard said he doesn't "think surgery is an option at all" and repeated that claim, indicating it is not even on the table at this point. The team is confident Beal can manage the injury because he already has for roughly eight months.

Beal, Sheppard says, first hurt his shoulder on Nov. 27 against the Phoenix Suns. The rotator cuff was aggravated several times throughout the course of the season when he got bumped during games, often times when coming off screens.

Beal, of course, played very well despite the discomfort. He left off in March averaging 30.5 points per game, second in the NBA behind only James Harden.

RELATED: 5 TAKEAWAYS FROM BEAL SITTING OUT

Sheppard says keeping him out now is more about preventing it from getting worse during a stretch of games that aren't as important as the team's big picture future.

"I think if we had another month of ramp-up time, Bradley would probably be ready to play. These are eight games vs. 82 next season and all the seasons beyond that. I think it's worth mitigating the risk right now for what's ahead," Sheppard said.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

Sheppard also noted the truncated NBA offseason due to the months-long postponement of games this season. With next season expected to begin in December, the turnaround will be quicker. A serious injury at this point could affect his status for the start of next season.

The Wizards want to avoid that because they are anticipating the return of John Wall from his Achilles injury and want to have both of their All-Star guards in the fold. Beal sitting out helps preserve that.

The question now is whether Beal can work around his right rotator cuff injury without surgery. He has proven he can manage it, but it has already lingered for eight months. Will it still be an issue, minor or major, five months from now?

For the meantime, Beal will have to watch from afar as the Wizards go to Orlando to close out their season. He is set to stay back in Washington and continue working with coaches at the Wizards' practice facility.

Beal ends the year with some pristine numbers: 30.5 points, 6.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. The points-per-game are the second-most in franchise history only to Walt Bellamy's 31.6 in 1961-62.

Not bad for a guy who was playing hurt.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson apologizes for anti-Semitic post

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson apologizes for anti-Semitic post

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has apologized after backlash for sharing anti-Semitic posts on social media over the weekend.

"My post was definitely not intended for anybody of any race to feel any type of way, especially the Jewish community," Jackson said in a video he posted on Instagram on Tuesday. "I post things on my story all the time, and just probably never should have posted anything Hitler did, because Hitler was a bad person, and I know that."

The team issued the following statement: "We have spoken with DeSean Jackson about his social media posts. Regardless of his intentions, the messages he shared were offensive, harmful, and absolutely appalling. They have no place in our society, and are not condoned or supported in any way by the organization. We are disappointed and we reiterated to DeSean the importance of not only apologizing but also using his platform to take action to promote unity, equality, and respect. We are continuing to evaluate the circumstances and are committed to continuing to have productive and meaningful conversations with DeSean, as well as all of our players and staff, in order to educate, learn, and grow."

The NFL also issued a statement, saying: "DeSean's comments were highly inappropriate, offensive and divisive and stand in stark contrast to the NFL's values of respect, equality and inclusion. We have been in contact with the team which is addressing the matter with DeSean."

Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, is in his second stint in Philadelphia, returning last season to the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft.

Former Eagles president Joe Banner criticized Jackson on Twitter. Banner wrote: "If a white player said anything about (African-Americans) as outrageous as what Desean Jackson said about Jews tonight there would at least be a serious conversation about cutting him and a need for a team meeting to discuss. Which would be totally appropriate. Absolutely indefensible."

Banner, who also worked for Cleveland and Atlanta, later shared an anti-Palestinian tweet with the hashtag "Palestinianprivilege getting away with murder."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS UNCOVERED

Stay connected with the Redskins in the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS: