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49ers Feel Fresh from Playoff Bye

Posted Jan 4, 2013

The San Francisco 49ers have three potential opponents for a Divisional Playoff game at Candlestick Park – the Green Bay Packers, the Seattle Seahawks or the Washington Redskins.

And none of them are a preferred opponent.

Pro Bowl safety Donte Whitner plans on watching the game, not necessarily for insight on a potential opponent, but more so as a fan of the game.

“I have no preference on who will win,” the 49ers safety said on Friday. “I just want to see good games. Even though we’re players and we’re in the playoffs, but you’re fans of the game and you want them to really be good games. The chips are going to fall where they may.”

If the Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings at home Saturday night, there will be no need for Sunday scoreboard watching. In that scenario, Green Bay would visit San Francisco on Jan. 12 as the NFC’s remaining lowest seed.

If the Packers lose to the Vikings, the winner of the Seahawks-Redskins tilt will be the 49ers opponent.

Whitner’s colleague in the 49ers defensive backfield, fellow Pro Bowl starting safety Dashon Goldson, echoed the sentiments of his hard-hitting teammate.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Goldson agreed. “I’m fortunate that we have a game. I don’t really care who it is to be honest with you.”

Opponents might not be the biggest deal to the players, they’ve faced all three teams over the past two seasons and have wins over Green Bay and Seattle in 2012.

What’s more important to the 49ers locker room is the amount of rest they’ve received this week.

“I feel great,” Whitner stressed. “This is the best I’ve ever felt late in a season. This is the strongest I’ve ever felt this late in the season and I think a lot of us feel this way.”

Five-year veteran linebacker Tavares Gooden has especially appreciated the extra rest. The two days of practice this week at 49ers headquarters has been spirited, but more importantly, contact-free.

“You get time to rest up and you get family time,” the special teams standout explained. “Football is a long season, you’re out their earning respect in four preseason games from your teammates then you have 17 grueling weeks of the NFL.”

Gooden has been to the playoffs in all five seasons of his playing career. Furthermore, he’s been three times under Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and the past two season under 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.

“This ain’t nothing new to me,” Gooden stressed. “I really don’t care who advances. I’m going to be chilling this weekend with my wife, with my son, and whoever advances, I’m going to come into work and be ready for them next week.”

To many of the 49ers, including Whitner, it’s more about San Francisco’s freshness and positive mindset as opposed to potential playoff matchups.

“We’ll find out who we play, get this work in next week and really come out and show we are a fresh football team in that first playoff game,” Whitner explained.

The 49ers safety views it as unfinished business, too.

“We lost the NFC Championship game at home… We want to take that next step this year and that’s our goal,” the seventh-year pro said. “Take the next step. Win the first playoff game, win the second and then go to that Super Bowl. We feel like we’re a top team in the NFL. Whoever we play will have to worry about us also.”

Goldson appreciated the rest he received this week and also seeing Justin Smith return to the practice field for the first time in two weeks.

“The bye week has definitely helped us out,” Goldson stressed. “Everybody got their bodies back and their legs back. We definitely got some rest.”

As for Smith, “It’s good to see him out there,” Goldson said. “I don’t know how he’s feeling, but it’s good to see him out there and to get our whole 11 back out there.”

Offensively, the 49ers expect to have their Week 17 lineup back out for the postseason.

Rookie wideout A.J. Jenkins could figure to see more opportunities with Mario Manningham sidelined for the year. Jenkins dropped a short pass in the team’s season finale win over Arizona, but said it hasn’t deterred him from his goal of continued improvement.

“I don’t look behind me,” the 2012 first-round pick said. “Right now, the most important thing for me is the next practice.”

Jenkins is most pleased to be a part of a Super Bowl contender, all while learning from veterans like Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree, the team’s starting wideouts.

“It’s a blessing to be around great teammates and great coaches,” Jenkins stressed. “With the playoffs, it’s a great opportunity to play some more football. To me, it’s a great feeling to keep playing with these guys so hopefully we can keep this thing going.

“I want to go out and make plays for this team. Going to the playoffs, it’s a different type of competition. Each level of the season, the speed goes up. I expect it to be that way in the NFL.”

Leave it Gooden to describe the truest postseason description.

“There are a lot of people who are home, so we’re enjoying this moment. We’re still practicing, still playing games.

“You’ve got the whole country watching, plus your peers. It’s time to shine. It’s like the Monday night games. It’s going to be fun. We all know all eyes are on us and what’s at stake. We’re fighting for a trophy.”

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