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Manningham Ready to Make Impact

Posted Mar 22, 2012

For two men who have never been on the same team before, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and newly-signed wide receiver Mario Manningham have plenty in common.

Both raised in the Midwest before attending the University of Michigan, Manningham and Harbaugh sparked up a quick relationship before the talented wideout inked his contract this week. As he spoke to Bay Area reporters Thursday from his hometown of Warren, Ohio, Manningham said Harbaugh provided him with an instant sense of comfort.

“I’m glad that we had a connection like that,” Manningham said during his conference call. “I hope he knows my toughness and what I can do and the game changer that I am.”

For evidence on Manningham’s game-changing ability, look no further than the most recent postseason. Not only did Manningham catch a touchdown for the New York Giants in an overtime win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship game, he also hauled in an iconic 38-yard pass during the Super Bowl. Months later and Manningham said he still gets asked about that historic reception “a couple times a day.”

Now Manningham is focused on winning another ring with the 49ers. At 25, he provides quarterback Alex Smith with another quality option at receiver, joining Michael Crabtree and fellow free-agent signee Randy Moss.

Not to mention the 49ers feature one of the premier running backs in the game.

“I tip my hat off to Frank Gore for being in the backfield and running the way he ran last year and in his career,” Manningham said. “I feel like I can come there and make an impact and be a great addition to this offense.”

From the comments of the 49ers front office, it’s clear Manningham will play a key role in coordinator Greg Roman’s offense.

“We are very pleased to add a player like Mario to our team," said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke in a team-issued statement.  “Although it is still early in his NFL career, he is a productive wide receiver with a lot of big game experience. He will be a nice compliment to our current wide receiver group and a good fit for our offensive system.”

The addition of Manningham is the latest high-profile move by Baalke and his staff in what’s been an active offseason. The 49ers have re-signed players like Smith, linebacker Ahmad Brooks, cornerback Carlos Rogers, safety Dashon Goldson and safety C.J. Spillman, while adding others like Moss, running back Rock Cartwright and cornerback Perrish Cox via free agency.

Aside from being impressed with one of the top front offices in the game, Manningham pointed to Harbaugh’s strong supporting cast as a reason to join the 49ers.

“They have a good coaching staff and great players around them,” Manningham said. “I know what they’re capable of doing.”

Listed at 6-foot, 185 pounds, Manningham’s best season came in 2010, when he had 60 catches for 944 yards and nine touchdowns. Last year, Manningham played in 12 games, racking up 39 receptions for 523 yards and four interceptions. ESPN analyst and former 49ers quarterback Trent Dilfer told 49ers.com he can envision Manningham and Moss thriving on the outside with Crabtree as an excellent slot receiver in 2012.

But Manningham knows it takes more than just a potent offense to reach the ultimate goal. After facing the stingy 49ers defense twice in 2011 and seeing the entire starting group stay intact this offseason, Manningham is happy he’ll be on the 49ers sideline this year.

“They swarm,” Manningham said of the 49ers defense. “They hit you, they cover you. I feel like we’ve got the best linebacking corps in the league. … They have athletic defensive backs, the d-line is all real good. It’s a great defense out there.”

Click here to listen to Manningham’s conference call

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