As a Florida native who played his college career at Miami before joining the 49ers, running back Frank Gore admits he doesn't quite know what to expect out of Sunday's game in Buffalo, which will likely be played in poor weather conditions.
"I know you have got to be very careful," said Gore. "It's going to be wet, cold, and really my first time playing in that type of weather. You just have to bring extra security to the ball. I'm just going to focus on holding the ball and not letting it go."
Gore got a crash course on Wednesday, as the team went through their walk-thru and most of an afternoon practice under a steady rainfall.
"It's good to work in weather like this," he said. "It's kind of the same thing, but it is just not as cold. The ball is going to be wet so you just have to hold onto it and this helps you think about it during a wet practice."
The 49ers expect to arrive to more rain in Buffalo on Friday night, which will likely turn into snowfall by Sunday.
"I've never played in snow, so I don't really know how it'll be," said Gore. "I'll go out before the game and test it out with my cleats. If I don't feel right, I'll change them up."
While there might be some white powder on the ground come Sunday, head coach Mike Singletary expects it to be a colorful affair.
"It's going to be a physical game, a black and blue game," said Singletary. "It's going to be cold. Weather's not going to be great so it sounds perfect."
In poor weather games, offenses tend to fair better by keeping the ball on the ground. Both points are well suited for 49ers starting left tackle Joe Staley, who grew up and played his college ball in Michigan.
"It's really fun actually to play in the elements," said Staley. "It takes you back to your Pee Wee days so I look forward to it. When it is snowing, it's easier to run the ball because the passing game gets diminished when the ball gets really wet. We've got one of the best backs in the league to block for, so that works for us."
As for that best back, he'd love to get his hands on the ball more than his 14 carries last week in Dallas.
"I think I should get way more touches this week, especially if it's snowing because it's tougher to put the ball in the air," said Gore. "I just have to get ready and make sure I protect the ball at all times."
Ball security has been troublesome for the entire 49ers offense, even under perfect conditions. Add in less than ideal weather and a Buffalo defense that will be gunning for the ball after their five-turnover fest last week in Kansas City, and it's fair to say that turnovers could be the bottom line of this matchup.
"I think every defense comes after the ball," said Staley. "We just have to do a better job of keeping our hands on it and do a better job with the football and not making stupid turnovers. When you are being aggressive and going down the field and someone makes a great play, you can't really be mad at that, but it's the stupid turnovers that really kill you. I think the elements make it a little harder, so everyone has to make a conscious effort to hang on to the ball. Fortunately, I just have to worry about blocking."
That too is an equally important assignment. While the Bills are in the bottom third of the NFL with only 18 sacks on the year, they have several high motor pass rushers and will dial up the blitz to create extra pressure.
"They've got really good defensive ends who rush the passer well so we have to do a good job of containing them," said Staley. "It's a matter of continuing to protect the quarterback. I feel like we've solidified that in the last three games as far as the line goes. We've done a really good job of keeping him clean back there and making it easy for him to look down the field."
Welcomed news for the 49ers, quarterback Shaun Hill could have some additional targets downfield this week as wide receivers Arnaz Battle and Josh Morgan took part in individual work on Wednesday.
"I'm real excited about getting back on the field," said Morgan who has been out since the Arizona game with a groin injury. "I did a little individual drills today, felt real good. I still feel it during certain movements, but I'm close to being ready to help my team out. I'm just going to keep taking care of it, doing my treatment and everything and go from there, let my body do the rest."
Injuries to the Buffalo secondary have paved the way for rookie Leodis McKelvin to get his most significant playing time on defense, an opportunity the youngster took full advantage of with two interceptions including one that he took to the house last week in Kansas City.
"He's a great athlete," said Morgan. "He's doing a lot of athletic things to help his team. Sometimes he helps them out in the return game and he's a great athlete. What better way to come back, but to go against another rookie."
Although he was not active last week in Dallas when the 49ers failed to punch it into the end zone despite twice enjoying a first and goal from the four, the importance of finishing wasn't lost on the 49ers rookie receiver.
"Coach has it last on our list of things to be successful, but I think finishing should be one through five," said Morgan. "If we finish everything, secure the ball better, finish drives, finish quarters and finish games, we'd probably be undefeated. Finishing is the most important thing."
Quarterback Shaun Hill said he absolutely feels he's capable of handling his responsibilities, regardless of whatever weather conditions come his way.
Growing up in Parsons, Kansas, Hill had several opportunities to test that theory out.
"Oh I've played in quite a few driving rainstorms in Kansas and windy as all get out, so those have been the worst."
Hill recalled back to back games from his younger playing days.
"It rained two weeks in a row pretty much non-stop and the fields were pretty much…I mean you couldn't see lines anywhere. By the end of the game you couldn't tell who was who on what team. Showers were clogged up after the game, it just was mud. Buffalo doesn't have the mud issue, they'll have artificial turf. But I've been in some tough ones."
Clements Readies for Returns
Cornerback Nate Clements will square off against his former Buffalo team for the first time since signing on as a free agent with the 49ers in 2007.
"I knew we were going to be playing them, so I'm very anxious to get back to my old stomping ground," said Clements.
While Clements looks forward to returning to familiar ground, he's ready to put last week's rough performance in Dallas behind him.
"As a corner you have to… As my coach would say, 'Water off a duck, just rolls right off you.' I just have to get ready for next week and I'm anxious."
Clements looks to also get some work as the team's punt returner as Allen Rossum has already been ruled out for Sunday's game.
"I prepare myself every week to be put in that position, in case anything happens I'm ready."
The wet weather shouldn't give Clements too many problems, since he handled punt responsibilities at the start of his career in Buffalo.
"Concentration," said Clements when asked what is needed under adverse weather conditions. "I don't think it's going to be as bad as I've seen it before. But, definitely you have to concentrate and focus on catching the ball."
More Injury Notes
In addition to Rossum, safety Dashon Goldson has been ruled out for his fifth straight game with a knee injury.
Linebacker Joe Staley (ankle) and cornerback Walt Harris (hamstring) were held out of Wednesday's practice after getting nicked up in the Dallas game.
Linebacker Takeo Spikes was given the day off to rest.