Newcomers know to stay away from sore subject

Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham shy away from a certain topic that has been prevalent so far this summer during 49ers training camp. The two newcomers know the sensation of pain that goes along with the talk, because they helped deliver a heavy dose of it to their new teammates last year when both played for the New York Giants.

Jacobs never broaches the subject with his new San Francisco 49ers teammates unless he's asked.

After all, they don't usually like his answers.

The 49ers have been fueled during training camp by January's 20-17 overtime loss in the NFC title game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants. Just not Jacobs or Manningham.

The two former Giants helped hand San Francisco that devastating defeat at Candlestick Park, creating an odd dynamic now for the franchise's newest additions.

"You try not to talk about it so much," Jacobs said. "I know that's a dagger in some guys' hearts, because it'd be a dagger in mine, so I try not to ever bring it up."

The awkward moments are often unavoidable.

Earlier this week, Jacobs sat at a desk in a running backs meeting room when Frank Gore started to speak about the NFC title game and the pain that followed. Jacobs just stayed quiet.

"You can hear it in his voice. Guys are angry," Jacobs said. "I'd be angry as well, no question about it."

Other times the conversations are no accident.

Jacobs said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh still disputes the fumble by New York's Ahmad Bradshaw late in the fourth quarter that officials reversed on the basis that the running back's forward progress had been stopped. Even now, Harbaugh often harasses Jacobs – maybe only half-kidding – about the call, which likely would've led to a 49ers victory in regulation.

No matter what Harbaugh or anybody else with the 49ers (No. 4 in the AP Pro32) throws at Jacobs, the burly running back responds the same way.

"I told him, 'Coach, I don't feel bad for you,'" Jacobs said.

Harbaugh confirmed he often has conversations with Jacobs and Manningham about the game, declining to reveal his specific responses. Instead, he'll settle for two talented players who have something he never won as an NFL quarterback: a Super Bowl ring.

"That experience is valuable," Harbaugh said. "I don't know how much or not, but those are members of our team now and they have been this entire offseason. We think we're a better football team with those two men on our side and we're excited about it."

Fitting in with the 49ers has otherwise been a smooth transition for the former Giants.

Jacobs and Manningham skipped New York's ring ceremony in May and a visit to the White House in June because it conflicted with voluntary offseason 49ers workouts. Both said it would have been a "slap in the face" to their new teammates to fly cross-country and attend either event.

On the field, the pair is trying to fill two of San Francisco's biggest needs: a consistent wide receiver and a powerful, short-yardage running back.

Manningham's presence has been a welcome addition to a reloaded receiver corps that includes Randy Moss and first-round pick A.J. Jenkins of Illinois along with returning wideouts Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn Jr. The tight end-happy 49ers got little production in big games from their wide receivers last season, and Manningham has had a flair for rising to the occasion.

Manningham caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning with 8:34 remaining in regulation of the NFC title game. He had five more receptions for 73 yards in New York's 21-17 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, including an over-the-shoulder 38-yard catch between two defenders, tip-toeing the sideline to start the game-winning, 88-yard touchdown drive.

Just don't expect him to brag about either victory or flash that shiny Super Bowl ring in San Francisco's locker room anytime soon.

"I didn't have nothing to do with that, man," Manningham said, smiling, clearly trying to shift the conversation around his 49ers teammates. "We don't talk about that because we know we could end up in that same situation this year. We keep playing like we playing, you never know where we could end up at. I feel like we could have a really good team, and the sky's the limit."

While Manningham's role has been defined, how Jacobs fits in a crowded running back room is unclear.

Gore, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, is the starter. Kendall Hunter and second-round pick LaMichael James are smaller, speedier backs more adept at catching passes. The 6-foot-4 Jacobs – who lost about 15 pounds to meet his offseason goal of dropping to about 260 pounds – will surely be counted on to take over in short-yardage situations.

Whether he ever returns to the 1,000-yard rusher who carried the Giants to the 2008 Super Bowl title appears unlikely.

Now 30 years old, Jacobs said he's at the point in his career where he just wants to win another Super Bowl. And with such a deep pool of running backs, he said playing time is not as much of a concern.

"These guys know what it takes," Jacobs said. "They have gotten there, they were close last year. The same effort you gave last year, you give that effort this year. With me having two Super Bowls and coming in, it only makes other guys want one."

At least one of his new teammates can relate.

Until the arrival of the two former Giants, center Jonathan Goodwin had been the veteran that 49ers players turned to about Super Bowl experience. Goodwin won a title with New Orleans in 2010, and he's happy no longer being the only one getting peppered with such questions.

Even with a ring, Goodwin said he hasn't spoken to either of his new teammates about last season's loss. Count Goodwin among those still bitter about the NFC title game.

"That was one of the more disappointing things for me," Goodwin said. "Last year, I thought these guys came in and accepted me and did a great job of working. It's something I want this group to experience. That's something we're going to keep striving for.

"Hopefully, one day everybody here will have that experience."

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