Jeff Ulbrich: "It's more about us at this point."
While it is a big week for professional football fans in the San Francisco Bay-Oakland area, the 49ers don't appear likely to get wrapped up in the provincial rivalry. Both teams have plenty of problems heading into Sunday's game at Monster Park. The 49ers are coming off a 41-0 shellacking at Kansas City, and they see their hopes of contending for a playoff spot starting to evaporate.
So bragging rights or anything else that could come from a good showing against the Raiders have been pushed aside. The 49ers just need to take care of their own business.
"Maybe if we were 4-0, I'd say it would be that way, but the fact we're in the situation we are, it's more about us at this point," 49ers linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. "We got to turn the ship around. It's less about a rivalry and this and that, and more about getting our ship right."
The 49ers (1-3) are not in a position to take any of their opponents lightly, including the Raiders (0-3). The 49ers have actually been established as a 3½-point favorite for the game.
"We just played a Kansas City team that was 0-2 and they came out and wanted that win," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "Here's another team that's winless and I'm sure they'll be hungry for that first one as well. We need to anticipate getting in a dogfight every week. There are not going to be easy wins. We need to expect battles."
The 49ers went back to practice this week with a lot to learn about themselves. Smith, a second-year pro, is gaining some valuable experience during his first season as the full-time starter.
"I'm learning as I go through these things," he said. "I think this team has continued to come together. I can see it. It's apparent this team wants to be good. It has that drive and motivation. Right now it's a matter of understanding how to get there. I think we're learning that. The potential is there for this team to be good; the pieces are in place to be successful. Now it's a matter of how to go about things and prepare."
Receiver Antonio Bryant said he has been on teams when he heard players in the locker room counting down the games until the end of the regular season. He said he believes he sees a commitment among his teammates to turn things around.
Getting off to better starts each week would help. The 49ers have lost the past two weeks to the Eagles and Chiefs, getting outscored 48-3 in the first half of those games.
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Coach Mike Nolan disputed an Internet report that defensive coordinator Billy Davis is likely to get fired at the end of the season, if not during the season. He said he is happy with the job Davis is doing.
Nolan, a former defensive coordinator, is a hands-on coach when it comes to his defense. He said he has veto power when it comes to which defense the club is running on a down-to-down basis. He often gives Davis suggestions on what to call during a game.
"Everybody has to share blame," Nolan said. "I know there are calls when I said, 'This is what I want to do, do this and this and this.'"
He added, "I've been involved since I've taken this job in the defense quite a bit. I think it would be unfair, unjust and incorrect to point out somebody."
Said Davis, "We couldn't be on the same page more than we are right now. We talk about everything openly. We plan things, talk about our players, and how we can get them better."
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Right tackle Kwame Harris, the 49ers' No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, has had a difficult time winning over the fans. Harris is a good run-blocker but he has struggled in pass protection. He is often the subject of intense fan reaction when he gets called for penalties. He had a rough first half last week against Chiefs rookie defensive end Tamba Hali.
"To be honest, I really don't think about it," Harris said. "I love our fans, but if I were to pin my moods or state of mind on their moods, then I'd be on a lot of medication."
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Respect is something that is earned in the NFL, and the 49ers have a long way to go in that regard.
Never was that more apparent than in the team's 38-24 loss to the Eagles on Sept. 24. Nolan was told by NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira that the game officials made mistakes on at least three calls, resulting in 207 second-half yards, including a touchdown.
When asked what he heard from the league about the calls, Nolan asked the team's public-relations director what he could say. He was told he wasn't allowed to speak about the conversation with Pereira.
"We make mistakes on our own, as well. It's not somebody else's fault that we lost. That's our fault," Nolan said.
But a source said the league admitted the incorrect calls were made on at least three critical plays, including Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson's 98-yard touchdown return in the third quarter. Patterson should have been ruled down by contact after his recovery at the Eagles' 2-yard line.
Also, a 60-yard pass to Eagles tight end Matt Schobel should not have counted because of an illegal pick that allowed Schobel to get open. That play led to a touchdown.
And 49ers receiver Antonio Bryant's 49-yard reception to the Eagles' 8-yard line was nullified when running back Michael Robinson was called for an illegal chop block. However, the league determined that Robinson did not commit an illegal block after all.
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Thirteen-year veteran Bryant Young is still the 49ers' best defensive lineman. Young is playing the final season of a five-year, $25 million contract, and the club would love to bring him back next season. However, the 49ers do not plan to negotiate during the season with Young.
"That's something that's going to be on his terms," Nolan said. "Believe me, I think the world of B.Y. I think whatever he does is going to be on his terms."
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The 49ers recently extended the contracts of cornerback Shawntae Spencer and offensive lineman Adam Snyder, and they have talked to at least four other players about extending their contracts, too.
The team engaged in preliminary talks about signing guard Justin Smiley, safety Mike Adams, and running backs Frank Gore and Maurice Hicks to long-term deals. There does not appear to be any progress toward new deals with the players.
Smiley said coach Mike Nolan approached him after Snyder's deal surfaced to inform him that he fits into the team's plans.
"It makes you feel good because I want to be here and be part of this team," said Smiley, who is signed through 2007. "I want to continue to play the way I've been playing and stay consistent. I've played really well so far this year and if I continue to do that, it's only going to help."
Smiley said the 49ers have spoken to his agent but no contract proposals were exchanged. However, one source said the 49ers made a "low ball" offer to lock up Smiley to a long-term contract.
Adams and Hicks have both rejected the 49ers' proposals that were characterized as "good backup money." Both Adams and Hicks are scheduled to be restricted free agents at the end of the season.
Although the 49ers want to keep Gore around for a long time, both sides agreed to hold off on any long-term deal because of questions concerning his durability and how that might affect the contract.
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--- LB Derek Smith had a very active day for the 49ers against the Chiefs with a game-high 15 tackles. Smith was a key figure in containing Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, who gained 101 yards on 30 carries.
--- LG Larry Allen has a chance to return to the lineup Sunday against the Raiders. Allen returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since sustaining a knee sprain on the sixth play of the season opener at the Cardinals. He is still listed as doubtful for the Raiders game.
--- DE Marques Douglas had his best game against the run since joining the 49ers. Douglas recorded six tackles. Although the 49ers got beaten badly by the Chiefs, they managed to do a good job on Johnson.
--- TE Delanie Walker, a rookie, was active for the first time last week but did not get into the game. Nolan said Walker is likely to see action this week on special teams, and could get into around six plays on offense. Walker was out several weeks after sustaining a shoulder separation in the 49ers' final exhibition game.
--- SS Mark Roman made a bid for more playing time with a strong showing against the Chiefs. He had five tackles, including a stop for a loss against Johnson. He also broke up a pass for TE Tony Gonzalez in the end zone. Roman has split time with starter Tony Parrish in each of the first four games.