Sports

With a proud past, these 49ers looking to forge a new identity

NEW ORLEANS — When the 49ers walk into their team facility in Santa Clara, Calif., they’re greeted by five gleaming Lombardi Trophies, proof of the franchise’s proud past.

Through the 1980s and into the ’90s, San Francisco was one of the NFL’s dominant teams. But after firing Steve Mariucci in 2002, the 49ers endured eight consecutive seasons at .500 or below — a tough turn of events for a fan base that had seen its team win 10-plus games for 16 straight seasons.

And now they have a chance to win another Super Bowl title and create their own legacy.

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“It’s a new team, new era, new time,” cornerback Tarell Brown said. “Those guys did an amazing job of setting the standard here with the 49ers and we’re just trying to get back to where it’s supposed to be.

“This is a great organization. Any time you get to play for this organization you want to put it at the top. You want to leave a lasting legacy here. So for this team we just want to get it back to where it was and make sure the tradition holds.”

San Francisco returned to the playoffs last season, the first with Jim Harbaugh as head coach, and lost to the Giants in the NFC Championship game. This year the Niners have taken things a step further.

But Harbaugh and several players already have said this week that they do not want to dwell on the glories of the past and instead are focused on their own work this week.

“It’s not pressure at all. We’re going to do our best as a team to win,” Frank Gore said of the 49ers being 5-0 in the Super Bowl. “We want to win. We just have to go out there and do what we did all year, being the 49ers.”

Said linebacker NaVorro Bowman, “I can appreciate what they [past teams] did. I think it just puts those teams in another category — it’s an elite category. We have a chance to be placed in that category and we don’t want to let that opportunity slip away.”

He ain’t heavy

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s younger brother John is a walk-on receiver at Stanford, and as it turns out, Jim Harbaugh may have helped John get into the college when he was still coaching the Cardinal.

“My brother was on the waiting list and I just kind of called up and said, ‘Hey, what are his chances of getting in?’ ’’ said Joe Flacco. “That’s all I did, and Jim just took it from there. My brother is a pretty bright kid.

“Obviously there is a big connection between John [Flacco] and Jim [Harbaugh]. My brother walked onto the football team and Jim helped out in that; it’s kind of cool how it’s coming together.”

One more it’s-all-relative item? When John Harbaugh took a question from Newsday reporter Bob Glauber on Monday, he noticed that Glauber has a striking resemblance to his brother-in-law, Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean.

Whistle blower

Perhaps the day’s strangest question went to Jim Harbaugh, when he was asked when and why he started wearing “a necklace with a Sharpie on it” during games. The answer showed both the more personable side of Harbaugh that came out on Monday (as opposed to Sunday night), but still had some of his snark: “Well I take great offense that you call it a necklace,” he said. “It’s a whistle. It’s a coach’s whistle that coaches have long worn around their neck. I believe every coach should have a whistle. It’s hard to imagine going out to practice without a whistle. Then I just put a pen onto the whistle string. It’s not complicated at all. If I need a pen it’s just right there.” . . . Fact of the day: there are 14 players from the South Florida counties of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade playing in the Super Bowl. The 10 players from Palm Beach County alone are more than any other state will have in the game.

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