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49ers just idle, not on vacation

Jim Harbaugh has led the 49ers to the playoffs as NFC West champs in his first season. It’s the team’s first berth since the 2002 season.

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Jim Harbaugh has led the 49ers to the playoffs as NFC West champs in his first season. It’s the team’s first berth since the 2002 season.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh made one thing clear Monday: A playoff bye week is nothing like the break teams get at midseason.

Still, the NFC West champion 49ers are relishing some extra prep time considering all the players trying to get healthy ahead of their first playoff game in nine years.

"It feels like an advantage. How big, we'll see," Harbaugh said of the extra week. "I know this: We're not going to treat it like a vacation. It's not a midseason bye, in my view, where you can afford to come back in midseason form. We'll treat it as such."

Harbaugh said he spoke about the schedule with big brother John, the Ravens coach whose team also gets the opening week off as the AFC's second seed.

"Compared notes," Jim Harbaugh said. "Some things are the same, some are different."

Also, WR Kyle Williams, who missed Sunday's finale with a concussion after taking a helmet-first hit Dec. 24 against Seattle, said he is on schedule to be cleared for practice by the time the team starts preparing for its Jan. 14 division game.

FALCONS: Mike Smith wants his first two playoff losses with Atlanta to be "growing experiences" that will help his team prepare for Sunday's first-round game at the Giants.

With Smith in his first season as coach and QB Matt Ryan starting as a rookie quarterback, the Falcons lost to Arizona in the first round of the playoffs after the 2008 season. The Falcons had a first-round bye last year before losing 48-21 to Green Bay.

Smith said it's important the Falcons learn from the losses. He said based on those lessons he is planning tweaks to practice this week.

"We haven't gotten the outcome we've wanted," he said. "We are learning from those experiences. We're going to use those as growing experiences and we're looking forward to competing this week, and that's not just Matt Ryan.

"That's Mike Smith and every member of our team."

SAINTS: Rookie RB Mark Ingram and LB Will Herring were placed on injured reserve, ending their seasons. Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama, missed the past four games with a sprained toe on his left foot. Herring has a sprained MCL in his right knee, coach Sean Payton said.

49ers just idle, not on vacation 01/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 11:46pm]
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