NEW ORLEANS — With a team flag waving from an open window of their chartered plane, the 49ers arrived Sunday for their first Super Bowl in 18 years.
The players walked off the plane in a businesslike manner — no video recorders or cameras, no waves to onlookers. QB Colin Kaepernick mouthed the words to a song on his headphones as he walked on the tarmac.
"Pressure comes from a lack of preparation," Kaepernick said. "This is not a pressure situation. It's a matter of going out and performing."
Most veterans disembarked first, including C Jonathan Goodwin. He won a Super Bowl three years ago with the Saints and grew up rooting for the 49ers.
"You get to go to the Super Bowl with your childhood team," he said. "So that's something special to me."
The Ravens are scheduled to arrive today.
How much longer? Ravens S Bernard Pollard, who will play in his first Super Bowl after making the playoffs twice during his first six seasons, said he is worried about the future of the NFL.
"Thirty years from now, I don't think it will be in existence," he told cbssports.com. "I think with the direction things are going — where (the league) wants to lighten up and they're throwing flags and everything else — there's going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it."
Pollard added he's not sure the league can do anything about it.
"The league is trying to move in the right direction (with player safety)," he said. "But at the same time, (coaches) want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you're going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees.
"The only thing I'm waiting for — and, Lord, I hope it doesn't happen — is a guy dying on the field. We've had everything else happen there except for a death."
Just an observer: 49ers QB Alex Smith ran off the field at Candlestick Park two weeks ago to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd, not much different from the reception last January when he took the 49ers to the NFC title game.
But his trip to the Super Bowl this season is hardly how he envisioned it. Benched for Kaepernick, he will play the role of Ravens QB Joe Flacco on the scout team during practice.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little bittersweet," Smith said. "Yes, I want to be out there. That's what you work for. At the same time, it is a team sport, and these are all my teammates. If you can't be happy for them, then something's wrong with you."
Smith lost his job after sustaining a concussion Nov. 11 against the Rams. Since then, he has stayed out of the spotlight.
"Alex has been a class act as far as handling everything that is going on," 49ers TE Vernon Davis said. "He's been through a lot. But he also understands that it's the nature of the business. And this is a business."