San Francisco 49ers
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Vernon Davis revealed Wednesday how frustrated he was adapting to a 49ers offense that might use him heavily in their playoff opener.

“When I first got in this offense, it was almost as if I wanted to quit,” Davis said Wednesday. “I was like, ‘This is just too much.’ There was just too much information at one time that they were throwing on me and Delanie (Walker) and the rest of the tight ends.

“But we stuck with it. We learned as much as we possibly could. And here we are.”

The 49ers (13-3) are in the playoffs for the first time in nine years, and they’ll open Saturday against the New Orleans Saints (14-3) at Candlestick Park.

Davis figures to play a key role in his playoff debut, and that became more likely Wednesday when Saints safety Roman Harper missed practice with a surprise ankle injury.

Harper is the Saints’ leader in tackles and sacks, and before the news of his injury, Davis talked about how he expected to match up with Harper in one-on-one situations. “Roman Harper, we’ve been watching him a lot. It seems like he’s always around the tight end,” Davis said.

Harper got hurt in the Saints’ 45-28 wild-card win Saturday over Detroit. He told the New Orleans Times-Picayune he “feels good” about his availability against the 49ers: “I don’t think there really is a question. It’s the playoffs.”

But will he be able to contain Davis in man coverage, such as when the Saints blitz? Davis is coming off a season-high 118 receiving yards in a Jan. 1 win at St. Louis.

“Vernon is really getting comfortable in our system, and I kind of noticed it the past four and five weeks,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.

Davis said his early-season adjustments included changing his stance by moving his feet closer together and by reading defenses more on his routes. “That was a little different for me, because in the past, I didn’t have to read it as much,” Davis said. “I’d just run and get open, whether that middle field was closed or open.”

Left tackle Joe Staley said Davis wasn’t the only one overwhelmed, noting: “We had to install the whole offense on the fly. Everyone was feeling that way, not just him. But he’s really raised his level the past couple weeks.”

– Justin Smith saved the 49ers’ Nov. 13 win over the New York Giants by jumping high in the “B” gap to bat down a fourth-down pass. That spot also will be key to defending 6-foot quarterback Drew Brees. “He’s a really smart guy the way he attacks the pass rush,” Smith said. “He knows where that open B-gap window is going to be. He baits the outside rushers by dropping back then he steps up and slides to where he needs to be for his open receivers.”

– Defensive lineman Ray McDonald practiced for the first time since straining a hamstring Jan. 1. The only 49er who didn’t practice was Walker (jaw). Listed as limited were McDonald, cornerback Chris Culliver (knee) and receivers Ted Ginn (ankle) and Kyle Williams (concussion).

– Running back Frank Gore gave each 49ers offensive lineman a Louis Vuitton travel bag. “I’m very gracious to Frank for doing that for us,” Staley said. Defensive players received a pair of K-Swiss sneakers, presumably from K-Swiss endorser Patrick Willis.

– Roman said he wasn’t distracted by Penn State’s interest in him before they hired Bill O’Brien as coach last week: “It came out of nowhere. I was sitting at my desk one day and the phone rang. I was very honored to be considered. It was a four-hour block of time, and I compartmentalized very well.”

– Wide receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) and tight end John Gilmore (toe) did not participate in Saints practice. Linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Jonathan Casillas were limited with knee injuries. Wide receiver Robert Meachem (knee) was a full participant.

– The 49ers are only the second home underdog in a divisional playoff game since 1982, according to The Saints are listed on that site as 3-point favorites. The only other road favorite in a divisional-round game was the 1996 Dallas Cowboys, who lost 26-17 at Carolina. The Cowboys also were favored by 3.

– Rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick has made brief cameos in three games, but he remains one snap away from replacing Alex Smith if an injury occurs. Roman said Kaepernick’s mechanics have improved, adding: “It’s a whole new world for him. He’s come along mightily.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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