SANTA CLARA — Linebacker Patrick Willis quickly figured out why NFL teams historically have had trouble avenging a Super Bowl defeat when he began perusing the 49ers' upcoming schedule.
They face three 2012 playoff teams in the first three weeks. There's a 12,000-mile round-trip jaunt to London at the end of October. And the following month there are back-to-back trips to New Orleans and Washington.
"When the schedule was released, I was looking at the games and was like, 'Wow, this is one heck of a schedule.' " Willis said. "I guess it's one of those things when you make it to the Super Bowl, win or lose, that next year's schedule is no joke."
Willis and the rest of the 49ers' veterans reported for training camp Wednesday confident they can break a four-decade dry spell. The last team that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy the year after a Super Bowl loss was the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 17-0 that season.
There are plenty of reasons teams falter while trying to take that final step to a title.
As Willis noted, the schedule is full of playoff-caliber opponents, games are played in prime time, and foes are eager to make their mark against a Super Bowl team.
Indeed, San Francisco's first two opponents likely have circled the 49ers on their schedule in bright red ink.
The Green Bay Packers, who visit Candlestick Park in Week 1, spent the offseason studying how to stop the read-option attack quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers used to bludgeon them in the playoffs last Jan. 12.
In Week 2, the 49ers head to Seattle, where the Seahawks have been the talk of the NFL all offseason and where the 49ers game has eclipsed — and it's not close — every other contest on the home schedule.<NO1> The fans at CenturyLink Field on Sept. 15 will attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the loudest sports venue.
"Teams are gunning after us," cornerback Carlos Rogers said."You look at our division, each and every one of them got better — new coaches, new players. So not even thinking about the Super Bowl, we've got to win our division because that's going to be way tougher than it was last year."
Then there's attrition.
Super Bowl squads typically are picked apart the following offseason by lesser teams eager to sign free agents and hire coaches.
The 49ers, however, noted that while two longtime contributors <NO><NO1><WC>—<WC1> safety Dashon Goldson and tight end Delanie Walker — departed via free agency, the team added talent through the draft and traded for respected veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
Several veterans Wednesday said they believe there is more talent on this training camp roster than last summer's. As for coaches, the team didn't lose any notable names and even added one, Eric Mangini, in June.
Finally, some teams have trouble emerging from the fog of a post-Super Bowl hangover.
Squads that play in February endure three or more games than most of the league, players often push through injuries in an effort to win a title, and it takes longer to recover, physically and mentally. In short, they lose their hunger