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49ers' Patrick Willis expects difficult schedule for NFC champions

  • San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis runs drills during NFL football minicamp at the team's training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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.

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