SANTA CLARA — Phil Dawson wasted little time getting to work once he signed with the 49ers this offseason. That meant trekking to Candlestick Park to get a jump on the tricky conditions.
"I got the general feel for the stadium," Dawson said Thursday. "By no means do I think those times have prepared me fully for what I'm going to face."
Then again, Dawson isn't a stranger to kicking in tough conditions, given he spent his first 14 NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns, and dealt with harsh cold and winds rolling in from Lake Erie.
The 49ers no doubt were thrilled by the prospect of landing a kicker fresh from his finest season and thereby ending the angst of standing by David Akers as their guy.
Dawson, 38, converted 29 of 31 field-goal attempts for the Browns last season, and he was selected to the Pro Bowl. Akers made only 29 of 42 in the regular season.
Before San Francisco's first playoff game, general manager Trent Baalke brought in free agent Billy Cundiff for an extended tryout. Ultimately, the 49ers waived Cundiff and stuck with Akers through the Super Bowl.
The 49ers severed ties with Akers soon after the season and set their sights on Dawson.
"When I found out the 49ers were interested, my focus was 100-percent forward," Dawson said. "I got really excited, and it didn't take long" to make a decision.
He said he enjoys the businesslike approach of the 49ers, where the focus is on winning games and playing as a team.
Dawson should fit right in, if for no other reason than his fanatical approach to gauging conditions before each game.
He consults several websites for temperatures, wind speed and direction, whatever might give him an edge.
"I'm pretty psycho" when it comes time to checking out weather forecasts, Dawson said. "It's borderline a problem."
His obsession with his craft yielded huge dividends the past 14 seasons. It is fueled by a constant memory of going undrafted in 1998.
Dawson was the consensus top kicker in the draft that year, out of the University of Texas. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Raiders, got cut by the end of training camp and didn't kick in a regular-season game until 1999.
Coincidentally, Dawson now calls home a stadium that sits 10 miles or so away from where the Raiders play their home games. Yet, Dawson has kicked at Candlestick Park only twice.
"The weather has been perfect," he said.
The 49ers don't expect Dawson to be perfect on his kicks. At the same time, they are confident that he is going to prove a clear-cut upgrade over Akers.