In between Sunday's game at Minnesota and next Sunday's game at the New York Jets, the 49ers will practice at Youngstown State, and they'll stay at a modest hotel in Boardman, Ohio. It's the same routine as last season's layover between their wins at Cincinnati and Philadelphia.

That 2011 sojourn served as the launching point for their turnaround season. Sure, they won twice in come-from-behind fashion. They also forged a closer bond.

"It was a real positive when we went through it last year, that we were together," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "It gave us a great chance to be around each other, have meals. You stayed longer at the meals, got to know each other more."

Quarterback Alex Smith said whereas the extended trip is "tough" because he's away from his wife and toddler son, he hailed its benefits and compared it to "another little minicamp."

Before the 49ers get to Ohio, however, they'll try to end a four-game losing streak in Minnesota and win there for the first time since 1992. That skid isn't as daunting as the eight-game, 22-year drought they snapped in the Sept.9 opening win at Green Bay.

The five-day layover in Ohio is where the "camp" feel will come into play. Aside from practicing at Youngstown State and making community appearances Monday, the 49ers will down shift among Boardman's strip malls and chain restaurants.

"There's nothing really to do there," Alex Smith said. "You practice, you prepare and you hang out."

Added linebacker Aldon Smith: "No disrespect to Youngstown. Not a lot of distractions."


Running back Brandon Jacobs is questionable for today's. Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is also questionable for the Vikings game. Punter Andy Lee (hand) was a full go in practice once again. He is listed as probable.

The bridge of Alex Smith's nose took the hit, and on Friday the NFL took $7,875 out of Detroit Lions safety John Wendling's paycheck.

Wendling delivered a forearm smash into Smith's helmet last Sunday that resulted in a gash across Smith's nose in the final minutes of the 49ers' 27-19 win. A league spokesman said Wendling's fine was for "unnecessary roughness." Wendling wasn't penalized by on-field officials after the late hit.

The 49ers conducted a walk-through in a Holiday Inn parking lot in Ohio two days before their game against the Eagles last season.

Finding different spots for walk-throughs isn't anything new for Harbaugh. However, he calls the one in Ohio about as "unique" as he can recall.

Fullback Bruce Miller said the best spots for walk-throughs are parking garages because it's difficult for people to see what the 49ers are working on.

"One thing that coach always says is you never know who's watching, who's looking, who's digging in trash cans. So, we're very protective of our walk-throughs, of our papers, of our notebooks when we go on trips. ... We're going to keep our stuff in the circle."