SANTA CLARA — Phil Dawson has been to Candlestick Park for numerous kicking workouts to try to learn the stadium's tricky wind. He has hit it off with his teammates and begun to settle into life in the Bay Area — his first major move in more than a decade.
It's hard to imagine this guy being rattled by change, yet he acknowledges feeling anxiety through it all. At first.
Here he was a few months back, a 14-year NFL veteran nervous about joining a new team for the first time and starting fresh with the reigning NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. Even if he realizes full well — and did at the time — that this might be his best shot at winning a Super Bowl.
From the moment Dawson joined the 49ers, he put together a daunting to-do list for himself to get acclimated in a hurry. He will make his 49ers debut Sunday against Green Bay, a rematch of San Francisco's emphatic divisional playoff win in January.
"There's a long list of things I knew I needed to accomplish. One of which was just getting comfortable with my teammates, learning everybody, letting them get to know me," Dawson said. There are so many things, getting used to snap and hold and developing that rapport and the timing, getting used to the new environment in terms of kicking, on kickoffs where am I aiming, what are my lines going to be? Getting a little more familiar with the stadiums. Literally, I'm starting over. It was a little intimidating at first but I look back now and I'm very pleased with how many of those boxes we've been able to check off. I feel ready to tackle what's next."
And how about those swirling winds off the bay at The Stick? Dawson's not even pretending to have that down yet — or ever.
He seemed pretty comfortable at Candlestick during the preseason, hitting a 50-yard field goal in a victory against the Vikings. Overall, Dawson connected on 9 of 11 exhibition field goals with a pair of 55-yarders at Kansas City.
Yet Dawson will treat the opener with the Packers as if it's a road game. And he plans to continue to take that approach "until I get a few more under my belt and being able to start answering a few more of those unknowns."
One thing that has eased the transition: Dawson's special teams coach, Brad Seely. They worked together in Cleveland, too.
So, when San Francisco began searching for David Akers' replacement, courting Dawson made perfect sense. The Niners signed Dawson to a one-year deal early in free agency.
"I know what he's done and I know him personally," Seely said Thursday. "I know how even-keeled he is. He doesn't have a lot of ups and downs in his life or on the football field. You've got to deal with the wind conditions. We've gone to the stadium a lot and worked out. He kind of gets to know it as well as he can. He's done a great job in practice and we play out here every afternoon in the wind."