Handful of 49ers have Super Bowl experience
MIAMI — They’re too young.
They’re terrific, but they’ve been terrific for only six months.
No matter how many games the 49ers have won, or how thoroughly they overpower their opponents, skeptics keep coming back to the 49ers’ youth and inexperience. As if those things inevitably will doom their season. As if the 49ers are Cinderella, and their magical mystery carriage will transform into a pumpkin at midnight, or just before the Super Bowl. And they’ll be left wearing ashes.
As if George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk, Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt all will trip and fall on their faces during the Super Bowl because they’ve never been there.
The 49ers were 4-12 a year ago, one of the worst teams in the NFL. They did not build gradually to this moment, they exploded onto this moment, and it’s fair to wonder if they’re ready for it. But a few coaches and players on the 49ers have been to the Super Bowl before. Call these men the elder statesmen. They can tell the rest of the players and coaches exactly what to expect during the biggest week of their careers.
Here is the collective Super Bowl wisdom the 49ers’ wise men have to offer:
Left tackle Joe Staley
“My Super Bowl experience was a long time ago,” Staley recalled in the 49ers’ locker room. Staley played in the Super Bowl seven years ago when the 49ers lost 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens. This was the only Super Bowl the 49ers ever have lost. You could almost understand if Staley had erased that entire week from his memory. Instead, he learned from it.
“The distractions that come with the game are not so much the game,” Staley explained. “All of a sudden, you have 20 family members down there, and everybody wants to have an experience. I tell my mom and wife, this is a business trip for me. I tell a lot of the guys the same thing: manage the expectations of your family, and really focus on the game.”
Which means don’t enjoy the moment. The season isn’t over yet. Keep working.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders
Sanders has played in two Super Bowls.
The first time was nine years ago, when he played for the Steelers. In that game, he caught just two passes for 17 yards before getting injured, and the Steelers lost 35-21 to the Packers.
The second time Sanders played in a Super Bowl was four years ago. He played for the Broncos, caught six passes for 88 yards and Denver beat the Panthers 24-10.
This time, Sanders knows exactly what to expect and how to ignore distractions, particularly from journalists who flock to the game from all over the country and ask the players questions every day, sometimes annoying, silly questions.
“It’s a lot of hype,” Sanders said. “It’s the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event in the world, but at the same time it’s my job. I told the young guys today, ‘You can watch TV, you can feed into that, but none of that matters if you lose the game.’ The best bet is to stay locked in and don’t read the newspaper articles and stuff like that. I feel like this team, from a focus standpoint, we’re all built like that as well because we’ve been in crucial games and nobody blinked.”