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News Article | Feb 13, 2014 | by Eric Wright

A Year To Remember



This whole last season in San Francisco was a great experience. I'd never been to that point in the year before, and had a great time just preparing and getting closer to what our goal was, which was to win the Super Bowl. It was an exciting time, something we waited all season for.

The picture kind of came together exactly how we thought it would, and we were primed, ready and excited for that NFC Championship Game.

We always knew we would probably have to play Seattle three times this year. Each team had one win in the series. We knew it was going be a tight, hard-fought battle, and that we were going have to scrap and leave everything out there. It was the type of game that we expected other than right there at the end, where we feel like we could have pulled it out. 

With the way our defenses play and the quarterback play from Kap and Russell, our rivalry is definitely one of the best in the league. It's kind of reminiscent of the recent Pittsburgh Steelers/Baltimore Ravens rivalry. Both those teams always had great defenses, and played close games. And for a while, those two teams pretty much knew that they would have to play each other three times to get to the Super Bowl. Our rivalry with Seattle is similar to that. 

So I can't say I was surprised Seattle played as well as they did in the Super Bowl, especially after the first five minutes with the safety, and how it all started. That put the Broncos in a tough spot out of the gate, going up against a great defense and scheme. Pete Carroll is one of the best defensive minds out there. He's always putting his players in the right position to make plays, and those guys went out there and made a lot of them.

I was surprised that Denver never really got into a consistent rhythm. But in this game, it's so weird. Things happen. You can't take anything away from Peyton -- it was just a long day for him. I thought at some point when the game mattered, they would put a little pressure on that defense. But the number one defense did what it set out to do.

To watch Seattle go on and win the Super Bowl in the way they did, to me, says a lot about our team. With our game plan, we put ourselves in a position to beat them in the NFC Championship. Unfortunately, it just didn't go our way. 

A STRING OF BAD LUCK

That being said, it was disappointing to not be able to play in the NFC title game because of a string of bad luck.

All season, I had been kind of sitting back, primed and ready for my opportunity to help the team. It came, unfortunately, in the form of an injury to a teammate. But it was my time to step up and I did, and I think I played well in the last few games of the regular season.

My game-ending interception in the Seattle game was obviously the highlight. Being able to get an interception in that stadium, in the last year of Candlestick, was great in itself. But then you couple that with the magnitude of the game and the timeliness of the interception? 

It just makes for a great memory. 

I obviously had a lot of support. People were really excited, and rallied behind the fact that they had a hometown kid playing for the Niners. A lot of people who know me personally ride hard for me because they know how hard I work. They know where I came from, what I've been through, and they know what type of person I am.

It meant the world to me to be in that position, and to have the backing of my neighborhood, my city, and really, the whole Bay Area. That was special. I know it doesn't have to be that way just because I'm a hometown player. But I really felt the energy. People were genuinely happy that I had that opportunity, and I was happy to represent for the city.

So with all of that said, I was really looking forward to going out there and contributing to the team in the playoffs. Instead, I ended up getting injured before a freezing cold football game against the Packers at Lambeau Field. It was disappointing.

But even though I was disappointed at missing my opportunity, I was actually really happy for Perrish Cox. He was a guy who spent training camp and most of the season here, and then was let go. To be able to go from that and then being in Seattle and being let go, all the way back to our team and playing, that's great for him.

We all know that he can play. I think the coaches definitely had a comfort level with Perrish as well, and knew they could throw him in there, and he could get the job done. He's obviously a good player, and he played well and helped us win in Green Bay.

It was good for me as well. After tweaking my hamstring, I didn't have to risk an even worse injury in that cold environment. 

But the following week, my bad luck continued. I caught the flu, and was sick for the first two days of the week, which put me at a disadvantage to play the following week. I was dog sick, but still came in for all the meetings, still was out at practice, and still was preparing at home as well, watching film and getting ready to play.  

That's something that has never changed for me, no matter if it was my rookie year or now. I always prepare as if I'm playing the entire game at any position. That's just how I am. Whether I'm going play or not, I will always be ready.            

But since Perrish came in and did such a good job for us in Green Bay, and Carlos Rogers was back healthy and ready to resume his position for the championship game, I was the odd man out. 

That's just life. Things happen. I was just happy to still be able to be there to support and be a good cheerleader for my teammates. 

I love those guys.

Knowing what the game plan was, I was really proud watching our guys go out there and execute. We always give great effort. It's always big hits and big plays, so our defense is fun to watch for everybody -- even for me watching. I was proud of those guys for leaving it all out there.

A CHAMPIONSHIP FAMILY

The San Francisco 49ers are a championship organization from top to bottom. There's a mindset there that's different from some of the others I've been part of.

You go in there every day with the expectation of winning a championship, and there's a concentrated effort to focus on the things that really matter when it comes to winning. That's the type of thing that breeds itself and you find it naturally in a storied franchise like the San Francisco 49ers. It just has a type of energy that you can't really explain, but it's there.

Everybody treats each other with respect, and everybody is treated like men. It's just an ideal situation for a player to be in, really. 

Coach Harbaugh is someone who's obviously well-respected, being an ex-player. Then you add on being really successful locally at Stanford, and this was a great place for him to step up into the ranks as a head coach in the NFL. He's a player's coach. He puts a lot of responsibility on the players in the locker room to maintain a certain level of chemistry. We policed ourselves.

We have a lot of good guys in that locker room, so we all get along pretty well. 

Chemistry is extremely important. You have to be able to count on the guy next to you. This game is all about trust, and it creates another level of trust and accountability when you actually know the guy personally and have a friendly relationship with them.

The 49ers organization does a great job of cultivating those relationships by welcoming friends and family to come around, and keeping the atmosphere very family-friendly. They want the team to have a family feel. 

Before every home game, the Saturday practice is open to friends and family. After some games in our family area, they'll have food out for family and everyone is able to hang around after the game, eat and converse if they want to. Guys get an opportunity to meet each other's families; wives, kids, girlfriends, and get to know each other on a more personal level. 

Because of those things and the relationships they've built, we have a team that's so close. Guys know how to motivate each other. Guys know what things to say to the next guy to get them pumped up, or get them focused and going. 

It's an intangible, but it's really important. We can attribute a lot of our success to that. 

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