Jim Harbaugh says 49ers drew short straw

By Janie Mccauley

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Nov. 21 2011 5:55 p.m. MST

Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, left, shakes hands with San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh after an NFL football game in San Francisco, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. The 49ers won 23-7.

Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jim Harbaugh is too busy preparing for a short week and cross-country trip to Baltimore to reflect much on his history-making Thanksgiving night matchup with big brother and Ravens coach, John.

"There's not a lot of time to really think about the warm and fuzzy reunions, the nostalgia," Harbaugh said Monday.

Harbaugh thanked the NFL for the ideal, feel-good pairing, a much-hyped date on the schedule since way back when Harbaugh was hired away from Stanford in January to turn around the 49ers' fallen franchise. He appreciates being part of a special first featuring siblings on opposite sidelines as head coaches, but adds, "no doubt we got the short end of the straw."

Harbaugh plans to use every possible minute to get ready for the daunting task of facing his brother's AFC North-leading Baltimore team (7-3), which he considers to be the toughest opponent yet and perhaps all year for San Francisco. The 49ers' lone loss came in a 27-24 overtime setback to Dallas in Week 2.

And Harbaugh is committed to keeping his team rolling, not allowing this week to seem any different even with the country watching so intently for this sibling rivalry on the national stage.

"No mention of his brother in regards to this game," quarterback Alex Smith said Monday. "It's business as usual, staying with our routine. ... It's a short week, we're traveling East, there will be obstacles for us that we have to overcome. It will be a crammed week."

Harbaugh believes this will be the first time since the schedule became 16 games that a West Coast team has had to fly three time zones after a Sunday game to play on Thursday. This marks the first time a team has gone three time zones for a Thanksgiving game since the Los Angeles Rams won 20-0 at Detroit on Nov. 27, 1975.

"I definitely think it was very considerate of the NFL to reunite the brothers on Thanksgiving. I think that's going to be very difficult for our team," Harbaugh said. "There's no question that we drew the short end of the straw on this one."

Still, San Francisco (9-1) has plenty of motivation beyond giving its coach some bragging rights in the NFL's debut edition of Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh. The Niners can clinch the NFC West and their first playoff berth since 2002 by beating the Ravens and with a Seattle loss.

Not that anybody thinks it will come easily.

In fact, Harbaugh joked about sectioning off the plane and using the six-hour charter flight on Wednesday for some film session and position meetings. Any last-minute advantage he can get to face his big brother, just 15 months his elder.

"You probably want to peel back the onion some more and get into my soul, but this week my brother is just somebody we're trying to beat," Harbaugh said. "Doing my job as it relates to our team preparing for the game is first and foremost. I think it'll probably be a big deal for my parents. If it is or isn't, that's not relevant to what we're trying to accomplish this week, either."

Even though Harbaugh has watched the Ravens this season and regularly cheered for them. That's what makes this game so unique.

"Yes, I've rooted for them. Every time they play one of our division teams, even more than normal," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh has made it clear to his players that this game will be perhaps the biggest challenge yet for a team that's 4-0 on the road — all played on the East Coast and three of those being comeback wins.

If there are any meetings on the plane, tight end Vernon Davis plans to sleep through them to make sure he is fresh for Thursday's game.

"He said it's not going to be easy. We'll really have to focus in," Davis said. "Discipline. And really take care of ourselves because it's going to be a short turnaround. But we will be rewarded in the end. If we can take of those things and do everything we can to help this team, everybody doing it together, we'll be just fine."

By the end of his national conference call Monday, which took place after his regular weekly news conference, Harbaugh was more than ready to get back to work.

"I think we've pretty much exhausted all this. I've got to get to work here," he quipped. "And I'm sure this is part of the plan here to see how long you can distract him on a short week. And you guys have done a marvelous job. I appreciate the time."

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