SANTA CLARA — Jim Harbaugh calls it “honkering down” — from the verb to hunker down, defined by Webster’s as the process of digging in or settling in to one location for a sustained period.
He will gather his 49ers coaching staff at team headquarters Saturday, order in pizzas and prepare for a day of watching football and then starting the game-planning process for San Francisco’s playoff opponent on Jan. 14 at sold-out Candlestick Park.
“Honkering down,” Harbaugh said with a smile Friday. “That’s what I call it.”
He recited the team’s address as where he will be: “4949 Centennial Blvd. We’ll watch it here, as a group, until we know who we’re playing and then, as soon as we know, we’ll be able to get right on the game-planning for that opponent. As soon as we know, we’ll start doing that.”
Harbaugh has acknowledged he very much expects to face Drew Brees and the favored New Orleans Saints, who host Detroit on Saturday at the Superdome. The NFC West champion Niners (13-3) own the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye heading into their first postseason appearance in nine years.
Safety Donte Whitner’s little brother, Dawawn, is flying in to join him and friends to watch games this weekend. Dashon Goldson and some of the other 49ers are leaving town to get some family time, but you bet they’ll be tuning into the playoffs. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree plans to make himself his usual oatmeal or grits with plenty of sugar and butter and a glass of cranberry-apple juice, then crawl into bed with the games on TV.
“I really do that,” Crabtree said, smiling, revealing himself in a rare moment. “I eat breakfast all the time, breakfast and seafood.”
The other possible matchups — if the Lions pull off an upset — would be Atlanta or New York. The Giants came to the Bay Area in January 2003 and were stunned by San Francisco’s 39-38 comeback victory in the NFC wild-card game. This is the 49ers’ first trip back since.
Whitner, like so many others in this locker room, will be watching the playoffs in such a different way this year: With a scouting eye rather than as a true observer.
“You tend to be a little jealous of the guys that are playing in the playoffs,” he said. “All the attention of the sports world is on your games, especially when you get into the second, third round and the games get more and more important. Guys that want to get into the playoffs and are tired of sitting around four or five years in a row not making the playoffs — now we have an opportunity to be one of 12 teams. Next week going into our game we’ll be one of eight teams, and hopefully after than game we’ll be one of four. We’re going to enjoy this.”
Many of the players are using the off week for much-needed rest and recovery from injuries. Harbaugh didn’t treat the bye as a typical break like the one each club gets midseason.
Many of the 49ers have been at work each day, treating this time as a key opportunity to gain a bit of a head start.
“I don’t feel like this is a young team. I feel like this is a team that’s mature enough, that understands the opportunity we have in front of us and that we need to take advantage of these opportunities,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “Take advantage of this time to rest and get better. Haven’t skipped a beat as we make use of this week and next week, and we’ll come out on (next) Saturday.”
The 49ers landed a league-best five players on the All-Pro team Friday, including Justin Smith as a first-teamer at defensive tackle and a second-teamer at defensive end.
“Yeah, it’s unique. The fellas got a chuckle out of it when I announced it to them: ‘First-team defensive tackle, Justin Smith. Second-team defensive end, (Justin Smith). They got a laugh out of that,” Harbaugh said after practice.
Smith, the quiet, ferocious “Cowboy” as he’s called, just laughed about being named at two positions. He doesn’t classify himself as one position over the other.
“I don’t know, I don’t consider myself ... I just go out and play where I’m playing,” Smith said. “I let that all that other peripheral stuff just be that, peripheral.”
Kicker David Akers — who set a single-season NFL record with 44 field goals — made the All-Pro list, along with punter Andy Lee and inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
“I don’t think it’s sunk it yet, but we work hard,” Bowman said. “Pat’s considered one of the elites in this league and for me to be mentioned in the same sentence or to make an All-Pro team is just huge.”
NOTES: Injured TE Delanie Walker, whose jaw was broken in two places in a win at Seattle on Dec. 24, has been cleared to work out but not practice. He didn’t sound convinced Friday about returning for the playoffs. Walker spent two weeks on a liquid diet with his jaw wired shut, but has now progressed to soft foods. “I’m just taking it day by day and trying to get back healthy again,” Walker said. “It’s emotional. First time in the playoffs and I get hurt. Not being able to play, that kind of hurts. But our team is doing well and I’m recovering the way I want to recover, so who knows.”