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49ers will use playoff bye week to get healthy

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh made one thing clear Monday: A playoff bye week is nothing like the break teams get at midseason.

Still, the NFC West champions are relishing some extra prep time considering all the players trying to get healthy ahead of the franchise's first playoff game in nine years.

"It feels like an advantage. How big, we'll see," Harbaugh said of the extra week. "I know this: We're not going to treat it like a vacation. It's not a midseason bye, in my view, where you can afford to come back in midseason form. We'll treat it as such. We'll get the players some well-deserved rest and the coaches will work hard on game planning and familiarizing ourselves with potential opponents. And we'll look forward to two good days of practice this week."

Harbaugh did acknowledge Monday he spoke about the schedule with big brother, John, the Baltimore Ravens coach whose team also gets the opening week of playoff games off as the AFC's second seed.

"Compared notes," Harbaugh said. "Some things are the same, some are different."

Many of the 49ers (13-3) are banged up and sore, so that's an important factor.

Linebacker Patrick Willis is working to return to top form from a right hamstring injury, while star running back Frank Gore has dealt with nagging knee and ankle injuries. Tight end Delanie Walker has a jaw injury and Ted Ginn Jr., a hurt left ankle.

Rookie cornerback Chris Culliver bruised his left knee in Sunday's 34-27 win at St. Louis and was limping through the locker room a day later. Wide receiver Kyle Williams is recovering from a concussion.

Walker, whose jaw was believed to be broken though Harbaugh hasn't confirmed it, is scheduled to be re-evaluated Wednesday before the team determines whether to keep him on the roster for the playoffs or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

For now, the 49ers coaches and players will spend their time watching film of the potential opponents for their Jan. 14 game at Candlestick Park, where San Francisco shocked the Giants in its last postseason appearance - rallying from 24 points down to stun New York 39-38 in the NFC wild-card game in January 2003.

The Niners already can envision a possible date with New Orleans, which whipped San Francisco 24-3 in the Big Easy back in the teams' August exhibition opener. That seems like so long ago now.

Atlanta or the Giants are the other possible matchups.

While the 49ers were hardly in a celebratory mood after nearly letting the Rams rally for a late victory Sunday after leading by 21, they do feel good about their position heading into the postseason. The team's 10 total turnovers this year - five fumbles and five interceptions by Alex Smith - match the 2010 New England Patriots for fewest in the NFL since 1941.

"Winning the ballgame felt better by the hour," Harbaugh said. "They found ways to win games all through the season. When you look through the body of work, the evidence is there. The team should be proud of that. I think one of the great things about this 2011 team is their ability to find ways to win, finish games. The evidence is there. And it's good to win in different ways."

Right guard Adam Snyder, for one, planned to stay in town and continue to work all week at team headquarters. The 49ers will hold a workout Wednesday then resume their practice routine Thursday.

"There's nowhere for me to go. We have some of the most important games that we've had coming up, so the bye week is nice for rest but there's still some business that we have to take care of. That's important to me to be here," Snyder said. "I think any time you get rest it helps. Some of the games we've played have been very physical, so any rest we can get is going to help for sure."

Williams plans to be back in the mix this week, and Harbaugh said he expects his special teams standout on the field once practices begin.

"I feel back to normal," Williams said.

Williams was jarred on a helmet-to-helmet hit by former 49er Michael Robinson after a fourth-quarter kickoff return in a 19-17 win at Seattle on Dec. 24. Robinson was penalized for unnecessary roughness.

No hard feelings on Williams' part toward his ex-teammate and mentor.

"He's an aggressive football player and he's a great football player. If I'm aware in that situation I'm looking out for him because I know he's coming out to hit," Williams said. "Guys told me he said a prayer over me and was making sure I was OK. When I got up it was a little foggy. I do remember him asking me if I was all right."

Notes: Harbaugh said he has told QB Smith the team wants to re-sign him beyond this season. "I told Alex, `Hey, we're going to want you to come back here next year,"' Harbaugh said. "He's focused on the season, and that's where his mindset wants to be. And I totally respect that, and we'll talk about it and address it once the season is over." ... Mike Harrison, the agent for offensive coordinator Greg Roman, said Roman is on the "short list" for the Penn State job. "We should know in a week or so, that's our best guess," Harrison said.

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