SANTA CLARA -- Coach Jim Harbaugh said the decision to switch quarterbacks from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick was not something he planned.
"It was not a pre-determined move," the 49ers coach said. "The decision was made, when Alex got hurt, Colin played, played well in his first start. Came back the next week, still felt that against New Orleans that Colin gave us the best chance to win. He was healthier and played well.
"Then after that, (we) saw enough really good things that we wanted to have the same faith and trust in Colin that we'd show in Alex. And it's pretty well documented how we felt about both guys."
Harbaugh said Kaepernick is handling preparation for his first playoff game with aplomb.
"His understanding of it this early in the week is savant-like," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick's grasp of the game plan.
"There's some multiple factors there, the biggest one being that defenses are playing us and taking that into account, taking Vernon into account," Harbaugh said. "They're wary of getting beat by Vernon Davis. That's the biggest issue."
Davis said defenses are playing him different than other prolific tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Rob
Davis called this season "stressful" but just part of the "learning curve."
Through it all, Davis has remained patient and found other ways to contribute, especially as a blocker.
He said the current coaches "wouldn't have liked me" if this were four or five years ago, when Davis oftentimes struggled with his emotions when not getting the ball often enough.
Smith missed the final two regular-season games with a partially torn triceps tendon. He practiced last week despite a brace on his left elbow.
"We look forward to having him back in the lineup," Harbaugh said.
To that end, players such as Davis, running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Michael Crabtree sought out those players in an attempt to get a feel for what lay ahead.
Now, almost every player in the locker room can draw from last season's postseason experience, with the exceptions of rookie running back LaMichael James and rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins.
"Yeah, there's definitely more of our players that have been through the playoffs and can personally share with the first- or second-year players who haven't been through the playoffs, what that experience was like for them," Harbaugh said. "They can personalize it from conversation to conversation. I hope and think that our young guys are taking advantage of that."