NEW ORLEANS -- Steve Young, the last 49ers quarterback to win a Super Bowl, thinks Colin Kaepernick is capable of winning one of his own Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
"He's answered the bell with whatever's been asked of him to do," Young said Thursday. "You keep waiting for the shoe to drop because of the experience, and it hasn't dropped."
The Ravens dropped Kaepernick's predecessor, Alex Smith, for nine sacks in last season's 16-6 win over the 49ers. Young doesn't see that happening with Kaepernick, especially because of the 49ers' sturdier offensive line.
"He's doing great, they have a lot of weapons and the best offensive line since the 2000 Rams and '92 Cowboys," Young said. "That line dictates the terms on everything."
Like those championship teams of the Rams (Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000) and Cowboys (XXVII), the 49ers' line features two Pro Bowlers: left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Mike Iupati.
"If somehow the offensive line is overrun and people are in (Kaepernick's) face, that's hard for anybody. But that's not going to happen," Young said. "This offensive line won't allow that."
Young bought into Kaepernick right from his first start against the Bears, a 32-7 win Nov. 19. "He made not complex reads but complex throws," Young said. "They didn't ask him to do too much, but what he threw was beautiful. It was shockingly good."
Just as amazing to Young is the 49ers' installation of the
pistol offense, which he said provides a quicker bridge to success for a younger, mobile quarterback. Young arrived in New Orleans on Thursday and is serving as a ESPN analyst. He set a Super Bowl record with six touchdown passes for the 1994 49ers in their 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers. Citing "cooperating spirits" with his brother, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh apparently didn't mind sharing the New Orleans Saints' practice facility with his brother John's Ravens. The 49ers are stationed at the Saints facility as the home team, but the Ravens are allowed to use the facility if desired, and they preferred doing that Thursday rather than hold another workout on Tulane University's baseball field.
The NFL put up about 100 feet of drapes to divide the 49ers and Ravens practices as they overlapped for about 10 minutes at the Saints' indoor facility.
"We're focused on what we're doing," Jim Harbaugh told a pool reporter. "I'm sure they are the same."
Pleased with the 49ers' first two practices, Harbaugh said: "You don't want burnt meat, stale bread or overripe fruit. It's coming along nicely.'' The 49ers practiced for 70 minutes outside before taking their session inside, where kicker David Akers attempted field goals while players shouted to mimic crowd noise. "That's the first time they ever have done that in two years,'' Harbaugh said of the noise. "David made all of them (field goals), which was even better. His mechanics are real good. That bodes well. Good things will happen for us in that area.'' Both teams issued the same injury report as Wednesday with one exception: 49ers safety Dashon Goldson was added with a foot injury, but he fully practiced. Linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks were limited with shoulder issues. Iupati picked defensive tackle Justin Smith as a potential, under-the-radar Super Bowl MVP. It's been 10 years since a defensive player won that honor (Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dexter Jackson). Only three defensive linemen have ever won the award: the Dallas Cowboys' Harvey Martin and Randy White shared it in 1978, and the Chicago Bears' Richard Dent in 1986. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree came away disappointed from Wednesday's practice: "I had a bad practice. I just cannot wait for the big day. I just feel like I had a slow, sluggish practice. Everybody else was out there flying." Jim Harbaugh planned to forever preserve a 2006 phone message in which Bill Walsh called to gauge his interest in becoming Stanford's coach.
"I lost that phone or dropped it in the toilet or something," Harbaugh said. "Truly one of the most memorable things was getting that message."
Once Harbaugh took the Stanford job, he often huddled with Walsh before the former Stanford and 49ers coach died in July 2007. One of their favorite things to do was watch recruiting tapes, and one day they studied about eight elite quarterback prospects. "My memory is that Andrew Luck was his, and our, favorite." Chris Doleman recalled the 49ers' quest to win a sixth Super Bowl ring 15 years ago, only to come up short with a 23-10 NFC title game loss to the Green Bay Packers.
"When I was playing there, we wanted to be the first team to get to six Super Bowl (wins)," Doleman said on ESPN radio while promoting his Celebrity Charitable Network. "When you're in the hunt like that, you've got to make that time count. What does it mean to the city? It means everything to the city." Harbaugh said four practice-squad players passed up a chance to join another team's active roster and instead remained with the 49ers: wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie, linebacker Cam Johnson and offensive lineman Al Netter. When Staley attended Central Michigan, he didn't envision himself playing in a Super Bowl. "No, I was just worried about going to the cafeteria and not getting sick from all of that cafeteria food," Staley said. Who's got a better running back than the 49ers? "Nobody does it better than Frank Gore. Nooo-body," Harbaugh said. "(I) have the greatest respect for Frank because he has the greatest respect for the game. It's evidenced by how he plays, every single game, every single day."