The San Francisco 49ers are preparing for the Baltimore Ravens in what will be the final showdown to close the 2012-13 NFL season. The winner will have Super Bowl bragging rights for at least a year and league-wide respect.
Since there are only two teams remaining, more 49ers players have had an opportunity to be heard from this week. Niners defensive tackle Ray McDonald spoke with 49ers' media guru Scott Kegley in the most recent feature of "Weekly Conversation" on 49ers.com.
It was nice to get an inside look at the mindset of these 49ers players as they prepare for the biggest game of their life. It was even better to see how humble someone like McDonald was. For most of the one-on-one with Kegley, McDonald talked about others who helped him get to where he is.
He specifically credited linemate Justin Smith. Kegley asked McDonald what it was like to get Smith back for the postseason. That's when the 49ers lineman went on to talk about the player and person that Smith is.
It's a big emotional lift for us. Because, you know, Justin, he is the leader of this defense. He's been around the league for a while and we want to do this for him. You know, he's been in the league for 12 or 13 years, and this is his first time being in the big dance like this. I mean, it's all of our first times, but for him it's special because he's been in the league so long. And this is only his third time being in the playoffs in 12 or 13 years. So we want to do this for him. And he's out there playing with halfway torn triceps. So we know if he can be out there on the field, being in the league as long as he has, we can be out there and gut out anything that we have. We're just trying to do this for him.
His sentiment could not have been more genuine. Smith is not at full-strength but he is putting it on the line for his teammates, and McDonald is clearly grateful. He then went on to acknowledge that he probably would not be where he is without Smith's guidance. McDonald continued...
He's meant a lot to me. When you're a young guy coming into the league, you need older guys like that to show you the ropes and show you how to be a pro. You know, I was lucky and blessed enough to have not only him [Justin Smith], but B.Y. [Bryant Young]. ‘B' was here for one year and he showed me some stuff too. But Justin really showed me the ropes of the NFL. He showed me how to live my life everyday, and to be a pro, you know, to eat right, train everyday in the offseason and not take this league for granted. He really helped me in every aspect of the game.
Smith has always been the consummate pro. And in the midst of the Ray Lewis hoopla -- who already has a championship -- it was heartwarming to see how sincere McDonald was about fighting harder for his teammate. His selfless motivation is the exact mindset that past Super Bowl champions have carried.
The 49ers are team-first through and through.
And while we know the Ravens will be on full-go for Lewis, it's good to know that the 49ers are driven by "The Cowboy."