Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/17/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
RENTON, Wash. -- Packers-Bears. Steelers-Browns. Cowboys vs. anybody in the NFC East.
Those are long-standing NFL rivalries.
Add to them 49ers-Seahawks, with a history of nastiness emanating from the college ranks for their coaches, and a hefty animosity built up in annual doubleheaders in their division. Now they meet for a spot in the Super Bowl.
Are those hard feelings for real?
"I think so, but it'll always be that way when you have two good teams in the same division," 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin said. "You play each other a couple times a year and if you're good enough, possibly three times a year. It was the same way when I was in Baltimore playing against Pittsburgh. You respect each other as foes, but there is really a dislike."
It's a healthy thing, really, because it makes for even more uncompromising action -- on the field and on the sideline.
One of these teams will emerge Sunday from ear-splitting CenturyLink Field headed for New Jersey to play for the sport's biggest prize. The other will carry into the off-season even more loathing for this opponent.
"There is no love lost; there is no love found," said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who will find himself lined up often against Boldin in the NFC championship game. "It's going to be intense. It's going to be physical. I don't know if there are going to be handshakes after this one."
That almost goes without saying with the coaches. When 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was at Stanford -- where, incidentally, Sherman played after being recruited by current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll when he was at Southern California -- he ran up the score in a 2009 win at Los Angeles that prompted Carroll to ask him at game's end: "What's your deal."
Harbaugh's deal has always revolved around being a hard-edged player and coach. His teams embody that attitude, and it certainly has worked in San Francisco. The 49ers are 41-13-1 in his three seasons in charge, are in their third-straight conference title game, and back down from no one.
Carroll claims the acrimony between them is overblown.
"For whatever reasons, you guys have had a field day with this," Carroll told reporters Thursday. "We have not been friends over the year, we just know each other through the games. We have a very confined relationship.
"I have great respect for Jim. That's it -- you guys have had a blast with it."
Carroll's Seahawks aren't exactly wallflowers, either. Defensively, at least, these are the NFL's two most physical and intimidating units.
What can be forecast for Sunday: hard feelings all around, even if 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis tones it down slightly.
"There's no question there's a lot of hostility between us," Willis said, "but at the end of the day they're another football team. So, there's always going to be dislikes. They're an opponent of ours and we want to win."
-- The Associated Press
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 17, 2014 C6
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