49ers Notebook: Players prepare for bitter cold; Packers get early prep in; Ryans, McDaniel keep focus on task at hand over job interviews

Jan 19, 2022 at 7:34 PM--

It's gonna be cold—real cold—when the Green Bay Packers host the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Playoff at Lambeau Field Saturday night (8:15 p.m. ET/5:15 p.m. PT).

The current forecast calls for a high of 22 degrees during the day on Saturday with a low of 2 after dark. That's an improvement from the 11-degree high/minus-8 degree low forecast for Lambeau Field tomorrow, but still quite cold nonetheless.

Players from both teams talked about what it'll be like to face the cold on Saturday night—one of several topics we'll cover in this edition of 49ers Notebook. Other subjects we'll get into that 49ers Webzone hasn't covered already today include what the Packers did to get a jump start on preparations for the 49ers, how 49ers assistants DeMeco Ryans and Mike McDaniel are handling current head coaching opportunities, and more.

Let's dive right in...

(See also: 49ers-Packers injury report | Mike McDaniel on what makes Deebo Samuel unique | George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, DeMeco Ryans discuss Packers rematch | McDaniel's crystal ball on Garoppolo | Ryans hopeful Bosa will be available)

* Football weather: The aforementioned weather forecast is pretty much what one would expect this time of year at Lambeau Field, and it will present some challenges for both teams—but neither team is interested in looking at it as a hurdle.

Even for a player who has spent much of his career in a warm-weather climate like 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, Saturday night's weather will simply be something to which each team needs to adjust.

"Before I went to Arizona State I played football in Reno, Nevada," Aiyuk told reporters on Wednesday. "At the end of the day, we've got to put the ball down to play football. We're not sure exactly what the weather's going to be, whether we have to change the cleats, change out certain things, but we're just going out there expecting to play a football game, and we'll go from there. However the weather acts, however we need to go about it, we'll just adjust and go from there."

49ers tight end George Kittle has more experience in cold weather games than Aiyuk, having played his college football at the University of Iowa. Kittle seemingly likes the idea of playing on the famous frozen tundra of Lambeau Field with everything on the line.

"I've played in some really cold games before," Kittle said. "I think the coldest one I played in was like minus-28 degrees with wind chill. That was really fun. My key to staying warm is just to play—play a lot of snaps so you keep your blood going. The heated seats and the heater on the sideline are probably really nice. But hey, it's football. You can't really use the cold as an excuse. You've just got to go out there and perform at a high level. I think it's just going to be really fun. It's just a little bit more adversity for us to try to battle through."

Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard gave some specifics on what he'll be facing due to the cold on Saturday night—but he'll be using the thought of a paycheck as motivation to get him through the weather.

"The cold adds more challenges when running routes, getting hit, tackled, catching the ball, concentration, but at the end of the day it's just the will to do it," Lazard said. "I think for me, I can speak for myself (when I say) I know when those checks come in next week, they feel good and everything. You kind of have that in the back of your mind. Knowing where I want to be when the time comes when I've got to hang up my cleats, I don't think cold can be a factor into determining the outcome, so to speak."

The key, as Kittle said, will be to keep moving and not give the cold a chance to sink in. That's something he knows from experience.

"I had a couple games I remember my redshirt freshman year where I didn't play but I had to dress, and they didn't have enough coats for everybody," Kittle said. "So I literally stood there on the sideline, and I wasn't allowed to wear sleeves either. So you could see the 215-pound George Kittle standing on the sideline shivering. It was really fun, just standing in front of a heater trying not to get frostbite."

* Off to an early start: The Packers come into Saturday night's game with the advantage of having a first-round bye, which means they'll be playing on almost two weeks of rest while the 49ers played just six days earlier in their Wild Card win in Dallas. But the extra rest isn't the only advantage the Packers took from their bye.

Packers head coach Mike LaFleur said Wednesday that his team took the opportunity to get some early preparations in for the 49ers by spending some practice reps on them while the 49ers were focusing on the Cowboys.

"Kind of anticipating that this could happen, we spent some time on them last week," LaFleur said. "That's just the respect that we have for that team, knowing that they were as capable as anybody to get to this point."

* Eye on the ball: 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans are both receiving interest from other teams as head coaching candidates, but they haven't let that stand in the way of their preparations for the Packers this week.

McDaniel is expected to interview with the Miami Dolphins, but he says it's been easy to put that aside for the time being given what's at stake.

"There is something scheduled, it hasn't happened yet," McDaniel said. "But like I said before, as a football coach, you feel there's a level of anxiety if there's anything distracting you from your job at hand, because you know that it's hard enough to win as it is. And your teammates are counting on you and so it is been pretty easy, to answer your question, because of my loyalty to my job and my teammates. It really hasn't been in the forefront of my mind because you work your whole career to be in a position like this in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, one game away from the NFC Championship Game. These are few and far between, so with as many days and hours that we work as coaches, it's not hard to focus in big moments like these."

Ryans, meanwhile, will be interviewing with the Minnesota Vikings in the near future. Like McDaniel, he says he'll worry about that issue when the time is right.

"We'll handle that over the next couple of days," Ryans said. "We'll get that handled, but the main focus right now for me, is just all on the Packers. And that's where I am right now, just all on the Packers and how can we play our best versus the Packers to get a win?"

* LaFleur knows the 49ers coaches well: LaFleur's friendship with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is well-documented, and he's also friendly with McDaniel from when the three of them were coaching together in Washington in 2013. But LaFleur also goes back a ways with Ryans, who was a linebacker for the Houston Texans at the same time when LaFleur was an offensive assistant (2008-2009).

"He was a coach on the field," LaFleur said of Ryans on Wednesday. "He was a great player, man. Brought so much to the team. He was a very intelligent guy, was really physical. He was the quarterback of the defense. So when I found out he was going to get into coaching, it always crossed my mind he would be a hell of a coach. He's proven that. I've got a lot of relationships with a lot of guys over on that staff, and everybody speaks the world of him. [Former 49ers DC and current Jets head coach] Robert Saleh speaks the world of him. So it's well-deserved. High praise, it's well-deserved. He works his tail off, and I imagine he will be a future head coach in this league."

Of course, it was inevitable that LaFleur got asked about Shanahan at some point this week. He told reporters Wednesday that any victory over Shanahan would be bittersweet due to his desire to see his friend succeed.

"We're very close friends—certainly a guy that I respect as much as anybody in this profession, not only just for the opportunities that he provided for myself, my family—shoot, my brother [Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur] wouldn't be where he is today either without the help from Kyle," LaFleur said. "He's a guy we've learned a lot of ball from. And I think that's the thing I respect the most from him is not only how he treated us, but how he educated us in the game of football. He is a savant in that regard. But I think it's a little bittersweet when you're playing guys that you have a lot respect for. Certainly when you're playing against them, you want to beat anybody. It doesn't matter who it is across the sidelines. But yeah it is a little bittersweet because you want your friends and people that are close to you to do well in this profession. But unfortunately it can't ever be at your demise."


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