SANTA CLARA, Calif. – 49ers tight end Vernon Davis doesn't much care for having to take a mandated week off in the middle of the NFL season.
He would rather build some first-half momentum and move right ahead into the second half — and Davis sure is looking forward to having a bigger impact over the final eight games for San Francisco than he did during the first eight.
Davis is the team's third-leading receiver in a deep and talented unit behind Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, with 25 catches for 374 yards and four touchdowns, which matches running back Frank Gore for most TDs on the team.
"Being a competitor, with my competitive nature, it's tough to deal with," Davis said. "During the game, you want to be involved. Everyone who catches passes wants to be involved. I just tell myself, 'Just play, play the game, it will come.' Any given week, you never know. I guess that's just how this offense is. It's a good thing. Whatever we can do to win. We've got a lot of playmakers around here."
He certainly won't be heard complaining about his team's standing.
The Niners never expected to run away with the NFC West again the way they did last season.
So, sitting atop the much-improved division with a two-game lead going into the bye week feels awfully good. Especially coming off consecutive commanding victories against Seattle and Arizona in prime time.
Especially considering the team's strange schedule during this stretch: one game in 23 days.
While Davis isn't thrilled not to be playing again this weekend, he knows that's just part of it each year when the off week comes around.
"It's kind of like having a double bye week, because we had been off and then we came back and played," Davis said. "It can be a good thing. I'm not mad at it. I'll take it. I accept it, have some time off, come back and be ready for the next one."
These Niners will be especially well rested when they return to work Tuesday.
And, no, coach Jim Harbaugh isn't concerned about his team repeating the Detroit Tigers' flop in the World Series in a four-game sweep by San Francisco's other star professional franchise — the Giants — after a long break.
Harbaugh's next task is to make sure his Niners keep that edge when they're in a rare NFL run, playing only once in a span of more than three weeks. San Francisco beat the Seahawks in a Thursday night game Oct. 18, then didn't play again until Monday night's 24-3 road rout of the Cardinals. Next up is a home date with the division rival St. Louis Rams on Nov. 11.
"We were talking about that in our defensive team meeting, and our coordinator said he didn't know if that had ever happened where you have a Thursday night game, kind of half a bye week off, a half week off and then turn around and get a whole week off," defensive tackle Ray McDonald said. "That's great for our team because we can get our bodies back and heal up how we're supposed to."
Harbaugh found himself facing questions about the long layoff, though he hardly seems concerned. There's not much he can do about it anyway.
"The approach is just, they have a bye," Harbaugh said. "We're going to take a small breath right now. And then trust that we'll do the right thing over the break. Guys will continue to work out and we'll get back to work next week."
He gave his team a full week off after making the players a deal before an Oct. 14 loss to the New York Giants that for each win before the bye they would get an additional day off from the four days required by NFL rules.
Davis planned to stay close in the Bay Area — he is from Washington, D.C., and knew travel back home in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy could be dicey anyway — and work out at least a couple of days during the off week.
Davis believes his best football will come in the season's second half, much as he did with spectacular games in the playoffs last year. Quarterback Alex Smith found nine receivers in Monday's win, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman spoke with Davis afterward for the second straight game to thank him for being a patient team player.
With Davis demanding the attention of opposing defenses, other 49ers are making plays.
"They're focusing a lot of attention on Vernon Davis, even before he gets into a route," Harbaugh said. "Defensive ends are disengaging in their pass rush and making sure that they chip Vernon on the way out, stay with him for three, four, five yards, which doesn't allow them to get in their pass rush lanes. So, that's something that is affecting him getting the ball. But, it's also opened up some other options. So, it's pretty plain to see."
As his players enjoy some down time, Harbaugh planned to get started early game-planning for the Rams. He said there's not much to do but take the bye when it's given.
"Just the way the schedule falls. I guess if you had to pick where a bye comes, right in the middle would be good," he said.
In Harbaugh's first season as coach last year, many of his players stayed around and kept working — and that is what a large number of them planned to do again this week.
"Now we know when we come back we'll have at least a two-game lead in the division," center Jonathan Goodwin said. "Last year was kind of a fluke year as far as the division race. It's rare that you have one team run away with the division that early in the year. This year's a little bit more normal. The teams in our division are playing a lot better, and the teams have four great defenses. That's partly why the division's a tougher race."
Still, if Davis had his druthers, San Francisco would take the field again Sunday. Instead, he planned to watch games from his couch.
"I don't really like bye weeks, because I'm the type of person when I get into a zone, I like to keep going," Davis said. "I get that momentum, I just get going and I like to keep it that way."
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