NEW ORLEANS — The San Francisco 49ers' final connection to their Super Bowl years is not afraid to play that 5-0 card.
"It adds confidence. I told 'em we were 5-0 in these games," running backs coach Tom Rathman said Wednesday. "This game was easier for us to win than the championship game."
Rathman, the squat fullback with the oversized neck brace, did a lot of winning in 49er red. His eight-year run in San Francisco resulted in seven playoff appearances and back-to-back NFL championships in 1988 and '89.
Perhaps all that success spoiled him. His 15-year term on the coaching staff began with a drive to the NFC championship game in 1997 under Steve Mariucci. Alas, the 49ers didn't return to that level until last year.
"I didn't think it would take 15 years to get to the Super Bowl," Rathman said. "I was very fortunate as a player to be on a team that nearly always got to the playoffs.
"I'm especially happy for Frank Gore because he's in his eighth year and he finally got to the Super Bowl."
Rathman, who especially enjoyed the atmosphere and the energy of the Superdome during all those old NFC West games against the New Orleans Saints, understands Sunday's high stakes. Experience tells him it's a fleeting opportunity.
"If you win this football game, it puts you in another stratosphere," he said. "Gore could be a Hall-of-Fame caliber player if he's victorious. This is a big stage."
CULLIVER IS SORRY San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver apologized Wednesday night for anti-gay remarks he made during a Super Bowl media day interview a day earlier.
"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel," he said in a statement released by the team. "It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."
The 49ers said earlier Wednesday they had addressed the comments, but didn't elaborate on whether the second-year player would face disciplinary action or a fine.
During an interview Tuesday at the Superdome, Culliver responded to questions from comedian Artie Lange by saying he wouldn't welcome a gay player in the locker room. He also said the 49ers didn't have any homosexual players and, if they did, those players should leave.
"The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris," the team said. "There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level."
Culliver, 24, planned to formally address his remarks during a news conference during the 49ers' media availability today, according to his personal public relations representative.
The interview Tuesday began with Lange asking Culliver about his sexual plans with women during Super Bowl week. Lange followed up with a question about whether Culliver would consider pursuing a gay man.
"I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that," Culliver said during the 1-minute taped interview. "Ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff."
Culliver, a third-round draft pick in 2011 out of South Carolina, made 47 tackles with two interceptions and a forced fumble this season while starting six games.
INJURY REPORTS San Francisco linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith were limited participants in the team's first full Super Bowl practice because of shoulder injuries.
Wind that topped 20 mph sent the 49ers to the New Orleans Saints' indoor practice facility Wednesday for their 95-minute session.
All 53 San Francisco players were on the field, according to the pool report, including tight end Garrett Celek, who missed practice time last week with a foot injury. He practiced Wednesday without limitation.
For Baltimore, starters Dannell Ellerbe and Dennis Pitta practiced Wednesday, looking sharp despite nagging injuries.
Inside linebacker Ellerbe has been bothered by an ankle injury, while tight end Pitta has a thigh problem. Both moved freely in Baltimore's first practice in New Orleans.
Ellerbe said earlier this week "I'm definitely playing in this game," and Pitta echoed those sentiments.
The Ravens practiced for nearly two hours on a makeshift 80-yard field stretching across the outfield at Tulane's Greer Field baseball stadium. Unlike the 49ers, who worked out at the Saints' indoor facility, Baltimore dealt with heavy wind.
EXTRA POINTS Brett Favre is returning to the NFL to work for the NFL Network. The retired three-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback will join the network's crew for daylong coverage Sunday. Favre hasn't been heard from much since retiring after the 2010 season. Ravens tight end Ed Dickson is playing it cool this week. He said he's not worried about his first Super Bowl being an overwhelming experience. "I don't really get star-struck," he said. "I think the first time I really got star-struck was when I met Ray Lewis for the first time. It wasn't really star-struck, though. It was like, 'Bam!' then that was it."