49ers open camp as odds-on Super Bowl favorite

  • San Francisco has one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick and one of its top head coaches in Jim Harbaugh. (BEN MARGOT / Associated Press)

SANTA CLARA -- Each of the past 46 summers, an optimistic team has gone to training camp with designs on avenging a Super Bowl loss.

For the first time in franchise history, it's the 49ers' turn.

Can they indeed rebound to claim the Lombardi Trophy, a redemption tour completed only by the 1971 Dallas Cowboys and the famously undefeated, 1972 Miami Dolphins? Or, in a worst-case scenario, could the 49ers improbably vanish from contention? Seven of the past 12 Super Bowl runners-up failed to even make the playoffs: the 2001 Giants, 2002 Rams, 2003 Raiders, 2004 Panthers, 2005 Eagles, 2007 Bears and 2008 Patriots.

Such history aside, the 49ers will report fully to training camp Wednesday as an odds-on favorite to win Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey.

That's because their roster remains stacked (eight of nine Pro Bowlers return), Jim Harbaugh's coaching staff is intact and quarterback Colin Kaepernick is evolving into a dynamic asset for what's been a defensive-oriented contender.

“He did a lot when he got his opportunity,” running back Frank Gore said last month of Kaepernick. “He took advantage of it, had a great run.

“He's looking to do even more stuff this year.” The same could be said of the 49ers as a whole.

Plenty of intrigue remains, however, as they head into training camp at their Santa Clara facility, next to the growing shadow of a $1.3 billion stadium that will house them in 2014. (Practices are closed to the public; their first full-squad workout is Thursday afternoon.) Many drills surely will focus on last postseason's shortcomings, specifically their defense's porous secondary, their special teams' not-so special coverage and their offense's red-zone struggles (see: 5 yards from a Super Bowl-winning touchdown).

General manager Trent Baalke addressed those concerns with a bevy of personnel moves, some of which intensified their NFC West turf war with the Seattle Seahawks.

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