NEW ORLEANS -- Offensive linemen Alex Boone and Mike Iupati stood in one corner of a near-empty San Francisco locker room and pondered just how close they had come to winning the Super Bowl.
It quickly began to sink in, beneath the Superdome on Sunday night as the Baltimore Ravens celebrated, that their season had ended short of the goal.
One year, they almost reached the NFL's championship game. The next, they nearly won it.
"It just hurts, it hurts now," Iupati said. "There are no words to express how we feel right now. We've got to put it in the past now and we can't ever forget this moment. We've just got to go out there and next year is another year, and compete."The 49ers head into the offseason following a 34-31 Super Bowl loss knowing they were right there against the Ravens, and now move forward with the hope of keeping much of the team together and building to get back -- and this time win it all.
One big question: What to do with backup quarterback Alex Smith?
CEO Jed York said last week he would address Smith's situation soon. Smith would like to have the chance to start somewhere, and the 49ers realize that's a fair request.
"Last year losing in the NFC championship game, come back this year and you're in the Super Bowl, it feels the same way," running back Frank Gore said. "Any other team probably would have just laid down but we kept fighting. We just didn't get it done."