The southwest corner

SANTA CLARA — For what it’s worth, the Niners really like each other.

They may or may not man up against the Pittsburgh Steelers this Monday night – I think they will – but regardless, they get along.

Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are best friends. Parys Haralson and Aldon Smith act like brothers. Colin Kaepernick and Bruce Miller joke around with everyone.

But there’s a cool section of the locker room, and they set the tone for the whole team. I’m talking about the southwest corner.

That’s where Frank Gore’s locker is. He’s the most respected player in the southwest corner, but he’s not the leader. Ted Ginn Jr. is. Let me explain through C.J. Spillman.

Spillman is the comedian of the corner. He makes fun of everyone on the team and he gets away with it. Yesterday he stole Madieu Williams towel from his locker, Williams caught him red handed and he still let Spillman walk off with it.

Spillman would never steal a towel from Gore’s locker. It wouldn’t happen. Yesterday Chris Culliver was sitting on Gore’s stool when Gore walked out from the shower. Culliver was brushing his hair and he had spaced out.

Gore looked at him like, “Don’t make me tell you to get up,” but Culliver was staring at the floor, so Gore told him to get up and Culliver got the heck up.

Rookie mistake by Culliver right there. Spillman would have never slipped up like that.

When Spillman plays a joke on someone, it’s not Gore, and it’s not Ted Ginn Jr. either. Spillman wants Ginn to hear the joke or watch the prank and then to laugh. Ginn is that cool guy who lets the world come to him. It’s important to Spillman that Ginn thinks he’s funny and cool. But in fairness to Spillman, all the players in the southwest corner want Ginn to think they’re funny and cool. Michael Crabtree certainly does. Even Gore does.

Anthony Dixon really does. Some of the players think Dixon’s out-there but Ginn thinks he’s funny, so Dixon’s a made-man in the locker room. He’s free to be as crazy as he wants because Ginn’s amused by him. On Friday Dixon lay on a table and barked like a dog for no reason and none of the players flinched. That’s the Ted Ginn Jr. effect.

When there’s a dance party in the locker room, it happens in the southwest corner. When the room’s quiet, the southwest corner’s absent. They set the tone.

Alex Smith’s locker is in the southwest corner, too.

He’s above all the joking – he’s serious in the locker room – but Gore loves him, so Smith gets near-Gore-levels of respect.

But it’s not like Spillman’s afraid to give him a hard time. Yesterday as Smith took off his jersey Spillman walked by him and said, “Man, you’re the palest dude on the team.”

Smith didn’t take offense – he laughed and said nothing.

“You’re going to let him say that you?” I asked.

“He’s right,” Smith said diplomatically. “I have the worst farmer’s tan on the team.”

Then he leaned over toward me and whispered, “But if you have a full tan at this time of year and you’re a football player, you’re doing something wrong.”

Take that, C.J.!

Just then Jim Harbaugh walked into the locker room. He hadn’t done this since the Niners winning streak ended in Baltimore. While the Niners were winning all those games in a row he liked to come in and shoot the breeze with the reporters. He hadn’t done that in weeks.

But he finally made a locker room appearance yesterday. He spent five minutes talking and laughing with Delanie Walker about some college bowl game. It was clear he had nothing to say to us writers, but he did want to be down with his team. His office is above the locker room but he came down to their level, and you can tell the players love that.

I give Harbaugh credit for creating such a positive locker room.

The Niners are cool, but what really counts is what happens Monday night.

Will they man up?

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