Over the past three seasons, the 49ers have been one of the NFL's most successful teams. A 36-11-1 regular-season record in that span, three straight trips to the NFC Championship Game and an appearance in the Super Bowl certainly back that up. Now the team is adding a sparkling new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara to the mix.
The obvious glaring hole on their résumé, however, is a Super Bowl championship.
After an offseason that featured several players involved in off-field issues and a reported rift between coach Jim Harbaugh and management, the pressure is on to get over the hump.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a new contract and a bolstered offense surrounding him. The defense lost some members of the secondary and linebacker NaVorro Bowman will miss a good chunk of the season recovering from a torn ACL, but the unit is still expected to be amongst the league's elite. The pieces appear to be in place for another deep postseason run.
But there are plenty of potential landmines waiting in the rugged NFC West and the 49ers can't afford to look too far down the road.
Here are three things to watch as the 49ers open training camp this week:
Tight end Vernon Davis and offensive lineman Alex Boone both skipped a mandatory minicamp in June because they are seeking new contracts. Neither has signed a new deal and both appear ready to sit out the start of training camp as a result.
Davis, already one of the top-paid tight ends in the NFL, is a huge weapon for Kaepernick, particularly in the red zone as he had 13 touchdowns last year. Boone, an undrafted free agent, has developed into a solid starting guard and key cog on one of the best offensive lines in the league.
While the 49ers gave left tackle Joe Staley a two-year extension last week, it appears as though the Davis and Boone situations could drag on for a while.
Niners linebacker Aldon Smith was given three years' probation and sentenced last week to spend 11 days on a work crew stemming from drunk driving and weapons charges.
The issue that still remains for Smith, who was also arrested at an airport in Los Angeles in April for allegedly making a bomb threat but will not face charges, and the 49ers is: Will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell dole out a suspension?
There is speculation that Smith, one of the NFL's fiercest pass rushers who missed a handful of games while in rehab last season, could be suspended anywhere from two to eight games, though there has been no word from the league yet.
A suspension of any length would be a serious blow to the 49ers' defense.
Filling defensive holes
The 49ers have consistently been one of the league's stingiest defenses in recent years. In 2013, San Francisco was third-best in points allowed per game.
But 2014 will feature some new faces on defense. NaVorro Bowman is expected to miss a large part of the season while recovering from the ugly injury he sustained in the playoffs. Gone via free agency are defensive backs Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner. If Smith winds up being suspended, it creates another opening.
Training camp and the preseason will be important for players such as linebackers Corey Lemonier, Michael Wilhoite and Dan Skuta and rookie safety-cornerback Jimmie Ward, the team's first-round draft pick, to make an impression.