Before stepping to the podium here at the NFL Combine, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke spoke to the Bay Area media contingent that’s here in Indianapolis. The following are the highlights from that 12-minute question-and-answer session.
A note before diving in: CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco is reporting that the Niners will not use their franchise or transition tag.
OK, Mr. Harbaugh is about to step to the podium …
Q: Will you use the franchise or transition tag on any of your players?
TB: I’ve given you the same answer all the time. We’re not going to discuss the player contracts in the media. Just not going to do it. Any status. Just not going to do it publically.
Q: Does that mean won’t franchise a player?
TB: It means what I just said. We’re not going to discuss it publicly.
Q: Don’t you have to announce it if you’re going to do it?
TB: Do we have to announce it? To the media?
Q: It becomes public knowledge pretty quickly if you do (franchise a player).
TB: Certainly it does. When it becomes public knowledge it will be ready for print.
Q: Are you operating under the assumption that players with four years in the league can become restricted free agents this coming year?
TB: We’re operating under every scenario. We’re prepared for any scenario that comes up.
Q: How does it affect the hours you put in a day with so many scenarios to cover?
TB: Once again, you have to be prepared for anything that comes up. So how many hours does it add? I don’t know if it adds any hours, but it does create some indecision as far as what direction it’s going to go. As far as being prepared for it, we’re absolutely prepared for it whatever the league and the player union work out.
Q: You have said the quarterback of the future is not on the roster and Jim has been fairly effusive in his praise for Alex Smith. Where do you stand on Alex potentially coming back?
TB: As you know, Jim and I take two different approaches on some of this stuff. Not that we’re different in our thoughts. The fact of the matter is Alex is not on our roster right now and that’s what I stated. He’s a free agent. So right now we’re treating him as we do every other free-agent quarterback.
Q: But he is on your roster right now.
TB: Well, correct. He’s set to become a free agent. So with that in mind, he is currently on our roster, but we obviously know he’s going to become a free agent as soon as the league year ends.
Q: Some quarterbacks have talked about being able to work out with their teammates during a potential lockout. Would it behoove the Niners to sign Alex to one-year contract so he could do some of those things if there was an extended lockout?
TB: I think obviously if you have a quarterback under contract and they’re working with your players, it helps. Is it a necessity? No, because there are other teams that are going to be in similar situations, but it certainly does help.
Q: What do you look for in a quarterback at the combine?
TB: Well, this is a hard place to get a real good feel for the quarterback in terms of physicals skills. And you only get a short time to meet with these guys. It isn’t like you have hours to sit down with each of these players. You’ve got 15 minutes. And then if you happen to catch up with them at the train station you get another 15 minutes with these guys. It’s not like you get a real good feel for everyone you get a chance to sit down with. It’s just kind of a snapshot. And then from there you take it to the next level whether that means going out and visiting these guys on their pro days, scheduling individual pro-day workouts with them, or flying them in as one of your 30 visits later on.
Q: Jim was obviously able to see a lot of these players at Stanford. How beneficial has that been to the personnel department in getting ready for the draft?
TB: He’s going to be very instrumental. Jim’s got a good feel for a lot of these players. He’s been in a lot of their homes, he’s recruited some of these guys — or a lot of these guys, him or his staff has. So it’s a unique advantage when you have a guy that’s come from the college ranks as recently as Jim has. And he’s been in a lot of our meetings. And he’s very welcome in those meetings. Like aI said from the get-go, this is a team adventure. The personnel side of it – we’re going to use all of our resources to make the best decisions possible.
Q: Can see the combine swaying you on a particular player?
TB: With the combine, to be honest with you, it’s a very small piece for us. We’re going to go back and take a hard look at what they did throughout their collegiate career and make us an assessment based on the film a lot more than were going to use the combine and the drill work at the combine to make those decisions.
Q: Jim has talked a lot about leadership being a very important criteria in a quarterback. How do you measure leadership?
TB: I think you do it in a few different ways. Obviously you talk to all the coaches who have worked with the young man. At his high school on through his collegiate years. You go the games. You watch these guys play live. You watch their mannerisms, pre-game, during the game. In critical situations how they handle themselves over the course of the game. And then after the game. How they do with the interview process and all the the things that go along with that? Are they a leader between the lines and between the lines only? Are they leaders on their campus? You do in-depth study of these guys going back as far as you can and talking to as many people as you can to get a feel for what type of person they are and how they’re going to lead their team.
Q: Will you add someone to the front office?
TB: We’re still looking into that and right now as everyone knows with the way the league year’s set up, until after the draft teams aren’t going to allow their employees to go one direction or the other. You’re going to have to get through the draft and then make a decision after the draft. We’re still looking into that.
Q: Would that be a consulting role.
TB: Don’t know exactly what the role is going to be, but we’re looking into it.
Q: Is it a big deal if the quarterbacks don’t do all the work this week (at the combine)?
TB: You like to see them do everything. You like to see them compete. Competitors generally aren’t afraid to do it regardless of the stage they’re on. So you like to see them come in and do what they’re asked to do. It just isn’t a thorough enough process at the combine for that position, or any position, to get an overwhelming look at what they can do. If you look at the position there’s obviously a lot of things that go into it. What can you get done in 15 to 20 minutes … it’s got to be a more extensive view than that.
Q: Is it a negative to you if a quarterback doesn’t do all the work here?
TB: It doesn’t go in the negative or the positive. It is what it is. These guys have the right to make their own decisions and some of them have reasons for not competing. They might still be working through an injury. So you never hold anything against these guys. Once again, it’s such a small snapshot of what you’re really looking at in the grand scheme of things. But you like to see them compete.