SANTA CLARA — Jim Harbaugh spoke in the defensive meeting room Monday afternoon. Here is a transcript courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“We’re glad to see you. We’re glad to be back. It was a great win for the team. We’re very excited about it. The biggest thing is the guys worked hard for it. They worked hard in their preparation. They worked hard in the ballgame, a tough, physical game. And when you work hard for something and get rewarded you feel very good about what the team accomplishes. And it makes you better. Both those things.”
Is there any injury update to FB Bruce Miller?
“Yeah, but it doesn’t look good. It looks like he has an injury to his Scapula.”
He seems like a very valuable player, sort of under the radar sometimes from the blocking, but how significant a loss is that, given what he brings to the team?
“Very significant. He does so many things in the protection and the run game. Receiving out of the backfield. He is a multi-talented, multi-use player. Special teams contributor on two, three phases, so it’s a loss.”
Can you guess how many weeks at this point?
“Not right now. I have a pretty good idea, but won’t say anything officially. It doesn’t look good for now. But, it’s something he’ll heel from.”
But, you’re preparing that you may not have him the rest of the way, even in a playoff scenario?
“As we speak, yes. We’re bringing in [FB] Owen Marecic, hopefully in route, and we’ll look at our options.”
How is WR Michael Crabtree doing?
“I think good. I haven’t seen Michael today, but seemed good after the ballgame and on the flight home.”
What are your options at that position with Bruce out? Who would you expect to be candidates to get more playing time there?
“Like I just said, the possibility of signing Owen Marecic, [RB] Anthony Dixon, and then we could get creative with some other guys on the team.”
Is it, maybe not, will you plan on signing him? I mean, you need some insurance there. Is he going to go through a workout for you, Owen?
“Yeah, come in, go through a physical and see where he’s at with his conditioning, etcetera.”
RB Kendall Hunter scored a touchdown and he’s been playing kickoff recently. How is that for you to see him rewarded, being unselfish, and take a role like that that he wasn’t accustomed to to start the year?
“He’s always been on the depth chart there. A good game again. He played well last week, played well again this week. He was responsible, did his assignment, had the backside, was heads up for the reverse, was in the right place and was rewarded with the touchdown. So, job well done.”
A year ago, TE Vernon Davis expressed that it took some time for him to click with QB Colin Kaepernick. What has been the difference this year for those two?
“Well, I think you saw the same thing last year where there was ‘clickage.’ And they’re clicking again. Two great football players.”
It seemed like that play, that touchdown, kind of showed each of their special abilities. I mean, Kaepernick to throw the ball that far and accurately, and Vernon to get that deep beyond the guy and make the catch.
“Obviously, the special talents of both those guys on display in that one play. Vernon, the speed, the ability to track a football, extend for a catch, balance of keeping and getting the feet in bounds. There’s many superlatives there. Colin, great accuracy and arm strength down the field, buying time, which he did a great deal in this ballgame, which was impressive on that play and others.”
How vital has it been, with Crabtree playing his third game back, how vital has the passing offense just been? Kaepernick has shown life in the last two games.
“He’s shown a lot of life in all the games he’s played. It’s been good to have Michael back, there’s no question about it. He’s contributed from the very moment he stepped onto the field. In each of the games that he’s played in he’s been a big part of our offense, a big part of our team.”
What’s it say about the relationship Crabtree and Kaepernick have on the field with all that time off, their ability to connect on so many plays that break down and freelance and have that rapport where he can find him in small spaces after the play breaks down?
“Yeah, I think it’s a good point. It’s probably a special thing where you see what they did together last year when Colin stepped in and Michael was the go-to guy. And they have picked up on that pretty seamlessly in the last three ballgames. It’s been outstanding in that regard. And, I would say the same thing for [WR] Anquan [Boldin] and Kap, and Colin and Vernon. They’re doing it at a high level. Talented players. Team-oriented guys.”
With this being the last regular season game at Candlestick, how do you view it? Is it bitter sweet for you? Do you think back and just remember some of your best coaching and playing moments there?
“I think it would be forward. Wanting to win this game for many reasons, the most being that we gotta win it, to accomplish our goals this season. It’s the next game, which makes it the biggest game of the season. And then also, it’s the last game at Candlestick and we don’t want to be the guys that screw up the last game in Candlestick. These players will come back 20-25 years from now and they want to have a good memory of winning at Candlestick. I think that’ll be very important, not only for them, but for all the guys that played for the 49ers and have that legacy of playing with the team and playing at Candlestick that want to go out with a win. So, probably more forward-thinking than I am nostalgically at this point. Make sure we work hard to give ourselves the best chance of doing that.”
It’s a rematch of, well, we won’t say rematch, but a look at the two teams that played, you had to get by them to get to the Super Bowl.
“NFC Championship game. We played each other.”
Right. What do you take of that and how far both teams have come?
“That was then, this is now. It’s the next game. It’s the biggest game on the schedule. We desperately want to win. I’m sure they feel the same way. It certainly has been evidenced this whole season that everybody’s fighting tooth and nail for wins. No team, no exception. The competition has been the most heated. It’s like a froth out there to win these games. You see it from the players. You see it from the coaches. And, it’s made for a very exciting season. But, everybody’s fighting tooth and nail.”
LB NaVorro Bowman’s been playing some fantastic football lately. Can you talk about his role on the team and just what he means to your defense and the kind of year he’s having? I’ve heard Defensive MVP thrown around a little bit about him.
“Well, he sure has been playing at a very high level. Consistently great week in and week out. You could even say the last four or five ballgames, I mean, he’s elevated that play to the last five, six, seven games he’s just been outstanding, and deserves to be mentioned in that kind of company.”
It seemed like LB Aldon Smith was applying pressure constantly yesterday. As good as he’s been, do you see him kind of, given his absence for a while, do you see him getting back to his old peak form?
“He got a game ball last week. He had another excellent game this week. Another game where we really played good up front. It was an excellent plan by the defensive coaches. Well executed by our players. We had seven three-and-outs in the game out of 11 series. That is, when you talk about time of possession, that certainly factors into that. Getting the ball back for the offense. So, we really played well up front. The backers played extremely well. Played really well in the secondary. [S] Donte Whitner, a lot of big hits again in the ballgame. A couple mistakes here and there in communication and coverage, but overall a really outstanding game. And that quarterback hit us with some passes on the outside in the flats, but he’s got a big arm and a tendency to throw the ball down the field and we were protecting against some of those bigger plays, some of those seem routes. Just thought it was an excellent plan that was well executed.”
Have you asked K Phil Dawson to stay beyond this season, yet?
“No, let me do that right now. Phil, stay beyond this season, please. No, I’ve been remiss asking him to do that. Let me officially ask him to stay beyond this season.”
That is a legitimate question.
“Absolutely. I’m glad you brought it up. 24 straight field goals and he has just been a top-notch guy too on the team from the day he got here. Just a real guy’s guy. Real football player in every sense of the word, which that always doesn’t get affixed to kickers and punters, but Phil is that kind of a teammate. It’s about the team. It’s about accomplishing the mission and the goal of the team and him doing his job within that. That’s the way I truly believe the way he looks at it. So, it’s been A-plus-plus. Very happy with Phil. Nothing not to be happy with him about. Just so good on the field, off the field, in the locker, in the community, etc.”
Bowman was saying the other day that he sees Phil Dawson here when he doesn’t have to be here. Have you observed some of those moments where he’s here–?
“He’s got a perfect attendance in the offseason. I’ve not seen a lot of kickers and punters have perfect attendance before. But yeah, he’s committed. He’s made a great sacrifice too. His family’s not here and they come and visit. He talks about them all the time. He’s a great role model too for all of us, just how much he loves his wife, how much he loves his kids, how much he talks about them. Just the way he does so many things right. It’s great for everybody to see that.”
How much does he influence your decision making? He’s become so reliable and so automatic on these field goals, as you drive guys drive downfield, I’m sure it shapes play-calling and your decisions. How has it affected your job during games?
“It does. It’s shaped it in a positive way. You feel you know you have the option and the high probability that he’s going to make the kicks.”
So, a long-term deal coming up?
“Pay the man.”
This was CB Tarell Brown’s first game in a month. How do you evaluate his performance against the Buccaneers?
“Real good, real good. Real excited to see T. Brown this morning as well. Moving around good. Another guy who came in there and contributed right away. There was no real rust factor. Did a lot of good things.”
S Eric Reid had the late interception and elected to go down. He said after the game he wanted to save the kickoff team from having to make another trip down the field and his defensive guys, making another defensive series. Is that the type of decision making that you saw from him in the draft process? That type of veteran decision making instead of taking the easy walk into the end zone?
“Yeah, he’s a smart player. He made a smart play there. Could have batted it down because it was 4th down, but who’s going to do that when they have a chance to get an interception? Further probably tells you how smart he is. But no, good decision. ”
You were obviously preoccupied with your own game, but what do you think about Dolphins S Michael Thomas? I mean he was on the practice squad one week and not only was he playing yesterday, but he’s intercepting Patriots QB Tom Brady and knocking another pass down.
“It brought a smile to everybody’s face as we got that news on the plane and started seeing the highlights. Mike’s just a great guy and a great teammate. Everybody was just happy for his success. I really personally enjoyed listening to him give the interview afterwards and just the Michael Thomas excitement. Just wonderful, wonderful. Really happy for him. Texted him, he texted back. Few players I’ve coached that I love more than Michael Thomas.”
I saw RB Frank Gore twist his ankle towards the end of the game and then he came back on the field for that four-yard run. Did he walk that one off? Is he feeling OK today?
“Yeah, he was walking good on the plane. Saw him walk up and down the aisle. He looked like he was walking it off pretty good. Came back and said hello. We had a nice chat during the flight. He, [head coach Jim Harbaugh’s wife Sarah Harbaugh] Sarah and I. That was enjoyable. It’s kind of become a little tradition to have a nice chat with Frank after we win.”
Does he continue to amaze you? 1,000-yard seasons and everything he does week in and week out.
“He’s a mystical man. He is a mystical man.”
Is he a Hall of Famer?
“Yes, I believe so. I truly believe that in my opinion. Other good stuff to talk about to. Also, looking at what Colin did in the game. Contributed to the first downs in probably the biggest way that he has all year. 22 first downs, 11 by passing, 8 running. Frank had, I believe five, Kendall two, and [RB] LaMichael [James] one. And then Colin had three rushing first downs. So, 11 of the 22 first downs or touchdowns were contributed by Colin. The way he made them, getting out of the pocket, scrambling, buying time, extending plays. Even the four-yard gain to Bruce that picked up a first down. The touchdown to Michael, where he extended the play, pump fake, pump fake. Talked about how Michael and him were on the same page. And then the throws he made running to his right. There were 30-yard lasers on the run. Just haven’t seen anybody ever do that. And then the escapes. The part of the long drive that we got the field goal there in the 4th qtr. where he got out. Some of your older readers and football fans may remember Harry Houdini. I don’t think Harry Houdini was in tighter jams than what Colin was yesterday in some of those situations. He was Houdini-like, escaping and buying time.”
Are those some of the skills you saw maybe before the rest of us in terms of elevating him to that job in the sense of no matter what scheme the defense plays, you can’t prepare or plan for those kind of escapes or extending the play as you described it?
“Well, and you don’t really, I’m not saying we’re scheming them offensively. He’s got size. He’s got strength. He’s got great decision making. And he’s got arm talent. He’s got talent to throw on the run. He’s got speed. All those things, we’re watching. Everybody’s seeing them together as he continues to show the kind of player that he is.”
I know you’re game planning, but can you reflect on Candlestick a little bit on the iconic venue, the great players who have put on this uniform for this franchise who have played there and done so many special things?
“Yes, I could. Boy, I’d hate to leave anybody out. There’s been so many. And so many have played with the San Francisco Giants. So many players that have played for the 49ers and played for other teams in the National Football League or in Major League Baseball that have passed through those dugouts or sidelines to play on that field. There will be tremendous memories from everybody that’s ever played there. That’s why it’s important for us not to screw it up and make sure we get this win this Sunday. Also excited that [former 49ers owner] Eddie DeBartolo will be there. Had a chance to see him in Tampa. We didn’t screw it up in Tampa, that’s where he lives now. So, he’s still got the bragging rights in Tampa. Felt good about that. Now we’ve got to get another win this week.”
Do you remember the first time you played at Candlestick?
What do you remember about that? What was that like? Was it unlike other stadiums? Was it windy? Anything stick out in your memory of that?
“We got beat, I remember that. We got beat pretty bad. I was the backup quarterback with the Chicago Bears. The starter threw like three or four, maybe four interceptions in the first half and they inserted me in the second half. We didn’t win the game. First time I ever went there was when my dad was coaching at Stanford. Took us to a Raiders, 49ers preseason game. My brother and I and our sister and our mom. I remember sitting there like, ‘It’s not this cold back in Michigan.’ We just moved to California and they said it was going to be cold. They had us kids in our warm jackets, but it was still cold. ”
About how old do you think you were?
“16. I’m sure others could elaborate more, but like you said, iconic venue and it’d be an honor to be on that sideline for the last game at Candlestick and we want to win it.”