Harbaugh on Sprint Theory vs. Marathon Theory, and more

SANTA CLARA – Jim Harbaugh’s Wednesday press conference transcript, courtesy of the 49ers.

 

You added a new/old outside linebacker?

“Added yeah, [LB] Eric Bakhtiari.”

 

Is that a guy that when you released him you told him stay close by the phone?

“No. I wouldn’t say there was anything said like that. We knew that whenever you let somebody go they’re exposed to the rest of the teams in the National Football League. Obviously, we liked Eric a lot when he was here. And the effort he gave. And what he did in the preseason. And excited to get him back on the field today.”

 

After two weeks of watching your defense, how much room for improvement do you see there?

“Well, this kind of topic’s been coming up every single week. We’re striving to get better every day. And it’s in multiple things. I’m not going to categorize the specifics of it. But, I thought everybody defensively played very well last week. I don’t think there was one guy that didn’t play well, or didn’t play good. We feel around here that you’re either getting better, or you’re getting worse. You never stay the same. So, maybe it sounds simple, but maybe so simple that it works. We’ll see.”

 

When you go over film, will you break down offensive film and …, well it’s mostly defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, but what participation do you take in that?

“I look at all three phases.”

 

What do you see about RB Adrian Peterson coming back? A lot of people are amazed that after nine months he’s back on the field. What did you see from him the first two games?

“Yeah, again, I know we’ve talked about this before, too. But, it’s not surprising. You’re talking about one of the great, great athletes in the world. And it’s not going to be the normal person coming off of an ACL. He’s one of these men who’s in the National Football League, and they have super-human powers of recovery. And tip of the hat to him. And you know how hard he must have worked and trained to get back to the level he’s at. But, this is a great challenge for our team. And I know a little bit about their other running back, too.”

 

How do you see RB Toby Gerhart helping out that running game and how he and Adrian provide just kind of changing it up, sort of like RB Kendall Hunter and RB Frank Gore do?

“Again, two really good backs, great backs. And it’ll be a tremendous challenge for us.”

 

Some people bring up the fact that you beat two playoff-contending teams in the opening two weeks. And if somebody says a let-down game, or a trap game, isn’t that kind of an insult or a derogatory term being thrown out there?

“You know how we feel about a few nasty words. We don’t take them all that seriously. Kind of come from the sticks and stones school, as you know. But yeah, you can’t have it. You can’t afford it. You can’t have a letdown, a let up. You’ve got to be a team. If you aspire to be a good team in this league, then you’ve got to come back every single week and prove it again. You’re not better than anybody else unless you prove it. And you get that chance once a week. And that’s why there are 16 of them. There are 16 sprints. We don’t subscribe to the marathon theory. We believe there are 16 sprints. And that’s what we’re in the process of doing today, preparing for that.”

 

When you were going on that winning streak last season, did you ever sense any let up during that, going from one game to the next?

“Well, you know how I feel about these guys. I’ve said it many times, they are a joy to coach. Because that’s their mindset, they love to compete. And they love to prepare. They believe in working. So, no I did not sense any let up or letdown.”

 

A number of veterans have said that they’ve gone through a lot of losing seasons here and they don’t ever want to return to that level. Do you sense that as a motivation that they lost for so long a lot of these guys, that they know the importance of staying mentally sharp?

“I believe in that. I believe that that’s a real thing, that in football whenever you lose a game you want to come back and make sure that, make darn sure that never happens again. And I believe in that thinking.”

 

Your predecessor is going to be on the other sideline. What did you inherit from Vikings special assistant to head coach/linebackers coach Mike Singletary? Did he leave a legacy behind with this team? There are a lot of the same guys that you’ve inherited.

“Yeah, I’ve always talked about – it is the players. Never made any secrets about that. Talented guys. Competitive guys. Confident guys. Like I’ve said before, I don’t block or tackle anybody.”

 

You’ve got WR Randy Moss going back this week to where he first made his bones and stuff. Does that ever come up in the coaches meeting, like we have a guy here above everything else he’s got even more motivation to play well, but you want to do some certain things with him during the game to let him show that? Does that ever come up in the coaches meeting when you’ve got a guy in this situation?

“I didn’t hear the first part of the question. Because he’s going back to Minnesota?”

 

Yeah. And so, you’ve got a guy who’s got even more motivation than usual to show he’s still a great player. Does that ever come up in coaches meetings? Like, we want to give him a chance to do that more than normal?

“I think it varies from person to person. You assume that they have more motivation. I believe these guys, the game itself is motivation at the highest level, they all have it. So, I’m not saying your theory is not correct, but that’s not something that we talk about. You asked me if we talked about that, no. We don’t.”

 

Longest road trip of the year, two weeks. How tough is it to keep the team focused when they’re away from their natural surroundings for that second week?

“I wouldn’t say it was tough. I thought it was a real positive when we went through it last year, that we were together. It gave us a great chance to be around each other, have meals. You stayed longer at the meals. Got to know each other more. Found out a different guy’s story that you didn’t know before you had a longer conversation with him than sometimes you did at the facility. So, I didn’t feel that that was a tough thing. I thought it was a positive thing.”

 

Which of your players did you maybe get to know better last year?

“[S] Donte Whitner and others. I talk to all these guys pretty much every day. But yeah, there were multiple guys because we were there for six or seven days.”

 

You talked last season about how QB Alex Smith has grown physically and has gotten stronger throughout his career. He’s taken the most sacks in the NFL since last year, 51.

“What’s that again? Can you repeat that statistic?”

 

Sure. It’s a good one. He’s taken 51 sacks since last year, which is the most of any other quarterback. Has the fact that his stature, the way he’s kind of built himself up, helped him stay on the field and be durable?

“He’s been a very, very tough, very durable quarterback. You really truly respect guys that can play that position, or any position, 16 straight weeks, every single game. I definitely think he has matured physically. He’s a full-grown man. And done a great job taking care of his body. Now, we don’t want to see him get hit that much. We really don’t.”

 

Is that a concern for you? Just keeping him healthy?

“Yeah, one of many. Always concerned about protecting your quarterback. And I thought our guys did a good job, real good job, in protection this past week. I thought it was against a very good defensive line of Detroit and front seven. And I think they’re doing a terrific job. They also did a terrific job run-blocking, as well.”

 

Back to the conversation of how this team has changed under you and maybe Alex is an example. But, how much credit do you give yourself? How much do you see on tape or during games do you see yourself in your players? Do you see yourself, your attitude, and your spirit in your quarterback?

“A small amount. And I think that’s the way we all approach it. Everybody doing a little bit that adds up to be a lot.”

 

Because you played for some pretty strong coaches. Did you feel like your coaches influenced you and the way you played? And has that ever carried over to the way you deal with your players?

“I’m sure that it has.”

 

How much do you talk to Alex about when you played quarterback? Has it come up much like stuff that happened with you and how you can relate to him? Does it come up a lot coaching?

“Sometimes. I think most coaches do that. I could imagine that every coach does that from time to time. You’re coaching them on a technique or a fundamental and you put yourself in that position. And then talk to him about that. And I think that’s probably common with a lot of coaches.”

 

Because your career had kind of a path that – you had your best season several years into your career, same thing has happened to him. Do you ever talk to him about that? How your experience eventually paid off? Do you ever talk to him about that?

“No, I haven’t compared that.”

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