Harbaugh on the competition between Scott Tolzien and Josh Johnson: “It was a dead heat.”

On Saturday afternoon, Jim Harbaugh addressed the media in the media tent. He explained how the four captains were chosen and why TE Garrett Celek made the team, but Harbaugh declined to explain why Scott Tolzien made it over Josh Johnson. Here is the transcript, courtesy of the 49ers.

Do you guys have captains?

“We voted for captains, yes. [RB] Frank Gore on offense, [LB] Patrick Willis on defense. They were selected by their team last year. That’s a two-year term. If they’re back, then two additional captains are voted on by the team. The team voted on defense, [DT] Justin Smith and Patrick Willis, and on offense [QB] Alex Smith and Frank Gore. Those are our four captains.”

 

Do you do pick special teams captains week-to-week?

“Yes. Congratulations to those men. There is no greater honor than to be elected captain by your teammates.”

 

How does the voting process work? Is it secret, is it hands up?

“It’s voted on by the team. Then, myself and the first round pick and the second round pick count the votes in an anterior room. The only people that vote are the players.”

 

So Willis and Gore are not eligible next year?

“They have a two-year term. Next year they would have to be – it’s like the President of the United States, they’d have to be re-elected. I think we’ve plowed that ground as far as we can plow it, other than that we feel great about our captains. This is a great group of captains.”

 

How did Justin Smith react to it since he’s such a no-nonsense, hard-working guy? What did he do?

“I asked him to come up and say a few words to the team. He said he’d keep it short and sweet, and said we know our goals, we know what we want to accomplish. It’s all about going out there and doing your job and taking care of business. Then he sat down.”

 

Still no C’s on the jerseys?

“C’s on the jerseys, like in hockey? No.”

 

When you look at Justin – you want each guy to get better every day obviously – what does he have to get better at?

“There are so many things that encompass. The ultimate compliment that you could give to a football player, the ultimate compliment that any true competitor who plays the game would be proud to be known as, and that is Justin Smith is a football player. He is a football player. That encompasses a lot of things. That encompasses athleticism, speed, power, strength. Somebody that plays with effort, bend in their knees and on and on and on. A lot of the evaluators, personnel people, describe a player in a lot of adjectives. The one that encompasses all of it, is he is a football player. Now, it’s also true that as a football player you are either getting better or you are getting worse, you never stay the same.”

 

What was it about TE Garrett Celek that earned him a roster spot?

“We thought that he could help us win this year. We thought that he could help put us in the best position to win this week, the next game. We feel like he’s a good prospect for the future as well. He earned it. As we said early on in this process, it’s going to be a meritocracy here. Those things are earned out on the field. Did enough in our eyes to earn that spot.”

 

He didn’t have a lot of catches in college. Is that something that he got better and better at as the offseason, as training camp went on?

“Yeah. He did a nice job catching the football. Had some real eye-opening catches in training camp and preseason games. Did a nice job. I’m sure this has taken place, and it’s my hope that every man on the 53-man roster and the eight youngsters that are on the developmental roster, this will not be the ultimate day of this year. This isn’t their ultimate goal, the high moment of their year. They’re putting a plan together to stay a part of the San Francisco 49ers, this fraternity that goes back to the 1930’s, a group of men playing in the National Football League.”

 

In that aspect just looking ahead at the roster you have is there any flexibility outside of any surprising injuries could there be some shuffling around at all in the next two to three weeks?

“I’m sorry you kind of said that fast.”

 

I’m sorry could there be any shuffling from the practice squad, on the practice squad, something like that?

“Those possibilities all are possible. I’m not going to speculate. All these decisions we make, and will make, will be made with one purpose and that’s do we feel like it helps us win games, puts us in a position to win games. That’s what all those decisions are based on.”

 

You want a lot of competition obviously and a lot of eye balls on that number three quarterback job. What gave QB Scott Tolzien the nod?

“I won’t delve into every aspect because really there was a lot of body of work. There was a lot of thought that went into it. I think about the quarterback position in some form or fashion every day. I’m not going to get into comparing the two of them. It seems like somebody always gets diminished when you do that. I can’t tell you how close it was. It was a dead heat, both those players made a great argument for both of them to help our team win on any given Sunday. It was close in the beginning, it remained close all the way through and it was a tough decision. Both played extremely well.”

 

Yesterday, for the first time, final cuts were at 6 p.m. Did it go up until the eleventh hour for you guys?

“The eleventh hour?”

 

Was it a continual talk, dialogue throughout the day on that particular decision?

“No, it’s a full day. I won’t get into specifics about everything that goes on in that day, but it’s a full day’s work.”

 

When it came to the decision to keep three outside linebackers again, is that more you needed depth at other places you felt comfortable or felt like maybe you didn’t have the right fit for play that were in camp to add?

“You make the decisions on what’s best for the football team. What helps the football team win? And again, it’s a meritocracy. We’re competing. There’s going to be certain numbers at certain positions that you can field the team. And pretty much this team reflects that. And then you go in and play and see where you hold up, where the depth holds up, where the play holds up and keep fortifying your position the best that you can.”

 

On that topic, on that position, is LB Parys Haralson a guy that you would expect to have Week 1 against Green Bay?

“We’ll see.”

 

Is there any thought of getting TE/DT Demarcus Dobbs some reps at outside linebacker?

“That’s a possibility.”

 

Some of us thought RB Anthony Dixon was a long shot to make the roster in the spring. I don’t know if you felt that way or not? At what point did he really start to open your eyes?

“Just continual, during the offseason, his focus, his preparation. He was here every day in the offseason. He played. He competed. We’ve talked about it a couple of times, and I think it was just a consistent performance by him. Consistently good too.”

 

The fact that he added some versatility when he volunteered to step in at fullback, did that also help his cause?

“Yes. Yes that does. He’ll provide depth at the fullback position. And he’s been a core special teams guy for us. In a sense he became a three-way player.”

 

With Dixon staying, Tolzien sticking, they obviously have the familiarity aspect and so do a lot of guys on this roster that were on there from last year. How big of a role is that for you guys knowing, I think you have 42 guys back from last year’s team? And what does that mean for the season going forward?

“I think you can draw your own conclusions. We felt like we had a pretty good football team. You never know how it’s going to shake out. We brought a lot of good players into the mix here, this offseason and in training camp, drafted players, veteran players, free agent players. I think it speaks volumes for the guys that were on this team. It was a challenge for everybody. Everybody was put in a real fierce, competitive environment. Darwin wins. It’s the survival of the fittest. The strong survive.” [laughing]

 

In that aspect, last year seemed like it was a little more hectic because you didn’t have the OTAs coming into training camp to get so much in. Now looking back, did you feel a calmer sense or a more placid pace or did you feel it was just as intense this year? Or compare the two experiences so far, if you can.

“Compare this experience?”

 

This camp versus the circumstances going into last year’s camp.

“Well, I won’t go into real in depth comparisons. Placid is not a word that I would use. No. Ever.” [laughing]

 

Would you say maybe more calm?

“Not a big fan of that word either. [laughing] Really pleased with our team. And like I said, I think a lot of men should be proud that they’re on the San Francisco 49ers, that they made the grade. But again, if this is the high point of their season, then they’re doing themselves a disservice. They’re selling themselves short and they’re selling their teammates short. I’m sure that is not the case, that they are already formulating and formulated their plan going forward.”

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