Harbaugh on The Handshake: “There’s nothing I can possibly add.”

I was in an airplane somewhere above Nebraska or Colorado when Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media in Santa Clara Monday afternoon. He reiterated all the good things his players did against the Packers on Sunday, and he spoke about the upcoming opponent – the Detroit Lions – and the “mini-controversy” surrounding last year’s slap handshake with Lions’ head coach Jim Schwartz. Here’s a complete transcript, courtesy of the 49ers.

Opening statement:

“Good morning. Well, it’s good to be back here in Santa Clara. It was a good trip home. Again, just really excited about the way our guys played and fought and handled themselves out there in Green Bay. And back for a great week of preparation this week and a great week of work. Reviewing the film, lot of positives, lot of really good to point out. Again, defensively along the fronts, [DT] Ray McDonald, [DT] Justin Smith were outstanding versus the run. Nine runs Green Bay attempted and it was 56 passes I believe. But, a lot of real good solid play in our defense. [LB] NaVorro Bowman had an outstanding game, as was pretty evident to see watching the game. Also, [CB] Chris Culliver makes the big play at the end in pass defense. Physical play by [FS] Dashon Goldson, [SS] Donte Whitner, all of our defensive backs that played in the game. Four, sometimes five, and sometimes six on occasion. And then again, [LB] Ahmad Brooks gave us the big sack. Played really well down the stretch, did Ahmad. [LB] Aldon [Smith] had a terrific game as well, and so did [LB] Patrick Willis. Good game from that standpoint. Special teams, of course the highlight, [K] David Akers with the 63-yard field goal and perfect on field goals, once again for us. Three or four touchbacks in the game. Thought we covered well. [CB] Tramaine Brock stood out. Two tackles inside the 20 on the punt and forced a fair catch as well. So, outstanding. Offense was good, was on the field the majority of the time. That really helped us in the ball game. And [QB] Alex Smith, [RB] Frank Gore, the way we played up front, thought everybody doing a job, hustling, playing 60 minutes. Exciting game, exciting game for us.”

 

With LB Patrick Willis, he tweeted out earlier today how happy he was for LB NaVorro Bowman. Have you ever seen that before, where one guy sort of takes another guy’s place in the dime, and yet is so happy for that guy as he performs well on the field and he’s on the sideline?

“Well, and Patrick was in on the dime, too, I believe 12 plays when NaVorro wasn’t. But yeah, we see that a lot. We’ve got a lot of those examples just from our own team. Guys for each other. On each other’s side. We’re showered with that daily.”

 

WR Randy Moss did everything that you expected to see from him in his first game after a while?

“Yeah, terrific performance by Randy and all the receivers. [WR] Michael Crabtree had some, just terrific catches. He is just a great example for young receivers. Hand catching the football, good as you’ll ever see. And in traffic he had some physical runs. And [WR] Mario [Manningham] as well, just getting it and going. Running good routes, getting the ball and headed up field. Randy was outstanding coming off the ball, good speed, etc. Also, [WR] Kyle Williams, really effective in the punt return game. Got us the big 20-yard return right before the half there that set up the [QB Colin] Kaepernick run and then the Akers field goal. But just, everybody playing solid, doing a job like we said, hustling and playing well.”

 

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers isn’t just obviously a great passing quarterback, but running. How happy were you with how well you were able to kind of contain him in terms of what he did on the ground?

“Well, it stands to reason that when you have a star quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, and that ball was coming out so quick and accurate. And then his ability to run, which is well-documented and he runs, and he runs to hurt you. And then the great group of wide receivers and tight ends and playmakers that Green Bay has, it stands to reason that you’re not just going to shut them down, play after play after play to negative yardage. But what you hope to do is not give up the big, big play in the run game or the pass, which I thought our team did an outstanding job of not giving them. And then eventually, you get them shut on a series of downs and you get the ball back. But I thought pursuit was the key. Nobody staying on the ground, nobody staying blocked. Getting off blocks, pursuing like the dickens. And you saw that with any number of our guys. Aldon early in the game, getting a sack. And that kind of play, that kind of hustling backs on the back end, tackling and not giving up big plays was essential to getting them shut on some of those series.”

 

What makes this team so poised on the road? And that’s a hostile environment, and they did it last year. Is it being opportunistic? Is it fundamentals? Is it preparation, everything? This team’s a good road team.

“Well, I can’t disagree with you. And I think poise comes from confidence. You’d be darn surprised if they didn’t have confidence. They work extremely hard. They prepare so well, and that’s something that we need to keep doing. That’s something that the way we work, the way we prepare, that’s one of the best things that we have going for us. And you want to see that continue.”

 

Yesterday you mentioned you played the game with your minds. They played the game with their minds. Could you have done that last year? Or having more coaching this year, does that allow that to happen?

“It’s not a new thing. We’ve talked many times, just how intelligent this team is, these players are. How well their study habits go. And it’s 16 sprints. Every single week is a new sprint and they understand the mental preparation that goes into it. And take pride in their job and doing a good job. And doing the job out there on the field.”

 

I often hear coaches say that a team makes its biggest improvement between week one and week two.

“Big believer in that.”

 

You do?

“Yes.”

 

So how do you improve from yesterday? That was pretty good.

“Well, any number of ways. And there will be specifics that we’ll be attacking this week. You always feel like you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, you never stay the same. And you’re always looking for that mile an hour faster, percent better. We’ve talked about that. But, definitely when you go from week one to week two, you feel like you can make your greatest stride in any given week the entire season because you’ve done it before. Now you’ve done it before. You’ve played in a 60-minute game where everybody had to suck it up and play for 60 minutes. And coming off a preseason where some guys are only playing a quarter, a quarter and a half. So, now you’re doing that for the second time. And there are positives to use as a foundation, as a platform, to get better at. There are things that you’d like to see improved. And you make those corrections. And the players see it and you’re working out on the practice field.”

 

Anything specific you’ll be looking at in terms of anything?

“Yeah, there are definitely some specifics that we’ll be working on. And always like to get the players to tell them knee to knee before we release that to the public, before we talk to them is a general rule.”

 

You mentioned David Akers and the big field goal yesterday. Can you kind of take us through that play from your perspective, the decision to let him try it from that range and then also kind of what you saw as the ball was in the air?

“Sure. Well, the decision to kick it was we looked at it and said, this is going to be a 63 yarder and we basically just threw two passes just to get the clock down to where we would kick the field goal, and that would end the half. From that distance, you’re going to have to cover, too because they have the ability to return. But, had seen David hit the 60 yarder, 61 yarder in pregame with a few yards to spare. So, felt like we’d have a heck of a shot to make it. What I saw on the kick was, and I think David would tell you that he didn’t hit it as well as he would have liked to, but what he did do was hit it straight. That ball tracked straight. There was no variance left to right on that kick. And I think that was the difference, I really do. The trueness, the straightness of that kick is what made the difference.”

 

Everyone seems to agree that Alex Smith is a little better, or a little different. Aaron Rodgers came out in support last week saying all that stuff about managing a game. What did you see in Alex that maybe you didn’t see last year?

“Well, saw a lot of the same things that we did see last year. I couldn’t really list any dramatic differences. Alex plays at a very high level in this league. And did that last year and continuing to do that this year.”

 

Does it bother you that people from the outside, and mainly East coast people, seem to belittle Alex in saying, what has he done? Or 49ers are a running team, or they win on their defense, etc. As a coach, and a former quarterback, does that bother you at all?

“We kind of come from the sticks and stones school.”

 

How did G Alex Boone do in his first game at guard, and the offensive line as a whole?

“He was outstanding I thought. Just love Alex Boone, love him, love him. Love being around him, love the way he competes. Love the mentality that he brings, the attitude that he brings to our team. I thought he did a heck of a job. And I think he’s going to get better and better as well.”

 

How has G Leonard Davis, kind of learned where he fits in, coming in on that offensive line on the end there?

“How’s he learned? He has fit in. It feels like he’s fit in, he’s one of us. Another guy that’s just a pure joy to be around. Pure, pure athlete and good guy, and that’s what we have on our team. We’ve got good guys, wanting to play for the team, wanting to do well for the team, take pride in their own job and their own performance. Character guys, smart guys, tough guys, really makes it a joy to coach them. ”

 

With the officiating situation, do you have to change your philosophy on challenges, at all? You might face something late in the game that’s just completely blatant that you wouldn’t expect, that you could reverse with a challenge, possibly.

“No. I don’t think I’ve changed my mentality on challenges.”

 

Health good? Anything that we might not know about? Everybody come out OK?

“Pretty darn good. Pretty darn good, yeah.”

 

Here’s Detroit again, a year on from the handshake kerfuffle, what’s your view of that whole thing? It’s going to come up this week, I saw it on TV, a clip of it already. What’s your approach to all of that and what’s your view of that a year on?

“Our approach with the mini-controversies are really to give them the attention that they deserve, which isn’t much. Now, people that will use that to promote this game or any other game I think are really missing the point. The game is just so much bigger. As a rule of thumb, I have too much respect for the men who play this game, on both sides. And too much respect for the game to give it anything less than what it deserves.”

 

In hindsight on that, I’m wondering, do you think that did anything to just further fire up the locker room and bond you guys together? It could easily be looked at as just a total distraction, but it seemed like the guys in the media that week really digged it. I remember having a coach get into it with another coach when I was playing as a kid, and it fires you up a little. Could it have a positive effect or something like that?

“I really think it’s just a mini-controversy, that’s completely irrelevant. To put it next to the game itself is missing the point, in my opinion. I don’t know that I really have any more that I could possibly add to it.”

 

Last year when you guys started getting on a roll you talked a lot about making it suck for yourself, getting up early, those types of things. After a big win like this, is that something you have to remind the guys again, or is that engrained in the team’s DNA?

“We’ll see what we can do about that. But, professional guys that love to play, love to practice, love to study. My dad told me a great story this morning about Mohammed Ali that I can’t wait to share with the fellas, and it’s something along those lines.”

 

Don’t take this, but last year you told us you were going to change your handshake approach. Not trying to harp on this.

“Again, out of respect for the game.”

 

Ok, ok, but you had a little fun with us and said that you were going to change your approach. That’s all I was going to ask you, if you had done so?

“There’s nothing I can possibly add.”

 

What’s your feeling about post-game sportsmanship, in general, philosophically?

“Philosophically I know what you’re trying to do.”

 

No, I’m opening a question?

“I know exactly what the open question is. I hear what you’re saying, now is not the time to address it. I can’t possibly add any more to that topic.

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