SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Jim Harbaugh’s Wednesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
You mentioned yesterday I believe it was that LB NaVorro Bowman would undergo an MRI. How did that turn out?
“That’s taking place today I believe.”
And, is he still experiencing pain in that knee?
“I saw that reported, but I don’t know for sure.”
So, if that MRI is good then he’ll start practicing tomorrow?
“No. I want to see where that’s at first.”
Have you guys ruled out IR for NT Ian Williams?
And how about for WR Bruce Ellington?
So, both of those, either one of those could still end up on Injured Reserve?
“Bruce I don’t think will. I don’t think that’s as likely.”
From what you’ve seen from LB Aldon Smith briefly this week, where do you think he is? Is he possibly someone who can just drop right in and almost play like normal?
“That’s a good question. He did participate in training camp 11 weeks ago. I would refer back to last year, he missed five weeks and was able to come back and play snaps his first week back. So, good question. We’ll see, take it day by day.”
He seemed obviously very happy and excited to come back yesterday. Can you describe his mindset, what it’s been these past two months while he’s been out? Obviously, he hasn’t been at the games, hasn’t been on the practice field. How hard has that been for a guy to be around a team but not be able to contribute?
“There’s the joy of being around the team and training and meeting and you miss the joy of practice.”
Was it almost, I’m sure you’ve had these conversations, but a shock to, when finally the decision was that LB Patrick Willis was going to be out for the season? What was your reaction to that? What was your response of what happens now?
“There’ve been conversations with the doctors and with Pat leading up to it. We were taking it day by day with that as well. And now the decision’s been made, I think it was made a few days ago, or when it was, I can’t remember quite exactly. But, now, yeah you retool, you refit and I feel good about the way the guys are playing and feel like that’s what Patrick feels is going to be what’s best for his football career and going forward. So, that’s the best thing for us.”
Do you guys, you talked about feeling good about the way your guys are playing, do you think you guys can still be the kind of defense and accomplish everything you want even if it is LB Michael Wilhoite and LB Chris Borland playing side by side?
“Yes. And those two are doing a great job of elevating their game to the standard that NaVorro and Patrick have set around here. I mean, they have no choice really but to do that. They’re doing a great job of getting that done. Talked about Michael Wilhoite last week, he’s assuming the position and the defensive play caller that Patrick has always been. And that entails quite a few things, keeping guys on edge, keeping them focused. And he’s been doing a great job of that. Chris Borland is acquitting himself extremely well. [49ers linebackers coach] Jim Leavitt I think’s done a great job with those inside linebackers. So, yeah they are elevating their game. Feel good about the way they’re playing.”
We saw Patrick give the pregame speech even though he wasn’t playing like he usually does. Will that role continue? Do you want him to have that same presence in the locker room, before games, etcetera that he has when he’s playing?
“Sometimes different guys do that in pregame. Patrick has done it a lot. Other guys have. That’s player driven and a guy that steps up and does it. That’s not something that I direct.”
He seems to be the one guy who speaks a lot to the team and to the media and he seems to be the most vocal of your team leaders. Does somebody need to step into that role or can he continue to do that even though he’s not playing?
“Well, I’ve always thought this, that we have multiple guys, multiple leadership. I always feel like our leadership would lead the way. There are multiple leaders on our team, have been and are.”
WR Michael Crabtree was off the field a few more times than usual on Sunday. Is that all reflective of the way he’s playing or was it because you want WR Stevie Johnson in more, what are the reasons just generally for some of that?
“We’ve got a good receiving corps. We’ve got multiple personnel groups that go in, tight ends, backs, etcetera. I feel like our receivers are doing a fantastic job. I’ve got no problem whatsoever with our receivers. And [QB Colin Kaepernick] Kap feels the same way. I think I saw a stat the other day that he’s number one in the NFL of distributing the ball to the wide receivers and they’re doing a fantastic job.”
Do you think Michael’s having a good year?
“Yeah. Game-saving catch against the Saints, dazzling, dazzling play. And I know you had some comments [San Jose Mercury News columnist] Tim [Kawakami] and I’d like to address those. First of all, from my standpoint, and we all have our opinions and everybody shares their opinions. But, again, from the way I saw it was, I had multiple disclaimers about – that I wasn’t there for the entire conversation. That I came in late, caught the tail end of it. That I didn’t have it verbatim. I was careful to say that.”
Then why did you say anything?
“Because it was my perception. My perception is I came upon the scene. My view of the battlefield, which is really my perception, I heard or thought I heard or saw that. And, the way you put it in your column was, from your recording, which I’m glad you clarified, was that ‘you haven’t been on the field all the time.’ And that’s what I said. I took that as, I was defensive for Michael and thought that he was as well about that. So.”
Could I just clarify that I asked him the question about the big catch, the game-changing, dazzling catch and his response was, “I am the third receiver. I’m the third option.” That was his response to a question about his incredible contribution.
“I read that. I read what Tim said and he clarified and had the tape recorder.”
There was no discussion about his role as a third down receiver.
“I understand. And I hope you understand too that that’s why I had multiple disclaimers because I didn’t hear everything. I wasn’t there the entire time. I was going off of what my perception, my view of it was. And, take me to task over that, but I don’t know how more honest I can be about what I saw.”
Well, let’s get back to what he said. Michael came across as being disgruntled about his role when we were asking him about this catch. Is he unhappy right now with he’s —?
“I have no problem with Michael.”
Does he have a problem with the offense?
“I don’t think so. Said the receivers are doing a fantastic job. Getting the ball out.”
You mentioned your perceptions of what he was asked on Monday. You mentioned the drops, which, again, was not mentioned in that conversation. You mentioned it. He has dropped the ball a few times. You have called him the best hands you’ve ever seen. Are you surprised to be seeing these drops from him? Do you consider them drops?
“I think it happens. [WR] Anquan [Boldin] had a few. We had a few overthrows. I’ve had a few bad play calls that didn’t work, so, I have no problem with Michael Crabtree’s hands or Anquan Boldin’s or the way our receivers have been catching the ball.”
He’s in his contract year. He obviously wants to have a good season. It’s evident that he’s not happy with his production to this point. Is he putting too much pressure on himself in order to have a season that he wants to have, aspires to have?
“He’s a tremendous competitor. I’m not blaming him or anybody. We’ve talked about this before; I think we talked about this last week, concerning different players, separate players. The heat of the moment 10 minutes after the game, I don’t go by that.”
He did say similar things to us on Friday in the locker room, that he wasn’t happy with his production, it’s not him. I’m just asking you, does the contract year, does that play into the pressure that players put on themselves in their contract year?
“I think I’ve answered that, [Sacramento Bee writer] Matt [Barrows]. He’s a tremendous competitor.”
How close did you get to taking the team to Youngstown? Was that ever something you almost did?
“No. We talked about it. We really made the decision a couple months back. As we talked about, I don’t know if you were here last week or not, but talked to our staff, performance staff, trainers, and felt that was the best thing to do at this juncture of the season. As it turns out I’m glad, because we had quite a few injuries in this ball game. And to be back here, be in our own facility, be in a place where we have our stuff, our facilities, our medical rehab, I’m glad we did it that way. Feel good about the decision.”
What are the challenges that you guys face this week? Big road win against a team that’s probably going to be in the playoffs. Now, you have to go back cross-country to face a team that’s struggling. I know you’ve talked about the one-game seasons, but how easy is that to really perform to that level when you look and you see a team that hasn’t been playing well?
“It’s a must. And that’s exactly what I was going to say. I know I brought this up: Anquan Boldin talked about this last week to the team about treating these weeks as one-game seasons. That’s what we have to do. Every game is a big game. All you have to do is turn on the film and see the way the Giants play football and you know that it’s going to be a big task, a huge test for us. They’ve had games where they’ve scored a lot of points in bunches. Defensively, they have the most interceptions. They have a tremendous pass rush. Great quarterback. We’ve had ball games with this team before. We know exactly what they’re capable of.”
Regarding Patrick’s injury, I know you initially thought, the team seemed to think it was not a long-term thing. Did he have a setback since he’s been sidelined or was it just because that’s been a chronic thing and it wasn’t improving and he was like, “OK, it’s just time to fix this?”
“Yeah, that’s the way I understand it. And he talked about it. I thought he explained it well the way he said it.”
How encouraged were you just by, you came out running the ball really well against the Saints? And where does that running game stand right now?
“Building, building, building and getting stronger and stronger. That’s the exciting thing about our football team in that phase.”
How does RB Alfonso Smith work into that? Is he depth or is he a possible return guy?
“He’s played in a lot of NFL football games. He’s done some returning. He was with us in training camp. We liked him then. We’re excited. We’ve been waiting for an opportunity or a chance to get him back and get him back on the roster, see where he’s at and get back up to speed and, potentially, may be able to be used in special teams or on our offense.”
Did RB Frank Gore and RB Carlos Hyde come out of the game OK health-wise or are they going to be limited at all this week playing?
“You can check the injury report on that. Both were out there today.”
You’ve got Borland now starting, LB Aaron Lynch starting, C Marcus Martin starting, Hyde’s been playing a lot, DB Jimmie Ward’s been starting, well, been playing a ton. Did you imagine with this draft class that you would have to use them like this or is this a little bit more than you might’ve expected out of this group?
“You always pick players, sign players and understand that they have the license and the ability to do anything. Anything can happen. Really pleased that these guys are playing well and acquitting themselves well. You prove to yourself. It’s a jump from college to pro football. It’s a jump from junior high football to high school. It’s a jump from high school to college football. When you’re in that first year doing everything for the first time, you wonder, even the best players are wondering, ‘Can I do this? Can I do this at the level that I think I can and want to have.’ And these guys have proven that they belong and they’re quality football players. Very excited about it. Marcus Martin, as you mentioned, thought he did a tremendous job. That’s a tough environment to play in. They’ve won a lot of games consecutively down there because they have a great football team and a tremendous organization and also that’s a difficult place to go down and get a win. And then a center starting his second game in that kind of environment, I think that speaks volumes. Keep going, keep going. I tell them that all the time. Keep encouraging them in that way.”
How close will you monitor DL Glenn Dorsey to see if he has a chance to make a contribution on Sunday?
When Colin Kaepernick got sacked in overtime, the Saints rushed eight. You had seven blockers. A lot of NFL coaches ask their wide receivers to break off their route in that situation. None of the three receivers in the pattern did. How do you coach that situation when the defense rushes one more than you can block?
“They always got the ability to do that – to bring one more than you can block. That’s a particular play call where – wish we would’ve had one more blocker. Wish we would’ve had a little shorter route. A lot of times, what we try to do is build in a quick answer or build in a sight adjustment or build in an audible, and we didn’t have one for them on that particular play.”