SANTA CLARA – Here’s the transcript of Jim Harbaugh’s Thursday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers.
Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch has seemed to be particularly hard, he’s always been known as a hard-nosed runner. From what you’ve seen, has he kind of stepped it up a notch in the last half of the season?
“I would say like the way you said it: he’s always been a typically hard running back. Top back. He’s as good as they come in the National Football League. He’s always showed that. He’s having a great season. He’s one of, in our opinion, the top backs in the league.”
Is there much to be gleaned from that first game or are the teams really, at this point, so far evolved that a lot of that stuff is irrelevant?
“No, I wouldn’t call it irrelevant, the first game. There is much to be gleaned and both teams have evolved. Both sides of the ball, special teams. There’s scheme differences, there’s player differences. Still much to be gleaned.”
Special teams was such a big factor in that first game. You might not have WR Ted Ginn. Would you put WR Kyle Williams back there as a kick returner as well as the punt returner if there is no Ginn?
Would Kyle Williams’ role, if he had to do more on special teams, be curtailed on offense?
“Why talk about the ‘what we’re going to do?’”
Are you asking me why talk about it?
“No, hypothetical question. Why would I talk about it? So I won’t talk about it.”
At this point, are you concerned at all about whether you can get anything from WR Braylon Edwards this season?
“Am I concerned? No, I wouldn’t phrase it…”
I’m just saying, it’s been 14 games and he hasn’t been able to do much because of injury and you’re running out of games. Are you worried that he’s not going to be able to contribute at all?
“No, I’m not worried. Braylon’s practicing, competing. Like everything, you evaluate that and you give it your best shot. You either do or you don’t.”
Is he a long term wide receiver for the 49ers?
Have you been encouraged by what you’ve seen this week in practice from him?
Is he as healthy as he’s been in awhile?
“Based on one practice yesterday, looked good.”
A guy like TE Vernon Davis, has had some success in this league, obviously he’s a guy that wants the ball. This year it seems like he’s been patient and waited for his shots, hasn’t complained about his role. What does it say to you about his maturity and his leadership that he’s put the team before his personal goals per say? Have you seen that?
“I’ve absolutely seen that. Talked about it before. Vernon is a leader on this team. He’s done everything that the team has asked him to do and done it very well. Done it at a very high level. I think he’s having an outstanding season. One of the top tight ends in the game of football. I think he’s having that kind of a year.”
With the emphasis the league is putting on avoiding head to head contacts, are you coaching them to avoid that? You guys seem to have avoided some of those kinds of penalties. I think that speaks something of your defense that they’ve adjusted. Have you guys coached and made an emphasis on that or is that something they’ve done on their own?
“Both. There’s a strike zone. You coach that. Whether it’s quarterback or he’s in the pocket or defenseless player, receiver, etc. There’s rules, there’s techniques. You hit with your shoulder pad, not lead with your helmet in those types of situations.”
We’ve talked a lot about QB Alex Smith avoiding turnovers. How much easier of a sell for the coaching staff to coach him to not do anything risky on third downs when you guys are getting such good production out of your kicker and your punter and usually it’ll turn out looking, like I guess an advantage whenever you send those guys out there to perform?
“Well, I’m not going to relate the two. Two different topics. The kickers have done an amazing job. There’s no question about that. [P] Andy Lee is the top punter in the game right now. He’s had that kind of season. [K] David Akers, certainly one of the top kickers, if not the top kicker in the league this year. And as a result of playing the quarterback position there’s risk involved. There always is and you play the position. So, to me it’s somewhat related, but wouldn’t over-exaggerate that.”
You called DT Justin Smith your MVP this year. During the lockout, he was leading a lot of the defensive players in workouts at San Jose State. Were you cognizant of that? Is that part of what you see in him and his ability to lead?
“Well, you know I was cognizant of it. I’ve said that before and all of what I read in the newspapers and I was very impressed by it. I was very encouraged by it, that our guys would do that. We’ve treaded that ground before.”
Well when you see him in games, he’s a great fourth-quarter player. Does all that offseason work come to fruition at the end of these games?
“It does and not just the offseason work. I’ve also said this: Justin’s a five-day-a-week workout guy during the season. He’s in here on Monday lifting and running. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. He gets five workouts in a week. And we’ve talked about that with some of our other players. And I think it’s a great example for other players when your best player has that kind of work ethic. It’s a form of leadership and doing it by example. So, it’s been an outstanding thing for our team the way Justin works on and off the field and trains.”
I’m kind of curious, what was Christmas like at the Harbaugh house when you were a kid? Did you only get football gifts, or do you remember what your favorite Christmas gift was?
“Usually underwear, or clothes, or socks. Not a lot of toys. There weren’t a lot of toys. I don’t remember getting a lot of toys. A sweater. Maybe a ball glove if we were really lucky.”