Jim Harbaugh compares Patrick Willis to Willie Mays, and more

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

Are you guys staking a concert, a rock concert out there (on the practice fields)?

“We’ve upgraded our sound system.”

Is that after watching the Bears game the other night?

“No, we’ve been trying to get that done for about eight weeks, so we finally got it done.”

So you want a louder practice environment?

“We wanted better speakers and a louder music system.”

What was the hold up? Why eight weeks?

“It would just frustrate me to go into that, so I’m not going to go into that. We got it done.”

Where do you find speakers that big?

“We got those over at Stanford.”

Did you have to put notes on the neighbors’ doors to warn them of this?

“Not that I’m aware of, no. We play it maybe 15 practices a year really, when it’s all said and done.”

Did you go get them?

“I knew where to get them. Kevin Korecky, my guy over at Stanford. He’s a whiz at electronics.”

He delivered them so you didn’t have to pick them up?

“Yeah, Kevin brought them out.”

So the purpose for getting them obviously is to get them ready for the crowd noise in Detroit. That really showed with the problems the Bears had there. Is that a big emphasis this week obviously, silent count and getting everything in gear with that?

“Yes, you’ve got to be ready to be able to play without being able to talk and verbally communicate.”

You mentioned LB Patrick Willis a couple of times the last few days. Is it the level of play that is most impressing you, is it other things too intangibles that he’s showing you? Where is his level of play and where is his leadership with this team right now?

“I compare it to baseball in some ways. The five facets of being a great baseball player: hit for power, hit for average, catch, run, throw; be able to do those five things at an elite level. Patrick, as a linebacker, played downhill as a linebacker, number one, to be able to drop into coverage, be active and good in the coverage. Be able to tackle in open space, be able to blitz strong with tempo, and also be able to run from sideline to sideline with the agility and the speed to do that and make plays. Those five things, he’s doing at an elite level. Where some backers are great downhill linebackers, but they’re not as good in coverage. There are some other backers that are really good in coverage, but not so good when it comes to downhill and playing between the tackles. I think just like Willie Mays. To me, five facets of baseball, Willie Mays is the greatest of all time. Patrick Willis has the chance to be one of the all-time great linebackers if he’s able to play at this elite level in all five of those facets over a long period of time. I think a lot of you have seen that, a lot of guys on this team have seen that. I’m seeing it now. I’m seeing that’s the kind of player he is.”

I know you don’t love straight comparisons, but you were around Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis for a little bit. Does this… that level of play? Is that what we’re talking about here?

“I believe he’s got a chance to be, yes, like Ray, one of the all-time greats. Another thing I admire and respect about Patrick is he goes about it in a very non self-perpetuating way. Very, about the time, not just about himself. Everybody in the building respects him even one more rung of the ladder because of that. That’s a big reason the fellas lower their cap to him and you can see why.”

Did WR Joshua Morgan have his surgery? Was it worse even then you guys thought, because you had been hopeful Monday he might be able to return?

“Yes, he had his surgery. Josh is going to be out for the season, but it’s not going to be something that will keep him not playing after the season. His career will be fine and we’ll give him the time to really get that healed right.”

What do you hope to get from WR Brett Swain and what kind of impact will he have in your offense?

“We’d like to fill Josh’s shoes. That’s the kind of impact… and they’re big shoes to fill, especially where Josh was adding a level that Josh normally was playing at when he got hurt. We’re fired up that Brett’s here and we’ll get him going as fast as we can and he can.”

What did you like about Brett in the workout yesterday?

“We had some guys here, some really top-level guys, and we just let them compete for the spot. Knew we had one spot and it could have been possibly two, but one for sure. We let the guys go out there and compete for it. There were some really good guys here. Their workout was outstanding. You really like the whole group; it was like that’s a heck of a group. Thought Brett stood out and was the best guy. We even have a race when we work guys out; we race them on the 40-yard dash.”

Were you passing to him?

“I was.”

Did he win the 40-yard dash?

“[WR] Joe Hastings won the 40-yard dash. Our own Joe Hastings. Brett was second.”

How much of that decision was special teams and what Brett can do on special teams?

“I think that played into it a good amount. What we’re looking for now, how someone can help us now. Brett was that guy.”

Did the fact that he was part of the Packers last year play a role? He saw a championship team and what that’s like. Did that factor in at all?

“Yes. The guys that were here were definitely some veterans that have played in playoffs, played at a high level, been a part of that as well as Brett was. That certainly helps. The other thing is, coming from the Packers, they use a West Coast system. The terminology is fairly similar and he’s already shown that he understands what we’re doing.”

Did you know him before? I know you were at USD when he was at San Diego State.

“San Diego guy. Followed him basically just kind of looking in the keyhole. I knew of him from San Diego State and Carlsbad. My son used to play high school football down there and watched him play a little high school ball.”

You’ve coached against Detroit RB Jahvid Best. Is he the fastest running back in the league?

“I don’t know. I haven’t raced them all. He’s fast fast, no question about it.”

The way you talk about Willis, people are talking about Detroit WR Calvin Johnson and Detroit DT Ndamukong Suh in those kind of those terms. Obviously, they’re a little earlier in their careers, but can you talk about the matchup problems those two guys pose?

“Both very, very good players. Top guys in the league, both having outstanding starts to their season. Probably not enough superlatives to use to how those guys are playing.”

What do you admire about the Lions?

“I think the Lions are doing a heck of a job, playing good fundamental football. Team that’s playing with a lot of confidence. They’re not out of games. They’ve shown they can score at any time. They can flinch off being behind and coming back and winning. I think their guys have made… Quarterback who’s making cool-headed decisions, playing physical football. A lot of things to point out that they’re doing well.”

As a Michigan guy, can you sense what it means for a city like Detroit to have the Tigers doing this, the buzz that must be happening right there at this point?

“Yeah, you don’t have to imagine it, you can see it coming through the television screen from the other night, the Monday night game and also the baseball playoff games. Detroit’s a great sports town. You see that with the Redwings, the Lions and the Tigers, the Pistons. They love their sports in Michigan.”

Did you ever go to a Lions game when you were in Michigan or as a kid?

“No, we never got Lions tickets when we were kids. Tigers tickets, we got Tigers tickets. My dad grew up with Gates Brown. Same hometown, same childhood grade schools and high school, and Gates Brown used to get my dad and us kids tickets to the Tigers games so we’d go whenever we could.”

What do you remember about 2001 camp with the Lions?

“Pretty much all of it.”

Sad times? Good memories? What was the emotion when that was all ending right there?

“What, when I got cut?

Sure.
“Well that’s not a good feeling, not a good feeling at all. Getting ready to play a game the next week and you get cut at final cut. That was life. Life happening to a 15 year NFL quarterback, not unprecedented. Moved on to my life’s work.”

You’ve said that winning makes you softer, can make you soft. Have you seen any evidence of that? Have you had to jump in, have you had a pre-plan?

“No, we’ve seen no evidence of that. We will be quick and on alert for any signs or evidence. There’s a guy that walks around by the name of Frederick P. Soft. Freddy Soft’s about a four-inch guy that sits on your shoulder, talks right into your ears. If we see or hear any evidence of him being in premises we will act quickly and decisively and get him out of here.”

What’s the ‘P’?

“Frederick P. Soft.”

Obviously they put a lot of multi-receiver packages out there. How are you going to determine whether CB Chris Culliver stays as the third cornerback or CB Shawntae Spencer returns?

“We’ll determine that by who’s practicing better, who gives us the better chance to be the nickel and/or the dime cornerback.”

Competition on the practice field?

“Yeah, who’s playing better, who’s practicing better.”

How’s DT Isaac Sopoaga doing?

“Good. Looking forward to him being out to practice today.”

One more Willis question. We talked about Baltimore, they’re trying got funnel the play toward Lewis because he’s such a dominant player. Is that part of the philosophy you’re doing here, is to get the play to Willis, get him to the ball? Kind of let everyone support him?

“I think it’s a team defense we’re playing. I wouldn’t classify it as we’re trying to funnel the ball to Patrick. He’s a great football player and the aim is to play great defense.”

Since you got here, RB Frank Gore has always been a player who’s made coaches really talk about him and sort of pause and get a big smile on their faces. That’s happened with you two it seems. Do you remember when you really got to understand Frank and what he was about and what you saw?

“The first time I met him I was blown away just by the things he was saying. Just felt like we were both breathing the same air. The same things I was thinking and feeling. I remember thinking to myself ‘this is a true football guy right here, or he’s got a heck of a speech writer, one of the two’. Subsequent meetings and being around him on the field in training camp and in games, he’s a true football guy. Just loves it, loves it.”

Do you remember anything that he said to you that you could share with us? Part of a speech maybe?

“You guys are always looking for the example of the story. The first things out of what he said to me was – that he wanted to win. He was hungry to win, willing to do anything for the team. Sometimes guys say that, ‘that he wants to win and they say they want to be a part of the team’ but I’ve seen him sacrifice and live from the commitment from him. I think that’s more powerful from any sentence that I could share for you.”

He’s been known for needing to talk to coach’s after games; sometimes keep them on the phone until like 1 or 2 in the morning. Has anybody on this staff experienced that with Frank? Wanting to talk after the game on Sunday night?

“I know [Running Backs Coach] Tom [Rathman] talks to Frank a lot. Frank and I talk a lot during the game. I haven’t gotten any calls from Frank after the game at night, no.”

Jim will you shed some light on just how Joshua Morgan is doing mentally? We may or may not get to see him or talk to him. Just how his frame of mind is. I’m sure this is a devastating blow for him.

“Yeah, Josh woke up and was a little groggy. First thing he said was ‘that’s football.’ He’ll be back and have no doubts of that. Talked to Josh again yesterday and he had woken up, he’s resting. His brothers are in town and he’s doing well. He’ll be back soon and back around his teammates. Josh is a strong guy now, strong physically and also strong mentally. He’s a tremendously hard worker and I have no doubts that, following the doctor’s instructions and their plan, being disciplined not to overdo it, but also not to put any limitations on himself and do exactly what the medical team has in place. He’ll bounce back just fine. We  really have a great support team around him and he’s a part of that team. We’ll do everything for him that we possibly can because he’s a 49er, a true 49er.”

Jim he’s not signed for next season, is this something that you even without knowing exactly how the rehab is going to go, you guys have told him you want him back ?

“Yes, told him that and we’ll make that a priority.”

Do you see WR Ted Ginn Jr. starting his place and what do you expect out of WR Michael Crabtree on the other side?

“We’ll sort that out this week in practice, just exactly what everybody’s job and assignment will be going into this football game.”

Was there any ligament damage with Josh or was it just straight bone?

“It was bone. There’s no damage, but there was some stretching in the ligaments.”

Screws in there?

“Yes.”

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