SANTA CLARA — Jim Harbaugh spoke in the media tent Friday afternoon. Here is a transcript courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
Can you talk about your days as teammates with Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith back in 2001, what you remember from those days with him?
“We were both on the look team. I got there about seven, eight weeks into the season and just really enjoyed throwing the ball to Steve Smith. I mean, that’s probably the most talked about thing from when I played there. I tell people about when I was, there’s a guy there in Carolina named Steve Smith who’s really good. And then he became a great player and a Hall-of-Fame type of player. So, I was throwing him some of his first passes.”
Was he as, could you see him as aggressive and feisty as he was, as he’s become over the years? Was he like that as a rookie?
“I mean, a lot of energy. Great leaping ability and great hands.”
Did you have to talk to anybody about not engaging in dialogue with him during the game?
You obviously have a long relationship with Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. When you look at Carolina, do you see any former Chicago Bears head coaches Mike Ditka or George Halas imprints on that team?
“They’re a very good football team is what you see. Starting with the defense, probably the best front seven I think we’ve played. Defensive line, I think the best. The linebacking group is extremely good, physical, they run, they get off blocks and they play until the echo of the whistle, and a very smart group. The secondary is very aggressive. They’ve thrived on turnovers and making big plays. Offensively, great weapons and they can score from anywhere. Challenges for all of our units. Special teams, we’re very familiar with [Carolina Panthers WR] Ted Ginn and his game breaking speed and ability. And, they play very well on special teams.”
Do you expect CB Eric Wright to be active on Sunday?
“Like we talked about earlier in the week, just all the different possibilities that we have this week. Tune in on Sunday. We don’t want to give that information away. You know, if I say it now, then they read about it in the paper the next day. Or, if they’re internet-savvy, then they’re reading about it in an hour or two.”
They’re probably watching it right now.
“Oh, they’ve even got video.”
Is that going to be difficult? You have five cornerbacks that are playing pretty well. Is it hard to work him into the mix with all those without an injury taking somebody out?
“Well, we talked to the team about the same situation. Really, over the entire roster there’s going to be six inactive players that are, that have been playing, have been contributing, that are healthy or healthy, or are ready to go, that are darn good football players. You just ask them to make an argument, state a case this week, and we’ll go to the game with the best 46 that we think helps us, gives us the best chance to win. And that could change next week.”
What kind of week did LB Aldon Smith have?
“Solid. Very solid. Very good week.”
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, he said yesterday that he saw some rust early in the week. Did you see, did you witness the process of him starting to knock that rust off as the week progressed?
“I, to my eye, he looked like he had a very good week, moving around well, knowing his assignments.”
Who determines on game day how much he will play or any other defensive player will play?
“You’re kind of gnawing at that bone since Wednesday.”
Even before that.
“Have you been?”
“I wasn’t aware of that. We’ll handle that. What we think is in the best interest of the team. What we think is in the best interest of the individual player, we will do that, monitor that and implement that to the best of our ability.”
There was a report today that he would play 20-25 percent of your defensive snaps. Has that been determined?
“Not aware of that report.”
Are you aware whether there has been a set percentage on his snap count?
“I was not part of that meeting, if that meeting was held, no.”
Can you talk a little bit about how far S Eric Reid has come in his first half season and his development and what his development has meant to your defense and your team?
“Eric Reid? He’s been, he’s been outstanding. And, he’s better than the player that he was when he first got here. And, he’s not the player that he’s going to be either. There’s a lot of room for growth and improvement. He’s been a continuous-effort guy, continuous striving to get better, and that bodes well for him and us.”
You said in the past that he’s a good guy learning from his mistakes. He makes one mistake and he learns from it. What do you see though as a young player that you would like him to improve on?
“You really pointed out the thing that’s really been the most impressive thing about Eric is that you can tell Eric what to do, how to do it, and then he goes out and he has the physical ability to do it. And then you tell him what he did right, tell him what he did wrong and where he could be better and he rarely makes the same mistake a second time. So, the more he sees things, the more situations he gets in, with that kind of ability and retention, the more experience he gets, the better he’s going to be.”
Do you expect Carolina to have a traditional seven-man front in defending the run? If so, is that unusual based on how teams have kind of attacked you guys this year defensively?
“Traditional seven-man front?”
Well, offensive coordinator Greg Roman just said a lot of teams are loading the box against you guys and really anticipates Carolina to have more of a traditional front.
“Yeah, we certainly could. Whether they bring a safety down or bring a corner off the edge, there’s a lot of ways to add an eighth or ninth person in the box.”
Do you anticipate them doing that?
“I think we have to anticipate that. That’s the way most teams have been playing us. Foolish not to.”
Have you kept in touch with Ron Rivera through the years?
“Yeah, I have.”
Any Ron Rivera Bears stories for us at all?
I don’t know, were you close with him?
“Yes, very close. Very close. We’ve known each other now going on 25, 30 years. It’s into the lifelong friend category.”