SANTA CLARA — Jim Harbaugh was interviewed in the 49ers’ auditorium Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a transcript, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. staff.
Has a decision been made about whether DT Ray McDonald will play on Sunday?
For you, what goes into the decision for you? What would be the factors that would make you decide whether or not he can play?
And are you actively going out and investigating? Are you listening? How is that happening with your involvement?
“I wouldn’t concentrate on who or what ‘who’ is doing or who’s making the decision. It’s what’s going to make the decision. That’s information and fact.”
Is he preparing as if he’s playing?
“He is practicing.”
Is there, based on your stated views, very strong views on domestic violence, is there any hesitancy on your part to have him in the building and preparing to play in the game?
“Well, there’s two very strong principles at play. Number one is, we will not tolerate domestic violence and the second principle is the respect for due process.”
Due process can take a while. So, just based on your conversations with Ray and what the 49ers have learned in their investigation and what you’ve learned, are you comfortable if he played Sunday?
“It’s something we all know, we all live in America, we all understand that sometimes that patience is required when it comes to due process. But I think we all owe that. We all owe that to everybody that’s involved, is the respect for due process, in my opinion.”
Due process is a legal term. A lot of people, including probably all of us, if we’d been arrested we’d be suspended. Awaiting the legal outcome, you don’t think it would be prudent to maybe sit him until you have all the facts?
“As we have said, if you want to say it in a different way, I mean, this is America, you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty. I don’t know what more I can say about that and I have great respect for that principle.”
So, in your mind he must be guilty for him to be punished by the 49ers?
“It’ll be based on information and facts.”
In your meetings with Ray over the past few days, assuming you’ve had them, what kind of sense do you get about his mindset and the story that he told you?
“We could talk about that. We could talk about what those conversations have been. We can talk about what our relationship has been. I’ve known him for three years, et cetera. How relevant is that? The decision that you’re asking about will be based on information and fact.”
I think it’s very relevant because, looking him eye-to-eye, you’d have an opportunity to really get a sense of where he’s coming from.
“As I’ve said, I’ve known him for three years. I’ve had many conversations. Anything I could say would be positive. But [Comcast SportsNet reporter] Matt [Maiocco], what I’m saying is, we owe to everyone involved a respect for due process.”
Are you waiting for the district attorney to either file charges or not?
“We’re waiting for information and fact.”
If he had told you that he had done this, safe to say, he would not be playing?
“This a legal matter. You know my position, and that is to everyone involved, is to allow due process to take place.”
Have you told players in the past, ‘If you put your hand on a woman, you’re not going to be a 49er anymore.’ Have you told them that?
“You don’t have to rely on any source. What I’ve said to my team, I’m on record very clearly, [San Jose Mercury News columnist] Tim [Kawakami], with how I feel about the subject of domestic violence.”
What was his demeanor at practice yesterday and did it impact the way that the players approached practice?
“There’s probably a lot of questions that we could answer, lot that we could ask. I feel like I’ve answered as much as I think it needs to be answered on the subject. It’s a legal matter, remember that, please. Remember that this is a legal matter.”
As you move forward, and, you know, this is ugly, slightly embarrassing in Week 1, when you’d like to be talking all about football here. How do you move these guys forward when you’re a couple of days away from going to Dallas?
“You use that word. I take it personal with our football team and take on a great responsibility. And will continue to emphasis the things that will, what I think is good for our team. And will continue to do that and continue to search for better ways to do that. But I feel that’s my responsibility to do.”
Your team has led the league in arrests in the past three years. Not a very nice statistic. And I know that you’ve, like, before minicamp, when minicamp ended, you sat them down and said, ‘Be careful the next couple of weeks.’ How do you get the message across to your group that there’s something going on that’s wrong here, and how much responsibility do you take for it?
“As I just said, I take full responsibility, the greatest share of responsibility. I feel that is one of the responsibilities of the head football coach. Continue to do our very best, speaking for myself, speaking for our coaches, speaking for our organization. That is our job, that is our responsibility and we’ll do our very best as we have done. But our best needs to be better.”
Players that have had troubled backgrounds, you’ve drafted them, signed them. Some of them have turned their lives around here, been redemptive stories. How do you balance that? Of taking a player who might have a risky past and then not taking that player because maybe they do get arrested under your hospices?
“The thing we continue to point out is self-motivation. I think that is the only lasting thing. And continue to do a good job and take our responsibilities and do a better job of it. I think I’ve already exhausted the subject.”
On this specific decision whether McDonald plays on Sunday, is that your decision? Is that [general manager] Trent’s [Baalke] decision? Is that [chief executive officer] Jed’s [York] decision?
“Again, I see where you’re focused on the ‘who’ is making the decision. I feel like it’s – and I’ve explained this – that the important thing here is what’s going to make the decision. And it’ll be based on information, it’ll be based on fact, Tim.”
But someone has to decide what the facts are, correct? Someone has to decide this is the preponderance of evidence. Who makes that decision?
“In my opinion, it’s what information and fact. I’ve been asked that question. I feel like I’ve answered it.”
So, do you think something could change before the game? I mean, the next few days it’s up in the air as to whether he’ll play or not?
“Once you get fact, once you get information, then you’re going to be in a better time and a better place to make a decision or to make judgments.”
Do you think you’ll get that information?
“I don’t know [San Francisco Chronicle columnist], Ann [Killion]. I don’t know. I’m not here to tell you exactly what happened because I don’t know.”
Understood. But, probably by Sunday, you’re not going to have all of the facts, right?
“I don’t know that. I don’t know that.”
If he plays on Sunday, would that mean that you or someone in the organization had found some information throughout the week that gives you confidence that he is innocent?
“Again, I’m going to reiterate that this is a legal matter. There is a principle at stake. You seem to keep questioning that. You have a lot of follow-up questions on a very fundamental principle that could indeed require patience. But, I see a lot of polls. Should this, should this or should not, or this or that. I see a lot of polls. We could have an informal poll right now. Raise your hand if you are not in favor of due process. (pause) Not one hand.”
Well, define what due process is.
“It’s in the Constitution, Tim. Thank you. I’ve taken as many questions as I can take. It’s in the Constitution. It’s well defined. The Fifth Amendment.”
You’re not putting him in jail. The constitution is about putting someone in jail, not about whether he plays football or not. That’s a difference.
“Man or woman is not to be punished before due process occurs. I’ve taken as many questions as I’m going to take on that subject. If you have a question on football.”
Your general manager said yesterday that he’s always concerned about distraction. This is a distraction. What have you learned in your coaching experience that you’ll apply to avoid this being a distraction?
“Our expectations are to have a great practice, great meeting. The medicine’s out there on the football field and our preparation for the gameSunday is most important for today’s practice and today’s meeting.”
Are WR Brandon Lloyd and WR Stevie Johnson at full health going into this first game and do you have an idea going into Sundaywho that third receiver is going to be?
“We’ve gone through the whole training camp process and we’ve been very forthcoming on injuries and depth chart and who’s playing where and how they’re going to be used and how they been doing and what we expect them to do on Sunday. That information flow is getting tightened up. There’s an injury report and that’s about all we’ve got for you.”
G/T Alex Boone believes he’s ready to play Sunday and he said he met with you, felt it was positive, this is a business. Are you confident he can be ready to go as of Sunday?
“We’ll see. I mean, he’s getting back into practicing, meetings, et cetera, so, there will be a process. And again, we won’t divulge who’s going to be doing what and how they’re going to be doing it as much as we can. We’d love to have that information from the Cowboys.”
Is he in shape?
“He appears to be.”
Is there a plan to remove that roster exemption?
“Again, I just ask for your understanding. What we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it is … keep a tight a flow as we can on that information.”
WR Michael Crabtree, this is a bit of a homecoming for him. How has he been in practice so far and what have you noticed anything about him, bigger jump in his step?
“I know he’s very excited, very excited about it. He’s never played there. That’s where he’s from. It’s definitely a big deal to him.”
Does he expect to have a lot of family there?
“I would think so. They’re a close family.”
Generally, with the third receiver, with the backup quarterback, with this position, that position, is it your philosophy to just keep competition on the practice field a weekly thing? The depth chart, whether it’s real or made up, is constantly fluid?
“Again, we can go into the philosophy of … that is football, what you’re talking about. Yes, to whatever your question just was. I kind of forgot it to be honest with you. (laughing)”
There’s always competition?
“There always is in football, sure.”
Statistically speaking, the Cowboys had one of the worst defenses in NFL history last year. They don’t have Cowboys LB Sean Lee, they don’t have Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick. It appears they could be worse. What do you see on film? What kind of challenges could they present?
“Looking at a beefed up defensive line. They’re a fast team. I’m sure they’ll have things for us in the first game that you don’t expect, that they’ve been preparing for. The challenge that it always is, the first game of professional football.”
Through the years we’ve seen Cowboys S C.J. Spillman as a gunner and two guys out there and somehow finding a way to elude them and goes down and make a play. How big of a challenge is it for your gunners to matchup with him on Sunday?
“Very much of a challenge. We know what C.J.’s capable of doing on the football field and it’s a race to get to know their team. We know C.J., but some fact, he knows a lot of our guys. The scouting report, to close the gap on that will be very important as the week goes on.”
Do you go back to the game three years ago when the Cowboys beat you and just to show you guys what Cowboys QB Tony Romo is capable of doing?
“He’s a great quarterback. That was one of the games. I have great respect for Tony Romo and what he’s done over the course of his career. I saw that one firsthand. It looked like he was going to be out of the game and he came back and led a fourth quarter comeback. He’s a great player.”
What growth have you seen from C/G Daniel Kilgore? He makes his first start on Sunday. What does he bring to that offensive line that wasn’t there last year?
“I don’t want to compare it to a player last year. He’s doing a fine job. He’s excited for the game. He’s prepared himself extremely well and I think he’ll acquit himself very well.”