SANTA CLARA – Friday in the media tent, Jim Harbaugh explained that his defense dominated his offense in practice. He also explained why Mike Iupati did not participate and why Alex Boone did not finish the team drills. Here’s a transcript of the press conference, courtesy of the 49ers.
“Hello. [G] Mike Iupati was excused from practice today, expecting their first child, [his wife] Ashley and Mike Iupati. Should come sometime today. Real excited about that. Our team’s about to get stronger. Wish Mike and Ashley the best and our prayers are with them.”
In Iupati’s place was G Leonard Davis, getting a little bit of action on both sides. What have you seen from him in his time with the team?
“It’s been good. It’s all been positive. (Davis is) working extremely hard to get up to speed. He is right on track and done that. I think that’s a product of being a veteran, being somebody who has been in systems and knows the game. He’s a physical presence. Probably the largest man I’ve ever stood toe-to-toe and knee-to-knee with in my entire life is Leonard Davis.”
You’re getting a slimmed down version of Leonard Davis, aren’t you?
“Yes we are. Yes we are. That’s what I hear. He looks great.”
Was this G Joe Looney’s first time with team drills?
“It was. He got action in there at guard, and some good. It’s good to have him back on the field, good to have him back started. I think we’ll have a lot to work with there.”
To the untrained eye, it looked like the defense was really on their game out there and dominated the offense. To the trained eye, did it look that way throughout?
“It did. It certainly did, about every which way it could be dominated. It was an outstanding day for our defense. Turnovers, pass rush, communication was great. The way they’re playing together is at a very high level, both units, and the young guys as well, doing a fabulous job.”
Is that to be expected this time in training camp? Is it normal for the other training camps you’ve been or is the defense even a little better than maybe some of the other defenses that you’ve seen at this point at training camp?
“I’d say it’s a function of today. I wouldn’t call it a function of training camp. It’s been very competitive out here. It’s gone up, down. There’s been days where it’s been sideways. It’s been good, gotten a lot of competitive reps, a lot of situations. There’s no doubt the defense got the best of it today.”
It looked like there was a lot more switching, not just Davis for Iupati, but a lot more switching on the offensive line. Was T Alex Boone working through something? Why was he not taking part in as many reps and also C Jonathan Goodwin, it appeared he sat out a lot at practice as well?
“Boone got hit in the privates. He’s going to be fine.”
“No, Goodwin worked for a good amount of time and then backed off some of his reps. That was a function of taking the edge off of him toward the latter half of practice.”
Randy Moss has been in every practice. It seems every cornerback’s had a different chance to go against him. Do you sense that those cornerbacks have embraced a new challenge in guarding him?
“Yeah, like I said, it’s been very competitive, especially in that area. But, it hasn’t been self-centered. That’s what I’ve been most pleased about. It’s been just good work, sharpening, straightening, using it to get better. I think that’s a great asset for our team to have that on both sides of the ball.”
What do you mean by self-centered? That you’re glad that the cornerbacks aren’t self-centered about guarding him or about covering him?
“The way they work together. The way they work together. It’s an angle of approach. It’s an attitude to make our football team better. It’s competitive but you don’t see the chippiness, the grabbing jerseys and the cheap kind of shots. That’s been a real positive for us.”
Along those lines, with the replacement officials here, do you have any sense about, or thoughts on, starting the exhibition season and playing a few games with replacement officials and what have you seen from them on the practice field?
“They went back to back, two good practices. (I) haven’t seen the film from today’s practice, but (I) sense after yesterday’s practice it was very good. They saw everything I was able to see and more. Then today they were right on it. So, I think they had another good day today. But, it’s very beneficial for us to have the officials out here. “
Certainly another large human being who has slimmed down a little is RB Brandon Jacobs. Can you tell any difference? He said he’s lost about 15 points since the spring. Can you tell any difference in his body and the way he’s moving?
“15 from the offseason? No, I haven’t noticed that in the way he’s played. He’s been good since he got here, and very light on his feet for a big man. Since the pads have come on he’s even more of a presence out there because he’s got great size and instincts and the ability to run the ball between the tackles.”
Did you guys use the new helmet communication system today?
How did that go over?
“There was no glitches.”
What was a typical glitch or a problem you might have had last year or in previous seasons with the analog system that you guys used?
“We never got the answer, but we had problems in a couple particular road games where it would shut off right in the middle of a play call. (It) happened multiple times in one particular game. I couldn’t tell you what the problem was because I was never given a response to the question.”
Today can you tell that it’s just been a better system? A crisper system, just from the practice field while practicing?
“No, I couldn’t say that I could say one way or the other on that.”
When those plays were getting interrupted, how did they carry out?
“We had to switch over to a hand signal system.”
WR Michael Crabtree hasn’t played in an exhibition game since he’s been with the 49ers. He’s missed a week of camp. How much does missing that week set him back?
“The thing I feel for Michael, I know he’s feeling too, is that he came in in such great shape. (He) looked fantastic and we feel like we’ll get him back soon and we can pick right up. I don’t think this is going to be a major bump in the road. I think it’s going to be a minor one. He’s champing at the bit to get back out there, and anticipate that happening soon.”
Do you think just because he and QB Alex Smith have had such a body of work during the offseason program that that’ll be easier to pick up? That the one week isn’t detrimental?
“Both of them had fantastic offseasons. Michael was lean, in shape, tip-top shape, moving extremely well. I don’t anticipate any issues when he gets back.”
Based on what you’ve seen in the last couple of days, is there one area in particular you’d like to see the offense step it up in?
“We’ll talk about that with the offense. They’ll hear it from me. They don’t need to read about it right now. That’s coming off a day where we took a step back. Every day has really been getting better and better and better and better from the beginning of camp. So to look at this practice as a whole, would be a mistake of training camp. It’s been outstanding. Another thing we’ve got to do is handle it, move forward, learn from it, and I think we will. That’s the way this offensive unit has been since we got together. So (I) anticipate that we can handle it and make a positive out of it. And there were some positives. Not to say that there weren’t any. There’s another old adage, ‘That it’s never as good as you think it was. It’s never as bad as you think it was.’ I know there’ll be things that when we turn on the tape we’ll be very pleased with. We’ll look at it, we’ll address it and we’ll move forward.”
Yesterday you talked to the team after practice and kept the twos out there. Was that a schedule thing that you planned to do that?
DT Justin Smith, how great of a test does he present the offense, because it seems like today he’s in midseason form?
“He’s a great player. There’s no question about it. Every team in the league would love to have Justin Smith on their team. [Defensive coordinator] Vic Fangio made the comment that this is a great player. This is a strong man who plays with incredible leverage. But he plays like a guy that’s fighting to make the roster. That’s a special combination, a rare combination. A great football player. Glad we have him on our team because I know there’s 31 other teams that would love to have him.”
When you were playing, was the nickel cornerback role as specialized as it seems to becoming today? It seems like it’s a real, almost a 12th position now.
“It is. I forgot a lot of things from that long ago, but I don’t remember it being like the position it is now. It’s really, in a lot of ways, a starting position when teams are playing that nickel defense, 40, 50, 60 percent, sometimes even 70 percent of their snaps.”
Vic Fangio described it as sort of a quasi-linebacker. It could honestly almost be a linebacker playing it. Is that what you see as well, that there’s got to be a lot of linebacker-like abilities from that player?
“Yeah, you must be able to tackle because you’re playing so close to the line of scrimmage. He’s got to be able to cover in tight spaces, and got to be able to cover slot receivers who are usually really quick, fast and can get open in a tight area of space themselves. It’s a unique position and we’ve got guys that we feel good about playing it and it gives us options.”
Do you have a status report on TE Nate Byham?
“No, not a status report. He’s got something that he’s working through.’