SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Harbaugh’s Monday press conference.
HARBAUGH: I’ll start off. It’s great to be back with a win. Great thrill of victory yesterday. Great thrill of winning for our football team. Was extremely proud of our guys. You know, just feel great about it. It was an outstanding game. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of or watched a better football game just from the standpoint of tough play on both sides. Watched the film today and saw the same thing. Great respect for the men who played in that game and glad that we came out on top. Really felt that our team came together through adversity. Tough conditions to play in but our guys hung together and found a way to win. Really proud of them.
Q: Could you bring Bob Lange to the podium and reenact the handshake for us?
HARBAUGH: I’m sure you want to talk about it and let me address that before we go any further. You know, it was an unfortunate incident that took place after the game. And I take accountability and responsibility for my part in that. The thing that you feel bad about is that it detracts, takes away, from what our football players did. What their football players did, and the game itself. When you see what is being talked about today, it’s about that last night. So that was unfortunate. Like I said after the ballgame, I take responsibility for my part in that and any message that that showed after the game, that was not about the game itself. That being said, I don’t really want to detract any further from what our team did in that ballgame and the way this team is a… affecting each of the guys on this team. Because I think something special is happening.
Q: Do you think you have to tone it down, at least after the game?
HARBAUGH: Yeah… I think you can get better at everything, you know? We’re always striving to get better as a team at everything we do. And personally I can get better at the post-game handshake and we’ll attempt to do that.
Q: Did you have dialogue today with the league office?
Q: Did you speak to the commissioner?
HARBAUGH: No, I spoke with Ray Anderson.
Q: Is the matter closed?
HARBAUGH: Yeah, he was on a fact-finding mission and explained… asked my side of it, what took place, so shared that with him.
Q: You had the situation with Pete Carroll. Is it part of your message at some point that you’re showing your players that you can be out there, you don’t have to act in a certain way and according to a certain protocol?
HARBAUGH: No, I don’t think that’s part of this, in any other way than you show your emotions. And that’s OK to do. Now whether you’re a football player or a football coach or just a man in general, that’s OK. They run the full gamut just like any person’s emotions. I was excited about the football game. Excited about the way our players played. And you know, got revved up.
Q: Did Jim Schwartz do anything wrong?
HARBAUGH: We’re not here today to throw any salvos. There’s not going to be any salvos coming out of the West Coast. Again, I have a lot of respect for Jim and the Detroit Lions. Had many heated battles with the Detroit Lions through the years, and this one was probably the most heated that I can remember, from beginning throughout and at the end of the ballgame. It was great competition. It was rough, hard football. We’re very fortunate to prevail. We’ll move on with this with humble hearts and, you know, keep going.
Q: In the long term do you care what coaches think of you?
HARBAUGH: Mostly we care about our team and what they think of our team. Really want to get the focus back on that, what the players did in this football game because I think it was remarkable, the way both sides competed, the way our guys found a way to win against some uphill odds in a tough environment. It’s not going to be our last road game. There’s things that we can definitely learn from this to help make us a better football team. I really think that’s the most relevant thing.
Q: Have you cleared the air with Jim Schwartz?
HARBAUGH: We talked after the game in the tunnel briefly and I’m sure we’ll speak privately soon.
Q: Can you describe the significance of untucking your shirt?
HARBAUGH: Yes, it’s a mentality that when we work we tuck our shirts in. When work is over, we untuck ’em and we win, we celebrate. That’s the theme and the message behind that, and it goes back a ways. I had some uncles that lived in Ohio that worked a blue-collar job and when they came home from their work, they’d untuck their shirts, sit on the couch, put their feet up on the coffee table and eat some pizza and drink a beer. Those were good times. Those were good times to be a kid and just watch them do that. We’re kind of taking that approach, that theme here.
Q: Can you talk about how your defense is playing?
HARBAUGH: First of all, I think Vic Fangio had a tremendous plan. We didn’t rush more than four defenders at any time in the ballgame, 61 passes, 17 rushing attempts. I thought it was an excellent plan. Detroit gets the ball out of their hand very quick. We wanted to have coverage and we also wanted to make it appear we were bringing pressure. It was very well-schemed, very well played by our players. Some of the statistics that stand out are 16 drives in the game. That’s a lot of series in any football game, and 11 of those drives ended in a three-and-out or one first down and out, which is really remarkable. And nine of those were three-and-outs. 15 of 17 our defense was on third down, another just eye-popping statistic. Again, they scored points for us, they got our offense field position, did extremely well when Detroit was backed up inside their own 10-yard line. A safety once, a 2-minute drive that ended in a missed field goal, a three-and-out and the other time they went first down and out. All around, Justin Smith again is playing great football, playing great against the run. A sack and a half in the ballgame. NaVorro Bowman 17 tackles on our count, Aldon Smith two sacks, a forced fumble, a safety. Patrick Willis, not the gaudy tackle numbers that he had last week but he was really the challenged player throughout the ballgame. We played quite a bit of man coverage in the ballgame and our linebackers were stressed, especially Patrick, covering No. 87 pretty much the entire football game. He was challenged the entire game and rose to the occasion. Vic talks about packing the defense for the road games and that’s what you need to do when you go on the road, pack the defense. Vic thought it was the best defensive game that he’s been a part of. It was just outstanding.
Q: Can you discuss the pass rush?
HARBAUGH: A lot of it was who was doing it. I thought Aldon, Justin, Ray, Isaac, Parys when he was in there, and then we got some secondary pressure coming – even though we never got more than four – Donte Whitner a few times on the blitz. The guys that were doing it I thought the scheme was extremely good. There was a lot of effort, not even the sacks but the hurries and some the pressures led to those series stops.
Q: Your players say they feed off your energy? Thoughts?
HARBAUGH: I’m fueled by those guys, to be quite honest with you. The team’s impacting each of us. It’s fair to say that, this group is coming together and, in large part, in this ball game this week, as well as in some that we’ve already played, are real character builders for a young football team.
Q: Thoughts on Culliver’s play Sunday?
HARBAUGH: Well, Chris is continuing to get better as a football player. His confidence is growing. His coaches’ confidence in Chris is growing. Go back to that, a few months ago, if we can just get 1 percent better each day. After 30 days, we’d be 30 percent better. Chris really encapsules that. He’s playing extremely well on special teams, too. Every snap that he was in there on special teams, even though he was getting the defensive snaps, he was all out every single play that he was in there on the field. He’s blessed with a lot of athletic tools. Ed’s doing a great job coaching him and, hopefully, we can continue to get better with Chris.
Q: Nice to see the buzz around the Bay Area NFL teams?
HARBAUGH: Well, we’re both off to good starts. I don’t know how much it means right now but we’re going to take this game and just move on with humble hearts, use this week as an improvement week and then we’ll be back playing again. We’ll look up in December, see how many we have and see how many we need. But, we’ll continue to treat it as a sprint, not a marathon, and take it one week at a time.
Q: True that you guys had interest in Brandon Lloyd? Expect Edwards back after bye week?
HARBAUGH: “Yeah, like we talked about, we’re very hopeful that Braylon is back after the improvement week. It’s going to be a big week for him. This will be a big week, getting on the field, starting to jog, run, make cuts and see how much progress he can make to know if we’ll get him back next week for practice.”
Q: Did you guys speak to the Broncos about Lloyd?
HARBAUGH: “Like we’ve always said, our personnel (dept.) does a good job of knowing the landscape out there and always seeking to improve our football team. But we don’t ever specifically comment on any player that’s not a 49er.”
Q: Were you aware of Schwartz saying something about your not knowing the rule when you threw the challenge flag?
HARBAUGH: “Are you talking about the challenge? We knew the rule. We knew that that would be a penalty. No, I didn’t hear anything out on the field. Is that the end of the question?”
Q: When you got penalized for that challenge did you know immediately that you had broken a rule?
HARBAUGH: We knew that you can’t challenge a scoring play. But, just the way it transpired, saw the incomplete pass by the back judge and then the referee came over and they huddled, they talked. And then touchdown went up. It just seemed very quick that we were lining up to kick an extra point. I didn’t know if they really had reviewed it or where that stood. Threw the challenge flag to get more time to look at it. But yeah, knew that we couldn’t do it.
Q: Isn’t calling a timeout the correct move there?
HARBAUGH: Take a timeout? Kinda wanted to save those.
Q: Did you get it explained why it wasn’t reviewed?
HARBAUGH: They said that they had gotten confirmation down from the review booth that there was a catch.
Q: Some people, including Bill Cowher on TV, have said you need to apologize to Jim Schwartz or the league or both. Are you planning on apologizing?
HARBAUGH: No, I don’t think that there’s any reason for an apology. We spoke about it after the game, and at some point we will talk in private. Apologies always seem to me like excuses.
Q: Your brother said you and him and Schwartz all had dinner in New Orleans during the owners’ meetings, and that Coach Schwartz told you that if the lockout drags on your situation will be pretty hopeless. Your brother said you bit your tongue and didn’t say anything. What do you remember from that evening?
HARBAUGH: I remember a topic on the lockout. I remember having dinner with Coach. I don’t remember those words verbatim. There was talk on the challenges of first year coaches in a lockout situation.
Q: What are you going to do during the BYE week? Self-scouting?
HARBAUGH: Today we’ll watch the game. Tomorrow we’ll have a workout on the field, an opportunity type of practice for anybody that played less than fifteen plays in the game or didn’t play at all. Also going to have some individual meetings and basically do that – self-scout back over the first six games in individual meetings. And then the coaches will work on Wednesday, then there will be a few days off for the coaches if they choose to take them. And I want them to do that. I went them to get out and spend time with their families.
Q: Are you going to take a couple of days off yourself?
HARBAUGH: I would like to see my wife and kids, yes. I think that would be healthy.
Q: Michael Crabtree – nine catches. That’s got to help his confidence.
HARBAUGH: Thanks for that. Nine catches, 77 yards, and great catches. Great eight yards catches at times. He caught the big one over the middle in a time in the ball game where we needed to chip away, we needed to find a way to get a positive play. A few penalties early and we needed a first down. We needed two first downs. We needed to put together a drive. Michael has been doing that all year. Blocking extremely well at the end of this game. He was a game-ball-worthy guy in this game, and he just continues to make the spectacular catch that keeps drives alive, gets first downs, converts on third down.
Q: What pleases you about the way Alex Smith is playing now?
HARBAUGH: Alex is playing winning football. Playing tough. Managing the offense, you know, doing a great job with his assignments and his role. And then really not flinching there at the end. You make that throw to Delanie, it had to be right on the spot, and Delanie did a great job catching it, dipping the shoulder, keeping the knee off the turf and getting into the end zone. So many times you see that play it’s just off-center, inches, six inches, four inches, you don’t get that ball into the end zone. So, the kind of play that Alex is giving us really indicative of our entire offense. I don’t think anybody played perfect on the offensive side of the ball in this game, but I thought they overcame adversity, got stronger as the game went on, and didn’t flinch at crunch time. So all those things, really proud of Alex and the offensive unit for that.
Q: One other Alex question. Before the season you were eager to bring him back. What did you see that attracted you to him?
HARBAUGH: Well it’s no secret I have a lot of respect for Alex’s play. Really like being around him. I think he’s a really good smart football player that is young and getting better. So it’s pretty well documented, Alex is our guy and he’s rising to the occasion, so we’ll move on with humble hearts and keeping trying to get better. That’s the honest truth.
Q:It seems like with the special teams playing the way it is, almost every time the ball changes hands, they’re getting the positive plays. Can you talk about the mindset?
HARBAUGH: Well, four big punts inside the 10-yard line. Let’s start there with Andy, net punt of over 41 yards, consistently has the ability flip field position in a football game. He’s having a tremendous year. He’s having a Pro Bowl type of year, and a very unselfish player. Four punts inside the 10, to some punters that’s 7 or 8 yards off their gross punt, but he pins us down in there and allows us to get great field position. So, can’t say enough about Andy, the way our special teams is playing. Ted Ginn gets the 40-yard punt return to set up the game-winning drive there at the end of the ballgame. He was solid on kickoff return, 24 average there. And he’s always a threat right now. I think when you watch teams play against us, Ted Ginn’s at the top of the game in terms of returners, punt returners and kickoff returners. So he’s really given us a great lift in these ballgames.
Q: What has Blake Costanzo brought to special teams?
HARBAUGH: Attitude. Great attitude. I think we go on these road trips and Blake brings his toothbrush and a great attitude. Guys feed off that. He’s a football player, darn near blocked the punt in the ballgame yesterday, but core teams guy that is a real leader in that phase and in our football team. Gives a great look in practice. He’ll play fullback for you, he’ll play linebacker, anything that you need him to do. So he’s been a great addition. I think it’s just another example of this team, these guys, affecting each other.