SANTA CLARA — Here is the transcript of Greg Roman’s Thursday press conference courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“For those of you that are here, great to be back in the Championship Game again. We’ve got a tough opponent. You don’t get here by accident. So, love how our players are preparing this week and the task is very simple. Any questions?”
Head coach Jim Harbaugh has had tremendous success in three seasons. What makes him special as a coach? You’re around him every day.
“I just think Jim’s a great football coach. I think to be a great football coach, you have to be yourself first and foremost and I think that’s with Jim. He comes in everyday with great enthusiasm. I think a great concern for his players, their health and welfare on a daily basis and just comes in everyday with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”
Do you talk to him every day?
“Yes, I do.”
And would you say that working with him, is he high standards? Is he demanding of you personally?
“I think he’s demanding of everybody, but not in a way that is hard to be around. Pretty easy person to be around. Kind of person you like to work with because it’s all about winning and that’s all that really matters when you look at it.”
There have been a number of players that have switched teams during the offseason and into the season. Is that because these teams are essentially very similar and that they look for the same types of players?
“I can’t answer that. You’d have to ask them. But, we’re always trying to get the best football players we can and we’ve got a bunch of them.”
When you were at Stanford, did you find yourselves recruiting the same guys that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was at USC over there? Any kind of recruiting battles over the same players?
“There’s a couple. You’ve got to have pretty good SAT scores to get into Stanford.”
But not at USC?
“Those are your words, not mine. But, really, not a whole lot. Maybe a guy here or there.”
They led the NFL in takeaways, obviously. Is that just a function of them having a lot of talented defensive players or do they do something unique to force turnovers?
“Well, I think it starts with their speed. A lot of their interceptions come off deflected passes. These guys cover a lot of ground. They’re very talented and fast at the linebacker position and at the safety position as well. I think it’s really nothing magical other than they disperse and cover the field really well and have really good speed and awareness.”
You guys, since you got here in 2011, you’ve had had the fewest turnovers in the NFL, it’s actually very close. Is this, playing Seattle, the biggest challenge you face as far as making sure you keep the ball?
“Well, they do a great job of taking the ball away. Number one, their defense has been really good since we got here and it didn’t take me long to figure that out in that offseason leading up to our first season that these guys had a very talented defense man for man. I think they’re very well coached and I think the consistency of which they do things, they don’t do a whole lot on defense, but what they do they do very well, leads to turnovers when people get impulsive.”
What are you telling your quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, about protecting the football?
“Well, I think it goes without saying, I think there’s a myriad of examples where teams have not given the game away, but really made some poor decisions or loose with the football, and it really was the difference in the game. The Arizona game, where Arizona beat Seattle a couple weeks ago, was such a unique game. How often does a team turn the ball over, what was it four times, on the road and win? Just doesn’t happen very often, but that is definitely an outlier.”
Can you take us back to March when you got news that WR Anquan Boldin was joining the team, what your initial reactions were and whether he’s exceeded those expectations this season?
“I’ve always been a big fan of Anquan Boldin and the thought of him and [WR] Michael [Crabtree] playing together at receiver, I couldn’t be any more excited about that. I’ve always felt like Anquan was one of those guys that for whatever reason, people just didn’t give him his due, but when you really look at the production and what he does day in and day out, I’m talking his whole career here, that he’s one of the best receivers in the National Football League. He’s a guy that I think when it’s all said and done, will be a strong Hall of Fame consideration. I think he’s that kind of player and has been his whole career. So, I just think he’s just a guy that for whatever reason, maybe it was not enough bang or flash, whatever that is, people just haven’t given him enough due over the years. We, however, have noticed for quite a while that he’s one of the best players in the NFL.”
What kind of challenge is T Anthony Davis up against with the guys that he’s going to face over there on that side?
“Well, they’re good. They’re good. I think Anthony’s has competed against those guys numerous times with different teams and they’re good players. Fortunately for us, Anthony’s a very good player. So, feel good about that.”
During that process of waiting to finally see Crabtree and Boldin on the field together, did you just tell yourself to be patient and it would happen eventually? Michael was certainly doing everything he could to get back.
“Oh, no question. I think Mike is one of the tougher guys you’ll find at the receiver position and again he doesn’t walk around and talk about it, he just does it. The way he approached his rehab was nothing short of exemplary. So, yes, we were hoping that he’d be available at the end of this year. But I’ll be honest with you, I had my doubts until I saw him pushing a sled about a month and a half ago out here, I realized it was reality. I think everybody in his absence did a great job and it’s great to have him back and he’s doing a great job.”
Can you describe how he opens up the offense?
“Well, I think people have to account for him and bottom line is, he’s going to make plays. A great, wise coach once told me, ‘You either make plays or you don’t,’ and he makes plays. You’ve got guys like [TE] Vernon Davis, did you guys like the toe-tapper last week? He’s been working on that for a long time and that was just a great play by Vernon and then Anquan and the dimension he brings. So, I think you’re talking about balancing out the field and forcing the defense to play a balanced defense.”
When you look at Seattle’s secondary and the physical nature of which they play, how much of this game will be shaped on what’s being called back there and what’s not?
“I just think the rules are the rules and whatever the rules are, I’m sure they’ll be officiated according to the rules. It’s that simple, really. If there’s a penalty, it’ll get called. If there’s not, it won’t and we play.”
Do you sense that the game is called a little bit different in the postseason? For instance, that first playoff game you played, it seemed like there were a lot of things not being called that maybe would get called at other times.
“That’s in the eye of the beholder. You would have to ask the people officiating, really. The rules are the rules, we abide by them at every level and I’m sure the game will be officiated in that manner.”
You guys put a lot on TE Vance McDonald’s plate early and it seems like he’s gotten better as the year’s gone on, especially blocking in the running game the last couple weeks. How has he taken to that load you put on him coming out of school?
“Oh, he’s getting a lot better without question. All the little things, the nuances. The things, the nuances, all the little tricks of the trade, he’s starting to get a little bit more comfortable with. He’s developing nicely into the player that we really felt he would be. He’s been a very valuable asset for us this year.”
Another turnover question. Jim said that you coach guys not to turn the ball over by telling them not to turn the ball over. That seems like a pretty good way to do it, but are there things within your scheme that you can prevent turnovers because obviously you’ve got it very consistently? People seem to think it’s kind of fluke-ish, turnovers year-to-year.
“No, it’s a little bit of everything. But, it’s all about the players respecting what we’re trying to get done and it’s something we emphasize. But it can also be a function of where you’re at in the game and risk management as well. But, it doesn’t matter, it’s all about the players. The bottom line is the players must protect the football and they’ve done better than anybody in the league at doing it. So, all the credit goes to them.”