Harbaugh praises Vernon Davis, Tukuafu, Cox and more

SANTA CLARA – Below is the transcript of Jim Harbaugh’s Tuesday post-practice interview, courtesy of the 49ers.

Here are Harbaugh’s main points:

  • Will Tukuafu is playing defensive tackle and full back in practice, like Isaac Sopoaga did last season.
  • Vernon Davis has improved his route running and he’s having an excellent offseason.
  • Rookie defensive end Cam Johnson did not attend practice due a minor procedure but he should be ready for training camp.
  • NaVorro Bowman did not attend practice either, but that’s “nothing significant.”


We saw DT Will Tukuafu catch a touchdown pass today. Are you seeing nice strides from him on the offensive side of things?

“Yeah, Will’s doing a great job athletically, picking up the offense and the defense, both. And I think the best will come when he puts the pads on. I think that’s when it’ll get really exciting and fun. A 280-plus guy playing fullback is going to bode well for us.”


We’ve only seen him in an offensive uniform these last two practices. Is he also doing defense? Or is it exclusively fullback at this point?

“He’s doing offense and defense equally, so rotating practices.”


Why pick him out as a guy of all the defensive linemen? Was it athleticism that you saw that you thought he could make that transition?

“Yes, yes. And there are a few others too, but he’s doing a very nice job. And just looking at him, evaluating him, seeing what his athletic skill set is. Plus, very physical, very smart player. We felt like that’s something he would excel at.”


You did that a little bit last year with different guys. But with the roster limitations, do you really have to start thinking outside the box like that?

“I think we can win on a couple different levels. That’s one of them.”


Were there any names that really stood out to you today, or really impressed you today at today’s practice?

“There are a lot of guys that are doing very well. And a lot of guys are out here too. We were pretty much at full force today, minus one or two guys. So, it was outstanding. That attendance has been that way all offseason for us. And we’ve talked about it before, but that’s an exciting thing for us. Yeah, [TE] Vernon Davis is having an outstanding offseason, everyday just getting better at route running. Every facet of the tight end position he’s really excelling at right now. And a lot has been talked about a guy like [QB] Alex Smith not having the same coordinator and what’s that going to be like two years in a row. But that also goes true for Vernon Davis, [WR] Michael Crabtree, and many other offensive players. Defensively, yeah several guys are excelling on that side of the ball, and I think you know all those names. [CB] Perrish Cox is having a real good offseason, real good addition for us. And quite a few others, we could stand here and talk for a while about that. But, really pleased with the way our guys are working right now.”


What do you see with CB Perrish Cox?

“That he can be a two-phase player. I think he’ll contribute not only in the special teams, but he’ll have a shot in our secondary. And it’s a spot yet to be determined, in terms of where he’ll contribute as the nickel corner. But he has the ability to do both of those, but that’s been good. [CB] T [Tarell] Brown’s having a real outstanding camp. I think our whole secondary is really performing very well. We’ve had a lot of passing work, a lot of throwing work has been the emphasis. [CB Chris] Culliver has really made strides. So has [CB Tramaine] Brock. Brock is really playing fast, really playing confident. And his speed is showing more this year than we noticed last year. [S] Donte Whitner, who you just talked to, has been very solid. Also [S] C.J. Spillman is making a real, real push and playing very well. So, secondary-wise and then some of those others I mentioned stand out right now.”


When we talked to Perrish Cox last week about his conditioning, even though he’s been out for a year, he said he’s kept himself in good shape. Did you see that too? Or did he have rust that he knocked off these last couple of months?

“Well, if he did, if he had rust or conditioning issues, it sure hasn’t been noticed.”


With LB Aldon Smith last year, so much of his transition was just to be an outside linebacker. What have you seen out of him this year, this offseason so far?

“Been really good. That’s somebody else who’s really rising fast, doing a great job. He and [DT] Justin Smith are working really well together, a tandem there. The same Aldon that we saw last season, and even better.”


What does he have to do to take that next step? He’s had a great rookie year. What does he have to do to continue to develop as a player?

“Just what he’s doing. Everyday he’s working extremely hard. He’s been very attentive in all these offseason sessions. I think he’s pretty close to perfect attendance. I’d have to double check that, but not that we’re keeping track. But he’s doing a great job, he really is.”


Will you get the two Stanford guys tomorrow?

“Tomorrow, I believe is their last final, or might be the 8th. And then school ends over there on the 13th. So, really depends when their last final is.”


Will DT Ricky Jean Francois’ role expand this year on that defensive front?

“Well, Ricky’s always had an expanded role. We view him as a starter. All the roles are yet to be completely determined, but his is solidly as a starter-like guy.”


But in which position?

“That’s the great thing about him. He can play both the end, or the nose tackle position.”


Do you plan to have the officials here next week as well?

“We do, we do. Yeah, that’s been a real help for us. Something that we started late in the season last year, and we’ll continue to do it.”


Do you meet with them every day?

“We talk every day. But yeah, we don’t need a daily meeting or anything. We go over the script, and they’re very professional. A lot of the guys that do many of the Pac 10 games, So I know them pretty well.”


When you have many people there on the field like you had today, how do you focus on what you’re looking for?

“Well, at least half of it we have to go back and look at the tape because we have many of the periods are split to maximize the reps. So, catch a lot of it on the field. Catch a lot of it when we watch the tape.”


There’s already Super Bowl discussion around your team. Have you already started talking about complacency? You’re getting a lot of love from the media, honeyed words of praise. Does it concern you?

“What our focus is on is getting better every day, first and foremost. Can we be better today than we were yesterday, be better tomorrow than we were today? And also keeping an eye on getting our best 90 players to training camp. And then the other thing, a very important thing, is our next game, which is the Green Bay Packers. And figuring out a way to win that one. So, great expectations for today’s meetings, tomorrow’s practice, and that’s where our mindset is.”


You know QB Josh Johnson from your college days in San Diego. How has he been adjusting this offseason?

“He’s done good. We really believe that all four of the quarterbacks that we have on this team are NFL quarterbacks that will play this game for a very long time. And it’s been great for us. We don’t have a rep where the quarterback doesn’t have the talent to get the ball to the receiver, or doesn’t know the offense, or is in training. That’s really been a benefit to us this offseason. And Josh is doing well. So are all of our quarterbacks. They’re all making really good progress. It should be an exciting preseason, being able to watch all those guys play.”


He has such a nice delivery, very smooth. Was it like that since you saw him at Oakland Tech? Did you have to work on that at San Diego? Or is it very natural for him?

“Very natural for him. He’s a natural thrower. A couple subtle things, and we find ourselves reminding him of those things from time to time. But he’s a natural when it comes to throwing the ball.”


LB Cam Johnson wasn’t here. Do you know what the reason is for that?

“I do.”


Can you share that?

“Yeah, he had to get a procedure done. And it’s nothing major. And kind of a clean out. So he’ll be back for training camp 100 percent, full go. We felt that it was better to do it now. And I think our doctors were right to do it. So, I think this will benefit Cam and he’ll be able to put his best foot forward come Training Camp.”


Was this something that hindered him last year at UVA?

“That we don’t know. This coach does not know that, but I think it was hindering him here early in the OTA’s and the mini camps.”


How about LB NaVorro Bowman’s absence? Is that anything that’s significant as well?

“No, nothing significant.”

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