Harbaugh on Willis: “I think it’s really motivating him to show that he is still the kingpin, and he is.”

SANTA CLARA — Here is a transcript of Jim Harbaugh’s Saturday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.

You guys released former 49ers wide receiver Kassim Osgood, brought him back, released former 49ers QB Josh Johnson. Why not just release Josh Johnson earlier in the week? What was the reasoning behind the string of events behind the roster moves?

“Wanted Josh to get to practice.”


So it was just one day of practice?

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, he practiced. Yup.”


Was he the Rams quarterback on scout team?

“No, he’s a 49ers quarterback.”


No, you know what I mean. Was he emulating the Rams quarterback in practice? Is that why you wanted him for that one practice?



Let me ask you another question. Was there any risk in the Rams picking up Josh early in the week if you had cut him on Tuesday, say?

“Yeah. There’s that chance.”


Does that factor in to it?



Could he find his way back here again? Josh?

“Yes. Hopefully, yes. He’s, like I said, he’s a 49ers quarterback.”


Obviously, since the preseason we haven’t seen QB Blaine Gabbert get on the field. But how’s he doing as far as gaining knowledge of the offense and how confident are you in him if he were needed?




“Done a good job. Him and Josh are right there. They’re both neck-and-neck. They’re both doing really well. Josh had a real strong preseason. Blaine really came on. Has practiced extremely well the first five weeks, and so has Josh. They both have been playing at a really high level. Very confident in either of those two if they were to go into a ball game.”


The Rams quarterback, Austin Davis, it seems a little premature to kind of figure what kind of quarterback he’s going to be. But when you see him, does he have certain, kind of, impressive qualities that you need to have to be a NFL quarterback?

“He does. He’d be coming into this game with a lot of confidence I’m sure. The ball game he played against the Eagles and the fact that he’s gotten better and better every single week, you can see it. It was one of the rare times where I’ve watched coaches’ tape and been excited about the game. You can watch it on T.V., you can watch a game in person and you kind of feel that excitement of the game. I was watching that one on coaches’ tape, 35-7, and to watch them come back, sparks were flying. This was a quarterback that was making throws, an offense that was making plays. And then the last drive, they had a chance to win the game and I’m like, ‘Maybe they got the score wrong. Maybe the Rams really won this game,’ because he made a couple of throws in that drive there that were right on the money and gave his team the chance to win. That was a very interesting game to watch on tape. I would think that he would be very confident. He’s got a knack of throwing the ball in traffic. He can have guys hanging on him, around him, and he’s able to get the ball out at the last second. Playing with no conscious about throwing the ball down the field and deep, so we’re going to have to do a good job defending the deep ball. He’s got receivers that are nice, big catch radius. A group of guys that are really good.”


He had good production in college. He’s got good size. He’s got good arm strength. Were you aware of him or did you see him before the 2012 NFL Draft and any thoughts of why he wasn’t drafted?

“I wish I would’ve been more aware of him. He looks like a real nice prospect.”


Were you aware of him at all?

“Not that much, no. I am now, though.”


You mentioned getting excited about a guy. Is it because the sound is down, there’s no sound on the coaches’ film?

“You know the score, you know what happened. But every now and then you’re like, ‘Maybe they got it wrong.’”


You ever seen them get it wrong?

“No. Well, I have. I have seen scores printed wrong before in college games. Sometimes, living in the Midwest you’d read the papers. I’m thinking about being a kid now. I would check the scores in the Sunday paper the next morning and, sometimes, they would get the West Coast games wrong or not have them. Sometimes they would write in there ‘too late’, ‘due to lateness.’ They didn’t have the score so I would be trying to check the West Coast games. You would’ve liked to have known an 8 or 9-year-old Jim Harbaugh. That would’ve been a real treat for you. Not that different from 50-year-old. But sometimes they did get the score wrong. They did. I remember that.”


Will you take in any of the high school games that are playing today at Levi’s® Stadium or did you watch any yesterday?

“No, I didn’t get a chance to see those yesterday. And today, we’re flying out. We’ll be gone here at 2:15 pm. Buses are rolling.”


What stands out you about the Rams run defense?

“Just the front seven that they have. Number one, and you’d have to probably check me on this statistic, but I think they’ve got the most tackles for losses in the NFL so far. They do a nice job of running through gaps, getting penetration. Outstanding defensive line and linebackers that are aggressive, fast, run through. It’s been good. Always respect them because of their talent and their coaching. That’s what jumps out the most.”


At times can the aggressiveness come back to bite them a little bit?

“It can, yeah. That’s where we’ve got to be at our best. That’s the challenge of really being on our assignments, being on our details and bringing our best. Good low center of gravity in a football position. Shoulders over knees, over ankles. Power producing angles at the hips and the knees and the ankles, because they are strong.”


Even without so many of your starters from last year on defense, and you guys are number two in defensive yardage, what stands out to you about that and was it hard to have high expectations knowing that you were going to be without some of those key guys and how have these guys lived up to those expectations?

“Well, still very good football players. [LB] Patrick Willis, let’s start there. He is the kingpin in the middle. I felt like he had a lot to prove coming into this year. And, maybe some talk about [LB] NaVorro [Bowman] last year and that they are both playing together and they both played great football. And here he is again, just kind of Patrick on his shoulders and I think he really relishes that. That’s nothing he said, this is just an observation, but I think it’s really motivating him to show that he is still the kingpin, and he is. [DT] Justin Smith, he’s playing stronger than ever and better football than ever. We’ve talked about some of the other players. [LB] Ahmad Brooks, I think he’s really ascending right now. [NT] Ian Williams back has been a great lift for us. I think he’s come back stronger and quicker. We’re chasing the ball with the defensive front with [DT] Ray [McDonald] and [TE/DT] Demarcus Dobbs, [DT Tony] Jerod-Eddie contributing quite a bit there. [CB] Perrish Cox has been a real great asset for our team and has been doing real well. The two safeties are doing outstanding. [LB Dan] Skuta, a football player there. [LB] Michael Wilhoite’s playing real good football, so we’ve got good players out there. As always, [defensive coordinator] Vic Fangio and his staff do an incredible job coaching defensive football, just keep doing it and doing it and doing it from our defensive staff. But, as always we don’t like answering the questions about it because we’re still asking ourselves. We’ve got a big challenge this week. They’ve got two real good backs, a receiving corps, quarterback as we talked about before – he’s playing like he’s having a heck-of-a time out there and throwing the ball downfield and doing a good job. This offensive line is much improved. Tackles are playing extremely well, etcetera. You’d rather just keep asking the question, ‘How are we going to do this week? What’s it going to do take this week for us to play good on defense? And I think that’s the way our guys approach it.”


Do you have any indication of when NaVorro might come back?

“You saw him run today. He was out there running, getting better. But, you can count on when he’s 100 percent, close to 100 percent. That’s what it’s going to be before he goes out there and plays again.”


I know obviously you would never rush him back, but is it kind of comforting to know that Wilhoite’s doing so well that you really don’t need to rush him back?

“That is, yeah, Michael Wilhoite’s had that opportunity. He’s seized it and he’s doing a heck-of-a fine job. Couldn’t be more excited for him. Washburn, the greatness of Washburn. There’s a few. I wonder what they’re doing down there at Washburn.”


Do you know their mascot name?

“No, I don’t.”


The Ichabods.

“Good one [CSNBayArea.com reporter] Matt [Maiocco], very good.


You should have known an eight-year old Matt Maiocco. (laughs)

“We would have hung out. How’s Washburn doing this year? What’s their record?”


You know what, I don’t know. I haven’t checked up on it. It’s the late scores. Some of them were wrong in the paper, so.

“I don’t think they have a winning record this year.”


Former 49ers WR Joe Hastings might know.

“Joe Hastings, yeah a few other guys.”

This article has 16 Comments

  1. “Patrick is special.” Mike Singletary to Nolan on a flight back during his rookie season. Mike sure wasn’t much of a head coach but I’ll take his word for it when it comes to linebackers.

  2. You find something that backs that up and I’ll provide proof of the quote.

            1. Except for when I was in the Military I call no man Sir. Don’t like the term. Don’t want anyone to call me that either. It’s too class distinctive. A carry over from the class distinctions from the European Aristocracy. Just a personal thing.

    1. If you are referring to Prime’s comment, CfC, he is right. Singletary didn’t rate him that highly prior to the draft and both he and Nolan needed to be convinced by McCloughan he was the right choice. Once Singletary got his hands on him though it was a case of being happy to be wrong.

      From an interview with Singletary: “You know what, I didn’t realize that he was special until I heard his story. I remember talking to Scot several times and I’m saying, ‘Scot, I don’t see it. I mean, I’m looking at it, but he’s not doing anything. He’s not knocking anybody out… and we’re talking about picking him with the 11th pick.”


      1. Makes me think back to all the times he said he had to “watch the film” after another 49er loss. Guess film study isn’t his strong suit.

        1. It doesn’t always follow that someone who was good at the game would necessarily be good at evaluating it. Requires a different skill set.

    2. CFC,

      I believe the reports were that McCloughan was the one banging the table for Willis and Singletary wanted somebody else.

      That doesn’t mean that Singletary didn’t know that Willis was special once he was on the 49ers, though. He’d be super dopey if he didn’t.

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