I really do quite enjoy Jim Harbaugh's press conferences. Aside from the fact that I've been there multiple times in person to feel his look of general disdain, I appreciate the very same disdain that he directs to the media. To Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers are a team who care only about the San Francisco 49ers. They're grateful for the fans and things of that nature, but they aren't interested in being fake. I do think it's their duty to communicate with the fans through the media, but I also think Harbaugh is asked a ton of stupid questions and he responds properly.
The biggest things to note about today's conference are things Fooch already touched up on, namely the injuries to Delanie Walker and Kyle Williams. But if you happened to miss the wonderfully interesting bit about a new sweater worn by Harbaugh, then you're in luck, because I've got a transcript after the jump!
Also, it looks like the 49ers will not go outside the organization to help their wide receiver position. So stop talking about T.O. and I suppose I will ... stop talking about Dominique Zeigler. Out loud, anyway. Obviously, my heart still calls out to him. Did that sound creepy? Make the jump for some juicy transcript action, from Harbaugh and Alex Smith.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - December 28, 2011
Have you guys decided how you're going to fill that roster spot yet?
"Pretty much. We've narrowed it down. We'll let you know when we make a decision."
Does TE Delanie Walker's prognosis have anything to do with your decision?
"Well, I told you it did. 7-10 days we'll know if he'll be back for the postseason."
Does that mean 7-10 days you'll know...
"How he's progressing."
But does that mean 7-10 days you'll know who you're going to replace with the roster spot?
"In 7-10 days we'd know if he has a chance make it back for the postseason. Therefore, whether to keep him on the active 53 or put him on IR for that spot."
Is that 7-10 days from now?
"From Monday. We're off to a bad start here."
You have on a new outfit today .
"I do. This (a grey hooded sweatshirt) was given to me by one of the players. A known agent. Trusted friend. I'm wearing this today. Feels very good. Very comfortable. Means a lot to me."
Who gave it to you?
"I'll let him tell you that. I don't know if he'd appreciate me coming out and saying that. He's one of those guys that, obviously we're friends, but I don't know if he'd want the coach-player, that kind of thing. We've got each other's backs. Means a lot to me. Nice present."
The WR Braylon Edwards decision ... Could you just take us through that decision a little bit and how Braylon handled that?
"Professionally. Like we explained to Braylon, we're doing what we feel is in the best interest of the team, like all decisions."
The timing of it with other wide receivers being banged up seemed a little bit odd. Why make that decision now?
"Well, I don't feel the need to explain it or rationalize. Get the best roster out there that we can. The best for our football team. That's why the decision was made. That's what all decisions are made by."
He said that injuries were what were preventing him from getting in sync with the offense. Is that what you felt as well? It just didn't seem like he was on the right page with the offense throughout the season?
"Like I said, I don't feel a need to say why. No disrespect to Braylon. Appreciate his contributions. Everything for us is Rams, Rams, Rams."
Has WR Kyle Williams definitely been ruled out this week?
Will there be competition for that roster spot?
Is WR Ted Ginn, Jr. making good progress?
"Yes, he's making very good progress."
What's the danger in facing a 2-13 team that you've shutout before? Especially the position that this team is in?
"That they have a lot of good players, good coaches. I would imagine, playing very loose. Nothing to lose. That's a dangerous team because you never know what could happen. Any kind of deceit and trickery could unfold. Trick plays; let it all hang out kind of mentality. Go out in a blaze of glory, as [Special Teams Coordinator] Brad Seely would say. We know it's going to be a 60-minute game. That's what we have to prepare for."
Are you pleased with the Pro Bowl haul? I know Monday you said nine, 10, or 11. You guys were just short of your estimate, but still pretty impressive.
"Yeah, definitely really excited about yesterday. I think I was more excited than some of the players. I think those guys that were voted to the Pro Bowl accept that in a very humble way, understanding that it's a team effort. A rising tide lifts all ships. I know that's how those guys could feel about it. Now, it's Wednesday. Now it's the Rams."
Without us knowing what you're going to do with that roster spot, can you maybe share with us what WRs Joe Hastings and John Matthews have looked like on the practice squad and how they've performed?
"Worked very hard, like all the practice guys have. They've worked extremely hard. They continue to do that. They know what the situation is and we'll let the competition unfold."
Will you bring outsiders in for this competition or will it be all in-house?
"We probably won't. It will probably just be in-house."
Is it important when you put together a wide receiver corps that the parts are interchangeable? That the styles are similar?
"Is that important?"
Yeah, is it important? So you can plug guys in? Is that a factor at all?
"Style? That's your word. Style. Define that, what does that mean? Everybody exactly the same speed, the same size?"
Similar. So that the quarterback can, without regard to really who it is out there running the route, that the guy's going to be doing pretty much the same thing at the same time to get open?
"Yeah, I don't think that's real realistic. Everybody is a little bit different. You're not going to get the exact same players at really any position. There's timing that has to be practiced. It has to be run through."
With you saying it most likely staying in-house, no interest in adding Terrell Owens or looking in to that aspect?
"Again, we don't comment on specific players. We talk about 49ers."
We don't talk to General Manager Trent Baalke much. He's a lot behind the scenes. In the transformation of this season, what has he meant to this? You're sort of the face of the franchise right now. Can you give us a little insight?
"I don't agree with that ... the face of the franchise moniker. I reject that. We're a team. And as part of the team, the personnel department and staff, scouts, General Manager - Trent, everything works in that way as a team. Everybody's contribution is highly important. In terms of how I work, it's shoulder to shoulder with Trent and [CEO] Jed [York] and the rest of our organization."
Who first brought LB Aldon Smith to the attention of the scouting department? Do you remember? Was it Trent or was it an area scout?
"Well, when I get here, he was on the board. He was somebody that we were looking at. I can't remember how many, there might have been 500 or 600 (draftable players) at that time when I came on board. Better question for Trent and the scouts. He's done a nice job, hasn't he? Doesn't matter who gets the credit. The guy who deserves the credit is Aldon. He's doing a fantastic job."
You guys did have the haul of Pro Bowl guys, but he wasn't on that list of guys who made it or alternates. Was that surprising?
"Yes. There's others probably deserving to be on the list. But, like I said before, the guys who made it were voted to that particular all-star team, Pro Bowl, they humbly accept that. The guys who didn't are lucky. We'd rather have all that is said about us, said against us. We don't really want to make any all-star teams or any awards that are individual awards. I hope all the guys that did make it aren't making any plans to be there, to be quite honest with you. It's a wonderful honor and like I said, I was excited about it yesterday for the guys. Hopefully no one is making any plans to be there. The greatest award you can win in football, to me, is to be voted captain by your teammates. That's the greatest award."
On that note, when you have the different captains each week, who selects those for the game?
"Different captain each week. That's the special teams captain. [RB] Frank Gore and [LB] Patrick Willis are always out there. Those are the two guys that were voted by their teammates. Now since Patrick hasn't been out there playing, [DT] Justin [Smith] was the second place vote getter on defense so he's been out there the last couple weeks. We always add a special teams captain, whoever was the special teams player of the week the week before."
With T Joe Staley getting invited to the Pro Bowl, did you know that he had that much respect around the league from players and coaches? That he was Pro Bowl starter caliber?
"Asking me to put my thoughts in the minds of other people? He's played that caliber. Yes. That's probably the better question."
I kind of meant it in terms of - have people approached you and talked to you about him in that way?
"Other players and coaches around the league? No, there's not a lot of conversations with any coaches around the league, other than my brother. Other than good game and shake hands after the game, that's about the only time you talk to other coaches."
QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - December 28, 2011
Alex, what were your thoughts on hearing about former 49ers WR Braylon Edwards' release yesterday?
"Obviously shocked at first, but not my decision. It's the nature of this game. When you're in the middle of the season it's hard to have a lot of time to reflect on something like that. Personnel decisions are just something that are a just a part of this, week in and week out, and I found that out my rookie year and every year since. So, we'll just have to keep going, obviously."
You are short on receivers right now, you have four wide receivers on the roster. Can you talk about how you've worked with the practice squad guys who may be elevated up and just how these guys practice with you?
"Yeah, I think one of the great things, there are a lot of things, but one of the great things this coaching staff has done, is this practice squad's been more included, just a part of the team, more than any year I've ever been here. Really them in taking reps, traveling with us, doing all the meetings, really a part of the team. So, I really think their development is so much better because of that. Their ability to be able to step up when someone goes down, if they do get called up, is so much better. I just think it's kind of a no brainer. It seems like now looking back, no brainer way of doing things. I think it's really helped us. So, I have had a lot of work with those guys. If one of them gets brought up, I feel good about it."
It seems like you've thrown a lot to WR Joe Hastings I guess throughout the season, even before games?
"Yeah, pregame, I throw a lot to Joe."
Is there already some kind of chemistry there?
"I feel good about Joe. Joe's a guy that just works extremely hard. Obviously had him here all through camp and then when he's got his chances throughout the season just to jump in in reps in practice, does it. For quite a few weeks now pregame, to keep the other guys' legs good, he and I go out early and throw quite a bit. So, feel good about Joe. I think that if that's the way the direction ends up going, feel good about him stepping up and that he'll be ready."
Looking back on practicing with him, playing with him, did Braylon ever seem fully healthy?
"You look back at camp and really the first couple weeks of the season, really felt like Braylon was just really getting going, running well, feeling good, making plays. And then unfortunate that, that Cowboy game, goes down with his knee and he tried rehabbing, tried coming back. You could tell he was pushing through it and it was bothering him. And that's tough when you're a receiver and your wheels aren't working right. That's tough, but he showed a lot of toughness trying to step up for the team and get back healthy for us when we needed him, especially when [WR] Josh [Morgan] went down, but one of those things I think that lingered a little bit."
Has it been tough, particularly tough for you, dealing with all the flux in the wide receiver corps this year?
"Once again, I think that's kind of the nature of the NFL. It's just part of the deal. It's such a physical game, injuries are going to be a part of this and every team deals with it really. Next guy's got to step up and we all have to step up to be able to make up for that. So, part of it. I feel good about all the receivers though. All those guys, we've got such great character in that room. All those guys work hard. They're all extremely talented and I think they're all chomping at the bit to get their opportunity, which is what you want."
You have an opportunity to get a bye if you win this game. Are you kind of happy that this game is meaningful so that you're not going to have two straight weeks off perhaps?
"Obviously, any time you'd love to lock up a bye, you'd take it I think. But, I think if you'd have asked any of us to have this opportunity, week 17 got a win to get the bye, we would take it. Looking back, if you'd asked that earlier in the year we all would have taken it. So, great opportunity in front of us, we've just got to go seize it. Have to go take it."
One of the dangers about facing a 2-13 team and one you just shut out, I can see there could be desperation on their side.
"Yeah, no question, nothing to lose. Nothing to lose from both coaches and players alike. So, potentially every trick in the book will get thrown at you, offense and defense, special teams. So, like I said, nothing to lose. I'm sure they're going to throw everything at us."
Are you expecting it to get kind of chippy as well at all? I know like in the Arizona rivalry, RB Frank Gore has always said it's more dangerous for him in the bottom of the pile during those games, do you expect that out there?
"It's a division game. So, obviously all the division games you have a little more talking, things like that. You play each other twice a year, so there's a little more invested into it. Really felt like, just from my remembering, the first game with the Rams it wasn't that much. Obviously, I felt like it was a pretty clean game. Both sides just playing football, but you never know."
How much pride do you take in your left tackle and blindside protector going to the Pro Bowl?
"Yeah, really happy for [T] Joe [Staley], really happy. The guy works as hard as anybody and he's played at a high level now for a few years. I really feel like he hasn't got the recognition he's deserved, for whatever reason, as some of the other left tackles that I think get a lot of notoriety in this league. I really feel like he's all that player and then some. And this year he's really done it just week in and week out and has just played at a really high level. He's really taken a leadership role with that whole offensive line. Kind of really stepped up to the challenge and has really been a leader for us."
Alex, former 49ers WR Jerry Rice said yesterday that Alex Smith has the "it factor." Does that mean a lot to you? What does the "it factor" mean in your mind?
"That's a good question. Obviously any time you get a compliment like that from a player of his caliber, you take it. I don't know, for me the quarterback's job is obviously to distribute the football, but there's obviously so many of those plays in the game. You don't know when they're coming, but as a quarterback you've got to make the play. And sometimes they're not the real noticeable thing, but you've got to do the little things to help give your team a chance to win. You talk about that winning edge, whatever it is with the quarterback, those are the things I look to. Guys do it a lot of different ways. Some guys do it with their legs. Some guys obviously just do it distributing the football and making accurate throws. So, that's what I think about that. Over the course of the game, over those 60, 70, 80 plays, however many there are, you have no idea which handful it's going to come down to that are really going to change the game. But the fact that you do it each play, you're doing those little things and really kind of giving you that edge."
After you hit that 41-yard pass to WR Michael Crabtree, you guys ran three straight times, you didn't take a shot in the end zone, it worked out. What were your feelings about it before it worked out, as it happened?
"It's tough. We hit the big play there, knew we were in field goal range. Obviously special teams has been great for us all year. [K] David's [Akers] been lights out. Knew we were only down a point, so that's the route we went. We choose to burn the clock and take the field goal, a little more conservative, but it worked out. It's been winning for us and we've been doing that a little bit here and there in spots and it worked out for us this year. So, that's the way we went."