49ers Training Camp: Jim Harbaugh Discusses The QB Competition

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media after practice today and addressed a whole range of topics. The most interesting comment was towards the end where he stated that based on the last two days of practice, Alex Smith has separated himself from Colin Kaepernick. I suppose now we have to wait and see what happens on Saturday against the Raiders. We've often heard Smith can do good things in practice. It's about translating it into on-field production.

Head after the jump to check out Jim Harbaugh's comments following today's practice.

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - August 16, 2011
San Francisco 49ers 

Listen to Audio I Media Center 

On how he will determine which five offensive linemen will comprise the starting unit:

"Just by practicing. That's what we go by now and in preseason games and let that dictate it, who's playing the best." 

On whether he will experiment with different combinations of starters against the Raiders this week:

"We're doing some of that in practice now, for two reasons; one is that all offensive linemen need to play their position and be ready to play the opposite side, like the opposite tackle or a guard that can play center or vice versa. We do a lot of that for versatility, and the second reason is to see what the combinations are for the best five." 

On how he felt the last two-minute drill of today's practice went:

"Good. We used another classic two-minute drill. That was a two-minute drill situation, 49ers verses Broncos before the half, thought it went well." 

On how QB Colin Kaepernick ran the two-minute drill:

"Good. Did a good job." 

On whether he is still looking to add a veteran quarterback:

"We're looking, but no differently than... we're looking at the waiver-wire every day. We're looking at other positions as well." 

On whether he is specifically looking for a veteran quarterback:

"If it's the right fit. If it's the right fit." 

On whether finding a veteran quarterback is about the right guy or the right fit:

"The right guy and the right fit for our situation here. I'm not giving up any plan, I mean, but we worked a guy out and had a good workout. We'll evaluate some other guys and see what the best fit for us is." 

On what role he anticipates a veteran QB to play if one were to be signed:

"A third quarterback, really. Let's make sure that we have the best guys we can get on our roster spots, and we got two guys that are out here competing for that job as well. It's an ongoing thing. Having a third quarterback is something we would like to have. You know, I think if you don't, you roll the dice a little bit and I know of some teams who do. That's all it is, that's a roster spot and if that guys on our team, then so be it. If we look for another guy, than that behooves us to do that. It's really that simple." 

On whether the team plans to work out any more veteran quarterbacks:

"Yeah, there will be a few other guys coming in for work outs. That's the best way to do that, you look and evaluate it and kind of compare and see what would be best for us." 

On whether he thinks he should have thought about adding a veteran quarterback at the start of free agency:

"Well, we did think about it before and we thought we had a guy there in free agency and it didn't work out. So, we brought in two guys and we're practicing and making that evaluation ongoing to get the best guy. But, yes we did think about it." 

On whether the team want considering one quarterback or a couple quarterbacks in free agency:

"I think we beat that horse about as well as it can be beat. We're going to try to get... we're going to have a third quarterback, could be on our team, could be another guy that's out there." 

On the energy level he sees from LB Patrick Willis and where he wants him to improve as a playmaker:

"As a playmaker, it's like any position, you want to get better at every facet of your game and his tempo and the timing of the blitz and the instincts of it. He could be great at it, and I think that's what [defensive coordinator] Coach [Vic] Fangio sees, we all see that. Just perfecting all those techniques and details is what Patrick's working on and really everybody on our team, that's what we are doing out here." 

On what he means by saying he wants to make the wide receiver position relevant again and whether he is saying the position has become irrelevant league-wide or just in San Francisco:

"League wide, yeah, league wide. I sometimes see the guys, I mean, it's become somewhat of a irrelevant position in terms of catching two or three balls a game and not running hard on the back side of routes, not getting in there and blocking. I'd like to see our group be that group that they are relevant on 60 plays a game, where they are running hard on the back side of the route just like it was the front side of the route, blocking, doing all the things that a football player would do when they don't have the ball or when they do have the ball, so that's what I said." 

On whether there are enough plays in a game to spread the ball around enough to the tight ends, the wide receivers and the running backs to keep them all happy and involved:

"Well our guys are about the team. They are about the unit being successful and I think that's when they are going to be the most happy, when they see the team having success."

On whether he sees a big year coming for RB Frank Gore:

"Yeah, I see that in Frank. I see a very buoyant guy when he's out there on the field. He loves to take reps. I've never seen a running back that doesn't always get right in the huddle at the start of the huddle, but that's been a little different. But he's a joy to be out on the practice field because he really loves football. We were both kind of sharing that same topic today, how we felt about the game. This is the medicine, when you are out here on the field and all you got to think about is football. We both have that in common so."

On whether he sees Gore as a power, between the tackles running back at this point in his career more so than an outside runner:

"I really see Frank as a guy that can run all your assortment of runs. He's not a specialty back that can't run between the tackles or can't run outside on the perimeter, or can't catch. He does all those things well and he blocks extremely well. He is to me that kind of back that runs... he can run any one of your assortment of running plays, he can catch and he does a terrific job blocking." 

On whether there was any concern to limit Gore's reps in practice because he is coming off a hip injury from last season:

"Well, we didn't know so that was an unknown until he got here, but he is in great shape. He is a tireless worker out there so, and you do, there have been times when I've had to say, ‘OK, Frank, we're getting another back in here and take a few reps, they need to work too.' He's just like that, he likes to play football." 

On whether there have been any more discussions on a contract extension for Gore:

"I couldn't tell you where that stands right now, but I'm confident that we'll get something fair worked out hopefully soon."

On what he took away from his time coaching with the Raiders and what he learned from that experience:

"How to coach. I'd never coached before full time, so how to be a coach, how to be detailed, so many things, sitting in on personnel meetings from the best, [Oakland Raiders Owner Al] Mr. Davis, and [former Oakland Raiders Head Coach] Bill Callahan, tremendous football coach and exposed to great players like [former Raiders QB] Rich Gannon. So many things, a thousand things really that I learned over there."

On whether he remembers Mr. Davis' reaction when Harbaugh told him he decided to coach at the college level:

"Yes, I do."

On whether Mr. Davis was encouraging or whether he wanted him to stay:

"He wanted me to stay. At the time he thought I really wanted to be a pro coach and I told him that I was going to go back and coach in college and emulate the way he had done his career, where he had started off as a college coach. Then he told me that he had been at USC, not USD." 

On his assessment of CB Tramaine Brock and CB Tarell Brown:

"It's been good. Both T-Brown and T-Brock have both shown very good play. Really, I like the cut of both of their jibs. They're ball guys, they like talking football, good in the meeting rooms, and they're getting their hands on balls, tight coverage. They're two of the guys that are really adding to bolster our secondary right now." 

On how QB Colin Kaepernick is coming along:

"He's coming along really well. Colin's doing a great job."

On whether he sees RB Kendall Hunter as more than just a situational running back:

"Yeah, I've seen a lot of really good things from him. He's doing a really good job learning the system which is difficult for backs, because we don't always tell them what to do. Also, the pass protection, if you have watched the one-on-one pass pro, he is not afraid at all. Really good command of his cuts and his vision. [DT] Justin Smith made the comment yesterday that that back was really good. He said, ‘I like to think that I would have had him, but it's practice. Truth be known, I would have pulled a groin trying to get him.' So it's interesting to hear a pro like Justin Smith say that. It's really encouraging. But he is coming, he's coming along really well and I think he's going to be just fine."

On whether he sees similarities between former NFL QB Rich Gannon and Alex Smith, seeing that Gannon did not see a great deal of success until later in his career:

"Both quarterbacks in the National Football League. I don't really like to compare players or teams, especially quarterbacks. They're their own guys. Alex is coming along very well. I thought today he had an outstanding practice. I thought yesterday was really good and the day before that. This was probably his best. Really doing a nice job."

On whether Smith is ahead of Kaepernick in the hunt for the starting job:

"I would say if you were going by today and yesterday, there is some separation there. Alex has done a fine job creating that. But, like I said, Kaep is doing a phenomenal job. He's one heck of a talent, one heck of a player. Alex had missed the first seven or eight practices, so this was practice 15, so he's had about eight practices and I could really go back the last three, four, five practice and he's been solid and getting better every practice. Very encouraging."

On how much if at all Gore will play on Saturday:

"I think we'll do the same thing we did last week. Frank and I will talk about it and I'll tell him what I think, and what he said last week was, ‘whatever you think coach,' so I'll get some more feedback from him this week and we'll come up with a game plan before we go out there."

On Gore getting about 10 snaps in this week's game:

"Maybe."

On whether he has decided not to sign QB Daunte Culpepper:

"I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't rule that out, no."

On whether QB Jeremiah Masoli would go back to playing running back if they signed a veteran quarterback:

"That's something that we've talked about, if we were to sign another quarterback, that we would take a look at Jeremiah back at another position. It's definitely a possibility."

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