49ers Training Camp: Jim Harbaugh Speaks

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh took some time before practice to chat with the media. There are times where it seems to take a few takes to get the question exactly how Coach Harbaugh will answer it. I've noticed in previous transcripts (and I noticed it my one day at camp) that if you preface a question with a statement of your opinion ("The cornerbacks have been struggling. What are your thoughts on that?") Coach Harbaugh will require the person to re-word the question since answering it would acknowledge some semblance of truth to the statement made leading into the question.

I'm not saying that's a good or bad thing, but it's at least interesting for now. I'm very curious to see how the Harbaugh-media relationship develops this year and into the future. It's not exactly related to on-field matters, but it's interesting nonetheless given the prevalence of the media.

We'll have plenty more on some of his various comments today, but for now, enjoy the transcript.

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - August 23, 2011
San Francisco 49ers 

Listen to Audio I Media Center

You guys made a trade yesterday (sending S Taylor Mays to the Bengals), why was that deal a good trade for the 49ers?

"Well I think it was, not just for us but for Taylor and it was a positive thing for Taylor. We've got a lot of respect for Taylor. I've been around him for about three or four weeks now. I understand that he's a good football player and I respect him as a person and he's a hardworking guy out here. I think it's a better fit for him in Cincinnati and I feel he feels the same thing." 

Do you guys feel like your depth there is pretty good at the safety spot?

"Yes." 

How many guys do you figure you'll keep on the active roster out of that safety mix?

"There are probably ... I'm not going to speculate on what that number is." 

Are you pleased with how he handled the situation?

"Am I pleased with how Taylor handled the situation?"

Yeah, I mean it's obvious that you guys wanted to trade him but he was out there for every practice and seemed to do a professional job.

"Yeah I think that's a good word: professional."

You had singled out T Chilo Rachal as someone who was having a good camp last week. I assume you reviewed a lot of film (of him) from last year, anything he's doing differently in camp that you didn't see him doing on film?

"I've just been impressed with the professional way he's approaching the season, the training camp, the practices, the meetings. Very much like all of our offensive linemen are, competing on the field and preparing in the meeting rooms and in their conditioning, in the physical, in the mental, in the motivational side of getting ready to play football."

When do you anticipate naming your starting quarterback for the season opener?

"Before the first game."

In terms of QB Alex Smith's passing ability, it seems like the first couple of days of camp, the long balls were a little short but he seemed to improve as camp was going along. What have you seen in his deep throw ability?

"I think he's throwing the football pretty darn good. He's working hard on every phase of playing the position, and it has great demands on the mental side, on the physical side, his mechanics, there's a long list of things that he, like any other player, is working on right now." 

Do you think the fact that you played quarterback in the NFL, do you think that makes you more understanding when a guy screws up, or does it make you more demanding of a quarterback since you played the position yourself?

"As compared to...?"

As compared to you. When you coach a position and you've played the position, you know more about the position, I would assume. So when someone messes up, does it make you more empathetic or more willing to understand that, and say ‘ok move on'. Or does it make you demanding in terms of warning them that they can't do that.

"Make more or less than what? If you're asking what my standard, what my style is, it's basically to teach. To tell them what to do; show them what to do; then let him do. And then tell him what he did right, and tell him what he can improve on."

Is there any conflict between having a quarterback competing and getting a quarterback ready for the regular season? In other words, if two quarterbacks are competing, does it give either of them the best opportunity to be the starting guy once the season starts?

"All of our quarterbacks ... all of our players compete. That's a given. I would not have it any other way. I just don't have any pressure on myself, as I look at it, to name a starting quarterback in a timetable manner. So that's how I was answering that question."

My question is more along the lines of if a guy's competing, he's going to want to do the things that he does well, maybe rather than working at something that needs improvement because he wants to put his best foot forward to win the job. Do you see it that way at all?

"No, I'm not following your train of thought. We're going to give, if you're talking about reps. Is that where you're going?"

Just instead of working on stuff on the practice field that needs improvement, a player is going to want to look good on the practice field all the time in order to win the job, to impress the coaches, and win the job.

"Yeah, I'm not following where you're headed with that one. We want them to do well at a lot of things. You put your players in a position to be successful, to do what they do well, to get the work on the practice field so they can go into a ball game and not be unsuccessful. Those things are taking place and competing that's a natural, or a given requirement of the position at all times in every form and fashion."

Jim, the third preseason game is typically we're a team, it's getting most ready for the regular season, they get their starters going, they game plan for their opponent. This is a different season for the 49ers. How are you approaching this third preseason game as going to be different than the first two games? What do you need to see? What differences will there be in how much you play your first teamers?

"Well, traditionally, historically, the third preseason game in the National Football League, is the game that you game plan like you would in the regular season, where starters play the entire first half, come out of the halftime playing to the third quarter. Where you want to get them into two-minute drive situations, coming out after half, third down, short yardage, goal line, backed up, you know, as many situations as you possibly can, and traditionally that's the way it's been and that's our approach."

Are you going to have that same approach?

"Yeah, we are taking that approach."

What more do you still need to see from your team though because you didn't see most of them until the very beginning of this training camp-that's the first time, no offseason. What areas do you need to see more of?

"Well, more is more. We've always kind of taken that approach, that the philosophy of less is more has never been one that we've subscribed to." 

How would you assess QB Colin Kaepernick's growth from game one to game two and throughout the camp?

"I mean, a steady arrow up at all times with Colin and his development, really pleased. From game one to game two, there's just more polish that's taken place in terms of how he operates the offense, runs the team in and out of the huddle, mechanics, accuracy, being it the ability to drive the football, to read coverage. Again, a long list of things that are important for him to keep improving on, but a very steady positive development." 

What about (operating) under center? What's the marked improvement that you've seen him display? It's a difference obviously from his college days.

"Just the ability to give pressure, to ride with the center, confidence in being able to go in and grab the ball and snatch it out with authority, that ownership on him getting the ball, the ability to get away from center fast. So much in the run game and the pass game is predicated on the timing of the quarterback getting that snap and getting away from center, and a lot of those things were not things that he had a high volume of repetition on until he got to this camp." 

Is it all repetition and work singular work? Or is there film study? Does he look at other people? Do you show him other quarterbacks?

"Yes. Given. Film study, practice, room, meetings, blackboard, the shotgun approach to teaching him." 

Without getting into what CB Shawntae Spencer's injury is or the severity of it, I'm not asking about that stuff, how is the fact that he has not practiced affected his battle for the starting job with CB Tarell Brown and with CB Tramaine Brock?

"Well, there's really just the film on Shawntae and (he's an) experienced player in the league, to go off of right now." 

Would you say the same thing about WR Michael Crabtree?

"Yes. And the other thing to go off of is how they are in the meeting rooms and their participation there and how much they absorb. So, that's another thing you have to go off of." 

Is Crabtree on track to get in a preseason game or are you thinking the regular season is probably when he'll come back from that injury?

"I really hate to speculate on that, because I just don't know for sure." 

Have you had any conversations with the league, whether you can one way or the other, if you know you'll have WR Braylon Edwards available for the start of the regular season?

"No." 

At Stanford, one thing your team became known for was how your offensive line was aggressive and really physically challenged the other team. It looks like things like that are starting to happen here with the offensive line here. Is that a mentality thing, a technique thing and how do you get that to happen?

"Steady, steady improvement. Continuous effort in that regard.  Nobody is patting each other on the back right now." 

Is some of it mentality, more than technique?

"It would be like asking a carpenter what's more important, the hammer, the saw, the nails or the ruler. All of those things are important." 

Which is more important, the hammer or the saw?

"I think there both critically important."

My point is, everybody in the NFL is talented, right? Everybody has got the tools. How do you get offensive linemen to be the way you want them to be? Is there a mentality, a motivation to use? How does that happen?

"I think the three things in football, in any position, that are important on a daily basis or weekly basis. (They) are the mental side, the science of the game, your preparation. Fully understanding your assignment and your adjustments. The physical nature - strength, technique and leverage in which you play physically. Your training, conditioning, your treatment of your moneymaker, your body, and that's a proactive thing as well as rehabilitation. And also the motivation of how you play, in which you play, getting yourself prepared every single day when you come out to practice and what you're working on. The same goes for games as well. Those are the three things that are critical."

Looks like you guys had a pretty good undrafted rookie class. After the draft was over did you reassess? Did you continue with the process of putting together a board for the undrafted run, or what was that process like for you guys to determine who you wanted to pinpoint?

"As far as the undrafted rookie free agents? Yes, that's exactly what took place. After the draft was over we put together another board."

Almost like a second draft?

"Correct, yeah. Very similar to that."

What do you see out of WR Dominique Zeigler? He hasn't been on the field the past three weeks and he was back yesterday. Do you think there's any disadvantage because he hasn't been on the field and there's a new playbook. How do you think he'll be able to adjust and get into this competition and make this roster?

"I saw him running routes yesterday and making cuts for the very first time. Is he at a disadvantage? Of course, other players have had much more practice time. We've seen that pretty much steadily with everybody that's come in, whether it was the veteran free agents who came in after missing a week of practice. People who practice more have been better at first. You don't get to Carnegie Hall without practicing. It's really shown up this training camp. You can even see who did more in the offseason, more training and more practice and eventually you get back in the mix and do the best you can to catch up and overcome obstacles."

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