49ers vs. Eagles: Jim Harbaugh Discusses Alex Smith And Turnovers

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke with the media before practice this morning as the team prepares to head out for Philadelphia later this afternoon. He was given the chance to go into some detail about the team's use of crash pads for some of the passing plays yesterday. The team used them to set up screens so receivers would run their pattern behind the pad and Smith would fire his pass as they were coming out. It gives them a chance to work on timing when you've got a whole host of defensive players mixed up in the middle.

One valuable point Harbaugh made at the end of the press conference (transcript after the jump) was Alex Smith's ability to avoid turnovers thus far. Smith hasn't exactly been put in many situations that would create a lot of turnovers, but that should not take away from his ball control skills this season. I think his ability to avoid fumbles has been the biggest benefit. He has one fumble in 11 sacks and when I've watched it seems like there have been several instances where he probably should have fumbled the ball.

The 49ers absolutely cannot afford to lose the turnover battle this Sunday. Giving the Eagles extra possessions and putting them in a position to have a shortened field is a surefire way to lose this game early on. I do think the 49ers can win this game, but I also don't see them winning this with a subpar effort. It's a bit cliched, but they definitely need to bring their A-game

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Conference Call - September 30, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Now that you're about ready to leave Youngstown, do you feel like you got everything out of the experience as far as preparing for the Eagles game and getting body clocks adjusted and all of that?

"Yeah, our preparations have been good. Youngstown has been an excellent facility for us to get our work in. The focus has been extremely good. Looking forward to today's practice and we'll depart for Philadelphia tonight, but so far so good."

Can you tell body clock wise whether your guys are on east coast time at this point?

"I can only speak for myself, I feel like I'm fully adjusted to east coast time."

Jim, I saw where you noted David Akers is kind of unique for a kicker. He's kind of a leader and just with coaching football you don't see kickers assuming that role in the locker room. What makes him unique in that regard?

"He's just somebody that treats everybody with respect, therefore he earns respect. He's just a good guy, got a good heart. People have good antennas and I think our guys perceive that."

Jim I know you haven't practiced today, but do you have any sense of which guys you will consider game time decisions as far as the guys that have been on the injury report?

"No, I expect the one's that will play will play, and the ones that are out, to be out."

Meaning Moran Norris and Braylon Edwards out, and the other guys good to go?

"Yeah, I expect them to play."

Jim, what were you doing with those big yellow mattresses yesterday?

"The crash pads? Those were crash pads. Those weren't mattresses."

What were they?

"Crash pads."

Oh crash pads, okay.

"You got to get your football lingo right. There's no mattresses in football (laughing)."

Did you find them at the stadium there?

"That's funny, mattresses. That would be like calling a blocking shield a pillow or something (laughing). What are you guys doing with those pillows out there?"

Pardon my ignorance, but what are crash pads usually used for?

"Usually they're used for offensive linemen or when you're going to practice cut blocking. So you can practice or your offensive linemen or players can execute a cut block so you're not getting on to the hard ground. Also, they are used in punt blocking and field goal block when you want a guy to layout to block a kick. They were using them to protect the goal post yesterday. I grabbed one and what I was using them for, what the quarterbacks and receivers were using it for, was a screen. The receivers would run behind the screen, so the quarterback loses vision of the receiver and the receiver loses vision of the quarterback and then they have to pick up the ball after losing vision of the quarterback. It helps the quarterback anticipate because sometimes they go behind the center, the defensive line or linebackers, and then you have to anticipate when they will come open. So they're trying to hit the receivers as soon as they cleared the screen. We're improvising a little bit with a crash pad."

Is it all beneficial for the receiver to be able to turn around and just have the ball right there in his face and have to react to that?

"Yes, yes. There's times when he comes out blind and doesn't see the ball leave the quarterback's hand. The ball could be halfway to him or three quarters of the way to him before he sees it. He doesn't always see it leave the quarterback's hand. We're training the eye and the hand-eye coordination there."

Jim, after Alex Smith finished off last game with the go-ahead drive, what kind of advice would you give him going into Philadelphia?

"Coaching advice?"

Sure, coaching or quarterbacking advice. What would you say?

"Well, mainly what we do every week. The coaching up of the game plan and executing the plan. What are you looking for? What are you looking for? Maybe I can help you, we can save us both time."

Well, one of the big things that I think helped Alex so much this season is his ball control. He hasn't committed a lot of turnovers and I'm sure that was one of your emphasis for him?

"Ball control?"

Yeah, just like avoiding turnovers too.

"Yeah, he's done a good job with that, he really has. He's got real good ball security in the pocket. There's been a couple times when there could have been fumbles. Two hands on the ball in the pocket, avoiding pressure, using your legs, all those coaching points are things we talk about."

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