The longer the 49ers stick around the playoffs, the more press availability we will see from the team. Yesterday, Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith, Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis were all available to the media. The 49ers sent along transcripts yesterday afternoon and I thought it would be a nice start to the day to post them here for your reading enjoyment. It can be a solid start to the day if you're at work and looking for something to occupy your time.
We don't always get a ton of information from these, but I think sometimes we can get a little personality, at least from the players.
Later today, I'll get a live stream set up for the press conferences. They begin at 11:50am PT and will feature Jim Harbaugh, Vic Fangio, Greg Roman and Justin Smith. If you only have time to catch some of them, Justin Smith is potentially the best one. He doesn't give away strategy, but he can break down the opponent extremely well. He had a lot to say about the interior of the Saints offensive line that was quite interesting.
Coach Harbaugh will be available today and tomorrow, which will give him four days of media availability this week dating back to Monday. It will be interesting to see how much the media will actually get from him during this week.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - January 18, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Last week you said you didn't want to overcook it. Is that the same message this week?
"Yes, I mean we prefer not to overcook it. Burnt meat, stale bread doesn't taste real good. Like to get it just right. Not undercooked, not overcooked."
How much have you looked at the weather reports for this weekend?
"Been looking at it. Chance of rain."
Does that change anything or does that make any extra points of emphasis for you this week in practice?
"Yeah, it's worth following and looking at. There's a possibility of rain tomorrow, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Wouldn't mind getting some work in those kind of conditions if it does play out that way."
You said a couple weeks ago that this is Greg Roman's offense. How do you guys work together and does he suggest the plays? You were at Stanford together, I just wondered how it works?
"We all work together. Pretty much suffice it to say, Greg's calling the plays and coordinating the offense."
Do you think there's any correlation at all, there's been so much made of QB Alex Smith and the improvements he's made this year. I'm just curious as to your experience having been a professional quarterback. There aren't a ton of coaches that have had that experience. Do you feel like that has helped him at all or have you been able to work with him at all personally?
"Yes, been able to work with him. Hopefully given some sound advice. (I am) not a quarterback anymore, just a coach. Your question doesn't resonate with me any further than that."
I guess when you first came in, I'm sure there are people that were wondering if he would be your preference as a quarterback coming up, what did you see or were there things that you thought that you saw in him that you thought going forward would work as opposed to some of the naysayers?
"Well, we've plowed this ground pretty thoroughly and it's pretty well documented. Watched the tape on Alex and felt like this could be a fresh start for him. Loved the toughness, loved the intelligence and the leadership ability."
Are you still the voice that he hears in his helmet?
So you had mentioned Monday about Quarterbacks Coach Geep Chryst calling the two-minute drill plays. Why is that how you use that for the two-minute?
"We're all connected through headphones. Press box, field, me, Geep, [Wide Receivers Coach] Johnnie Morton. Everybody on the offense is connected. Everybody on the defense is connected."
So in that situation, Geep relays it to you and then you relay it to Alex?
TE Delanie Walker told us he expects to play. Any update there? He announced it, sort of, that he hopes to put the pads on Sunday.
"Yeah, that would be our hope, too. We'll have to wait and see. Today will be the first practice. You see how he responds to today's work, today's treatment. We'll know more tomorrow, more the next day. Ultimately, it will be in the doctor's hands."
What does your offense lose when Delanie is not out there?
"We would much prefer to have Delanie out there. He is a great football player, first and foremost. Smart, physical, intelligent, play-making ability. That's not to say that the next guy that steps up doesn't have some of those same qualities. Certainly [TE] Justin Peelle has filled that role very well."
Just to be clear, you do expect Delanie to practice today?
"Just to be clear, I said I didn't know. We'll see. We'll see. Today is his first day of practice. I thought I was very clear about that. We'll see how he responds to today's treatment. We'll see how he comes back tomorrow after running around out there. Then the doctors will make that decision. That's about as clear as I could possibly be about that."
With the six comebacks you guys have had this year, and you said you had given Alex some advice from your quarterback days, what kind of stuff did you give him at the beginning of the season on how to handle those situations in the fourth quarter when you guys are down?
"There's a lot of situations that you go through. Not going to specifically talk about that one. What did we say to him at the beginning of the season about how to handle fourth quarter comebacks? Him knowing the situation, that's key. The understanding that he can't take a sack, we can't have a penalty as a unit, and you can't have a turnover. Those three things will absolutely bring down the percentages of executing a two-minute drive and winning the football game. Understanding what the defense is trying to do in those situations. Executing the offense, playing focused and loose at the same time. Alex does a tremendous job of doing that. Then you let the chips fall where they may. You either will or you won't. I think he's got that kind of mentality as well. There's times that no-conscience throws have to be made. He's done a spectacular job with that all season long. I don't know how many comebacks we're up to now, fix or six. Is it six? That's a lot for any team, for any quarterback. Speaks volumes about how he's understanding those situations."
You may not be into the labeling of #1 receiver, #2 receiver, but is WR Michael Crabtree in your mind of that level, a #1 type receiver? What kind of year do you think he's had?
"Michael's had a 14-3 year as a receiver. All of our receivers have had that kind of a year, in terms of executing their job. I would say that about our offense, about our defense, about our special teams. I'd say the same thing about the New York Giants receivers. They've had a Super Bowl contender year. Everybody's good at this point. Both teams are good."
He hasn't had that many big yardage plays, though. Do you need to see more of that from him at some point or is that just the way the offense has gone this year?
"We'd love to see a big game from Michael in this game, like he's given us in many of the games this year. Hope he has a big game for himself. I know he's going to prepare to do that this week and that will be his mindset."
"Colin Kaepernick would be the quarterback."
How involved have you been with Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, I know you talk about all of the communication you have on the offensive side of the ball, but will you look at the defensive game plan for the Giants, how involved are you with Vic in that?
"Very little. Vic runs the defense along with other coaches on our staff. I have complete confidence in Vic Fangio. I've always had great respect for him before I had a chance to work with him. I think he's one of the best defensive coordinators in the history of the NFL. That's what I want his legacy to be. He's doing a great job."
Justin Smith had that play where he drove Bushrod back into QB Drew Brees. I'm wondering, it was such a dominant play, can that set a tone for a defense or have any sort of residual effect beyond that?
How does it do that? What message can that send, a play that's so dominant like that?
"It's wicked fight. It's just that. Other people see it and feed off that and want to rise to that level. Whenever you have a leader like Justin Smith, one of your best players, your hardest worker, your fiercest competitor, that bodes really well for your football team. So whether it's a play like you mentionedm or the five days that Justin will get a workout this week. Everybody sees it. Their antennas are up and they watch the way he practices. They watch the way he prepares for games. They watch the way he plays through some nagging hurts. It sets a tremendous tone. A tremendous example for our football team."
Arizona and Dallas are really the only two teams with comeback wins against you. Did you guys learn anything from the Dallas game?
"From the Dallas game?. I don't know what we learned from that game to be honest with you. A lot of things we knew going into it. Anybody on our schedule has and had the capability of beating us. We have the capability of beating anybody on our schedule. You prepare the best you can, you strive to get better and you go out and give it everything you have and then you see if that's good enough."
Have you heard from some of the former 49er greats this week?
"Yes, I did get a phone message from Ronnie Lott. I saw Steve Young, too, at school."
Any message from them that you're willing to share?
"Very positive, very positive. Good luck. They loved the way the team's playing. There was some advice, too. Very positive, very excited for the fellas. Genuinely want to see us succeed."
TE Vernon Davis clearly wears his emotions on his sleeve. He gave the team a speech during halftime last Saturday. How has his leadership role evolved with this team?
"There are some situations where he does wear his emotions on his sleeve and lets those out, like all the ball players do. It's a game that's played and coached by emotional people. He's not like that all the time. His leadership has been through actions. It's been through support of other teammates. It's been through his willingness to contribute to the football team in ways that don't show up on the stats sheet. All those things are noticed by everybody. Everybody's antenna perceives that Vernon is a guy that's about us and not about himself."
When you look at the game tape from when you played the Giants earlier this season, what is that that you see in that Giants team, how they were playing then and how they are playing now?
"How they were playing then and how they are playing now, they were playing really good at that time and they're playing really good now. I think they're a healthier team than when we played them. This is a Super Bowl contending team. That's who they are, offensively, defensively, special teams. Class, class team that also is a cruel team. They don't give you things. They don't let you have what you want. They don't make mistakes and turn the ball over to you. They're the opposite of that. They're an opportunistic football team, they're a hard-working football team, really at every position group. They are where they are because of all those things."
QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - January 18, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
How do you see the Giants defense get different the last few weeks from the team you saw November 13th?
"I guess I'd kind of agree with Coach [Harbaugh] in the sense that when we played them, obviously they were coming off a pretty big high. They were on a big win streak, had just beat the Patriots at the Patriots. I think schematically, maybe doing a little less is what I see. Playing faster though, I think it's even helped them. They've seemed to be creating more turnovers, playing faster on defense. Not quite doing as much, just playing really sound football. So, playing just as good as they were before I really feel like. Across the board, not a lot of weaknesses, obviously the defensive line is unique. To have that many guys that can get after the passer is unique in this league."
You seemed to show a little edginess after your two scores in the fourth quarter, something that we don't always see from you. I just wanted to ask you what was behind that, talking from the Saints, if it was the moment?
"As far as edginess, you mean?"
Well just maybe I don't want to say trash talking, but there was some talk from you that we've never seen that before?
"There was kind of talking going on throughout the entire game, not much by me. Obviously, just a lot of emotion, the last touchdown there to [TE] Vernon [Davis]. Yeah, just a lot going on. I couldn't tell you. I couldn't remember what was actually coming out of my mouth, but obviously I was pretty jacked."
Alex, do you see parallels between this group? I mean, what you've faced here throughout your career as a top pick and what Giants QB Eli Manning's gone through in the shadows of his brother, playing in New York, and sort of those paths?
"I've never seen any. Other than the fact that obviously we're both first picks. His I feel like is a little different. To be [Colts QB] Peyton's [Manning] little brother, number one pick, you go to New York, playing for the Giants. Obviously, that's a lot of pressure. I don't think anyone's been in the situation he has. Those are pretty unique circumstances. Your older brother is arguably maybe the greatest quarterback ever, and a lot of expectations on you. And then you go to a big city like New York. So, I didn't have to face those things."
Alex, with the top season you've had, how much of a desire is there to say, I told you so?
"I think if we win this game and go to the Super Bowl it will say it in itself. I'm not thinking about that right now. I really feel like winning games as a quarterback this time of year speaks for itself. That's how you do your talking. So, just focused on this game, preparing myself all week."
Alex, for you and a lot of guys, this journey kind of began with those workouts way back at San Jose State. Looking back, what do you think was accomplished there and what carried over into the season? What had an impact?
"Tough to say. We were there all offseason, obviously working out and conditioning and running and doing that. But as far as coming together and doing the little camps and learning the playbook, really it was the ABC's of the playbook, the fundamentals. Just kind of a small foundation, so that when camp did start, when the lockout finally ended, there was a little bit of familiarity there with the guys on kind of the language we'd be speaking, the verbiage, what some things meant. So, it was like the first coat of paint I guess, the primer, I don't know whatever you want to call it. Just kind of the first taste of it and then obviously the bulk of it came in camp and during the season."
Was there a chemistry built there? Was there a team-bonding effect?
"Oh for sure. Anytime I think you're doing something like that, especially without the coaches' influence, when you're just doing it on your own. Guys were flying in from all over the country to be a part of it. Spending time with each other, no question I think that was kind of an unspoken gain from that."
But following up on that, when you guys are stretching out on the field and talking about the upcoming season, what was the talk about? What your hopes were for the season at that time? Do you recall any of those conversations?
"No. I think the focus at that time of year is always obviously the season, but the division. Win the division. That's the focus, I think, for most teams at the beginning of the year. The first step before you can talk about anything else. I think that's what the focus has always been on. So, for us it was that. But really, like I said, learning as much as we could those few weeks when we were doing that, just kind of getting a taste of it."
When you threw that touchdown pass to Vernon last weekend, is that about as hard as you can throw a ball? I mean, you really gunned it.
"Obviously I knew I had to get the ball up and down. I don't know. I don't know if I could throw the ball harder. I was in the middle of a game, so I don't think I've ever thrown a ball in the middle of a game as hard as I can. I think you kind of lose accuracy when you do that a little bit. So, obviously it was a ball and I knew I kind of had to fit in there."
Giants are loose. Giants are hot. Giants are on the road. Now, suddenly the Niners are the team that has something to lose. The Giants have nothing to lose. The Giants have nothing to lose. They lose, this is all right. You haven't had that mid-span. You've gone from under to suddenly the king of the-how are you maintaining your cool? You have a lot to lose, the Giants don't. How do you stay above that?
"I guess I feel like at this point in the game with four teams left, there's no underdog, there's no favorite. We've all got the same amount to lose. We're all fighting for a trip to the Super Bowl. To say that anyone should win these games, I think, is kidding themselves. Look at last week, I think everybody thought the road was going to go through Lambeau. I think everybody assumed the NFC Championship game was going to get played there and look what happens. These teams at this point, everybody's as good as each other and it's all going to come down to how you execute on that day. We're all capable of beating each other that's for sure."
Alex, have you heard from any former 49ers in the last couple days, and also how much do you know about the long playoff rivalry with the New York Giants?
"I haven't heard much from ex-Niners. Just getting ready for the game and preparing. Don't have time to do much stuff like that. I had to do an interview with [former 49ers QB] Steve Young. That's about as close as I got, I guess, to talking to some ex-players. As far as the rivalry, I guess no, I'm not real familiar with it."
You want your play to speak for yourself, but is it fair to say that you personally are playing with a chip on your shoulder and there's some redemption just in how this season has gone?
"I don't know. I guess I kind of feel like this whole team maybe is playing like that, if you want to call it that. I don't know how many wins we were picked to have at the beginning of the season, it wasn't many. Certainly, I don't know where we were picked to come in the division, all of that. Not a lot of people were in our corner. It was just us here working. It's down to the last four here with the chance to go to the Super Bowl this Sunday. That's how we want it. Obviously there are a few more people around, but I don't think it's changed the mindset in the locker room."
Before your touchdown run on Saturday, there was a penalty and it went from third and two to the third and eight, was that call changed? Were you hoping it would be changed? Did you want it to be changed?
"Yeah, you basically went from third and short, short-yardage call to all of a sudden, you're third and seven and eight. Totally different play call."
What was the original call?
"Couldn't tell you."
LB Patrick Willis
Press Conference - January 18, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Coach, a couple times this week, has used the phrase wicked fight in the defense. Is that the mindset that you guys have? Talk a little bit about that mindset.
"Our defense is just about going out there, playing with everything we have and leaving it all out there on the field. It's a joy to play with these guys. To us, we don't want to give an offense anything. Not even a yard, not even a touchdown, not anything."
How far has Giants QB Eli Manning come since your college days?
"As a freshman, I thought he was the greatest quarterback ever. That was the best season I'd ever had in football. To see the things that he's done, he's won a Super Bowl. That's the biggest accomplishment that we all try to go for, to win that. He's done that. He led his team back to being one game closer to that."
What did you like about him? To say he's the best quarterback you'd seen as a freshman, what were the things he was doing?
How much has LB NaVorro Bowman's development and play meant to this defense and to you as a fellow linebacker?
"Yeah, Bo has had a tremendous season. It's been a joy to play beside him. He's brought so much to this defense, just from being able to handle backs one-on-one or just being able to play in the box by himself at times behind the D-Line. He's just been phenomenal."
You were saying recently how much you've mentored him and helped him along. Can you sort of describe your relationship and how you guys work together?
"I feel like over this past season, it really started at training camp when we were roommates. We got to know each other a lot. We just bonded really well. We only wanted the best for one another. Any time he has a question and I can help him, he doesn't mind asking me and vice versa. We're in it together. We're always looking for a way to help one another, whether it's something we can give each other a tip on or reminder or whatever it may be."
From where you've come from your youth to where you are now, what is this experience like this week to be in a game like this? What does it mean to you?
"I can't even put it into words. I was just thinking about it last night. I was talking to my mom. We were just talking about how close we are to being able to go to the Super Bowl. It's something that I've always envisioned, ever since I was a kid. Just to play this game to be this close now, it's something that I don't want to let slip away."
What is it that you see from the Giants defense that's going to be a challenge for your offense?
"People talk a lot about their defensive line. They certainly have a good defensive line and a line that will get after you. I really don't pay that much attention to them. I know their offense and look forward to the challenge but their defense has to be ready for our offense as well. It's going to be a good game."
What has it brought to this defense to have LB Aldon Smith and DT Justin Smith coming off that right edge? How much better of a defense has that made you this year?
"Justin is an unbelievably guy. Aldon, being a rookie and playing the way he has, has been amazing. Credit to all those guys across the line. Anytime you can have good pass rush like those guys give, it helps in the coverage. It helps the quarterback just throw the ball earlier. It helps us get turnovers and picks. It all plays a part into what this defense is today."
How beneficial is it for you that you're playing the Giants this week, a team you've already played this season, versus the potential of playing the Packers, a team you hadn't played and may be not as familiar with?
"Playing against them again, it is what it is. They just happen to be the team that we play to go to the Super Bowl. We played them earlier in the season. They still do some of the things similar but they're a different team than we played then. It doesn't matter. It's a new game. It's going to be a new day."
How have you seen TE Vernon Davis learn to channel his emotions better since the days when he would scuffle in practice?
"The way Vernon has changed is, as any player would, the longer you play this game, the more you mature, the more you understand what things to do and what not to do. Vernon has certainly changed the way he was thinking. He's turned out to be the player we've always envisioned him being. I hope he continues to do that."
You talked about bonding with NaVorro, any example, any game or play this year where your bond with him helped your defense?
"Any time he makes the play, I try to be the first one there to tell him good job. When we're watching film the next day after the game and I see him make a play, I'll just tell him that was a good tackle or a good shed or whatever it may be. I just always try to be supportive and just let him know that I'm watching every play."
What did it mean to you to see him be selected as an All-Pro?
"It means a lot. To play beside him and to see what he's done this year and know that he certainly has helped my game as well and vice versa. It means a lot to us and also to this defense and to our coaching staff."
You guys are a really good tackling team. Secondary coach Ed Donatell talked about a tackling drill you guys do called good-on-good. Can you talk about what that drill is?
"It's just something that we sometimes at the beginning of practice, to start out practice. The offensive guys get the ball and we try to pair up with the best guy that you feel. You just try to take good angles and good form tackling. We don't tackle to the ground, but just getting in the right place and doing the small things right."
Going off [QB] Alex's [Smith] experience this year, kind of how he's bounced back this year and had a great season, I'm curious how much of that he's drawn from Coach Harbaugh and his experience as quarterback.
"I just think those two have a good connection. You see them in practice, they're always talking. They just seem like the vibe is right. The connection they have is a great thing, obviously, with Alex playing the way he's played this year. I think the biggest thing is we believe in him, but not only we believe in him, but the coaches believe in him as well. I think that's been very beneficial to have that support cast around you at all times no matter what the situation may be."
Do things work any differently when you have a coach that plays the same position? Did that benefit you at all? Was there anything scheme-wise that maybe you picked up more easily because of that?
"I think anytime you've had a guy who's played the game and who has played it at a high level, especially in the National Football League, I think there's always something that you can take from it. Something they can help you with. I know Coach [Mike] Sing [Singletary] has done some of those things for me and I'm sure Coach Harbaugh is doing some of those things for Alex."
Some of the offense that have challenged you over the middle with the tight end, are you expecting more of that against the Giants? Are you focusing on that as a defense?
"I'm sure that they'll look at film from the last game and they'll see something that they feel like they can get. It's the National Football League. Each play is a big play. I think they'll try what they will and it's up to us to stop it. It's up to me to do my job and I look forward to the challenge. Players are going to make plays. They're going to break tackles. That's part of the game but that doesn't mean you stop playing the game. It doesn't mean you stop believing in yourself. I still have just as confidence in my ability to cover, to tackle, to play this game than I did before. It doesn't matter to me what they try."
Are they relying more on their running game now? The first game Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw didn't play, they just had Giants RB Brandon Jacobs. Are they running the ball a little bit more now?
"I suppose. I don't know their game plan, but I'm sure they'll try to run the ball and do those things. Ahmad Bradshaw is a good running back and we know they certainly are going to try to get the ball in his hands a lot. But at the end of the day, we've got to play football. So, regardless of what they try to do, they'll try."
How has TE Vernon Davis evolved as far as a leader on this team?
"Just by his play. His play has been phenomenal. And sometimes it's easy for guys to talk, but the play doesn't speak for that. We've certainly seen Vernon's play over the years, especially last year and this season. Certainly it has been at a high level, a new level, and I think sometimes that's what you have to do. Anybody can talk, but how many people can go out there and show it. And he's certainly done that."
Watching films on the Giants offense, any comments on which schemes and/or teams have worked best against the Giants offense?
"I don't know. I think they're on a winning streak, so I don't think too much has worked in other teams' favor. But they're going to be the Giants. They're going to run the ball. They're going to throw the ball. They've got three good receivers and I'm sure they're going to try to get the ball in their hands. But like I said, at the end of the day, we've just got to play and we'll see what happens from there."
TE Vernon Davis
Press Conference - January 18, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Vernon, obviously you guys aren't in that underdog role have you have been in earlier in the year. Does anything change now that you're not in that role anymore?
"To answer your question, no it doesn't. We can still go out and play our game. We're not worried about everything that everyone has to say about us. We're just trying to relax and go out there and play football."
You guys seem to be really loose. There's no pressure or tightness approaching a game of this magnitude?
"No, we're not tight at all. We're really loose, we're able to go out and just focus on our assignments. Because that's when you run into trouble, when you get MA's [missed assignments] and things like that. We don't want those problems."
What kind of excitement or intrigue level has there been when the coaches put in a new play or call a play that's unique where a lineman is running down field or you got a fly sweep? They put in a Vernon post last week for you. What's the excitement level when their coming up with creative plays like that?
"I don't know. When they put in plays like that I just sit there and smile. It's very interesting when you get a guy like [T] Joe Staley, who catches a pass and he'll take it for about 25-30 yards. That's a lot of fun and very exciting. For myself, just like Joe, I get excited. I get excited for it because I'm helping my teammates. I'm helping my teammates get a win."
Vernon, last summer when you guys were gathering and QB Alex Smith pulled these camps together at San Jose State, certainly there was talk of winning the division. With a first year coach, did you see this coming?
"No I didn't. I didn't see this coming. It's been a long journey. It's been a long journey. All I knew is that we had a good team. I knew we had a good team because the guys that we had; [QB] Alex Smith, [RB] Frank Gore, [FB] Moran Norris, [WR] Michael Crabtree. I mean we got a lot of talent over here. So, all we had to do it put it together. With [head coach Jim] Harbaugh coming in, he helped us do that. "
Alex just told me that you learned how to become a professional and that's led to you becoming a team leader. When did you decide to embrace that role and how difficult was that path for you?
"It was difficult. It started when Coach Mike Singletary was here. He sent me to the locker room. From that point on, I was...I just kept my head up and just kept going down the straight path because I knew from there, from the talk that we had, I was going the wrong direction. I changed my life around and I became more of a leader, because in the beginning it was all about me and that's not right. You don't want it to be all about you. I find it that, when it's more about the team and you put the team first, you have more success."
Could you believe a coach would choose to send you to the locker room? At that time, could you believe that the coach would send you to the locker room?
"No, I was looking at him like he's crazy. How could you send your first round draft pick to the locker room? I understood, I understood the reason why, because I was hurting the team. Penalties and missed assignments, things like that. It will kill the team."
What was it that he said to you Vernon that resonated? Can you pin point the one that he said that made you make the change?
"He said to me, I can't remember what he said word for word, but it touched me. It touched me. But I do remember him saying that, ‘Vernon, when you put the team first, then you'll start to take off.' So I did that, I did that. Since then, life has been really good."
Do you still talk to him?
"No, I don't. I haven't spoken to him in a while. I'm sure I'll catch with him in the future."
So essentially are you grateful though for him, with the whole thing that happened?
Very grateful, very grateful. He was here at the right time. He was here at the right time, and the timing was perfect, couldn't have been better. I am very grateful that he was able to be here and help me make that transition."
Your current coach got the nickname ‘Captain Comeback,' about 15 years ago, and you guys have six comeback wins this year. Is there something about him that rubbed off on you guys? When you lump those six comebacks together, is it almost laughable now how well you guys are able to do this week after week?
"At first, we just took it one game at a time and then we looked up, as a team, we looked up and we were winning week after week. I mean, 13-3 is what we finished this season with. That's a lot of wins. For me, since I've been here, we have been losing so much, so to have 13 wins is a blessing. It just feels so good."
One of the guys who helped orchestrate those comebacks, Alex Smith. Everyone is talking about redemption and turning the page. In your mind from what you seen, how has he turned the page to be so successful?
"You know what, Alex, I always talk about Alex. I've always been a big Alex Smith fan. He was my roommate during training camp. I had a chance to really pick his brain and find out more about who is Alex? What is Alex like? Alex, he's a strong individual. He's been through a lot. He's been up, he's been down, but he still managed to just hang tough, hang tough and fight through everything. I knew one day that he'd have success, but I didn't know it would come this fast. He's one of those guys that you just want on your team because he never gives up."
Do you think he's shed that game manager title that he had for part of this season after what he showed with you last weekend?
"Yeah, I always had confidence in Alex. He'll make plays, he will. And since Harbaugh stepped in, he didn't do anything but help Alex, help Alex get better. And to me, Alex is still growing. He still has a lot of room to get better."
Could you see him trying to do too much? He says he used to try to do too much. Have you seen him go to where he's just playing the game come to him so to speak, rather than forcing the issue?
"Yeah, Alex he's definitely letting the game come to him. He's out there. He's relaxed. He's very confident in himself and he trusts the wide receivers. He trusts me and we'll do anything we can to protect him, as well as help him. Each and every week, I look forward to going out there with him because I know I have someone on my side that's very strong mentally and physically."
Last week you gave an emotional speech at halftime. What's going to be your message to the team this week?
"It's weird because I don't prepare messages. They just come from the heart. And at that moment, it was something that I was feeling. I went to the board and I wrote on it, ‘one shot.' One shot because that's all we had. Just to get guys thinking about it. Thinking about what we have here and that's just what it is. It just comes from the heart."
Vernon, when you look at the game tape from Week 10 when you guys played the Giants, what did you see in that team then and what do you see in the team that they are now?
"Right now, well I'm going to start from our previous game. They were a good team in Week 10. They were a really good team. They played a really nice game. They played us hard. They played strong. They were moving fast and it was a tough game. But now, when I look at them on film, they've gotten even better. We can't take these guys lightly. They've got a strong defensive front. Up front they've got [DE Jason] Pierre-Paul. He's, to me, he's one of the best in the league. So, we're going to have our hands full with him. Secondary's flying around, [S Deon] Grant, [S] Antrel Rolle. So, they've got some good things going on. They've definitely gotten better since then."