The 49ers wrapped up their media obligations for the week yesterday with a host of coach and player interviews. Jim Harbaugh had the main press conference yesterday afternoon and the media was able to also speak with Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree and Donte Whitner. I've posted the four transcripts after the jump.
While there isn't a ton of info from Crabtree, Smith and Harbaugh, Donte Whitner was much more open with the media. He won the Gary Niver Award, which goes to a 49ers player for his cooperation and professionalism with the media, so it should not be surprising that he was a bit more engaging with the media.
At this point, the 49ers and Giants go into lockdown mode. The Giants actually did not plan to fly out to San Francisco until today. I would imagine they will land in San Francisco around lunch time or early afternoon. I believe that has been their system all year so I'm not sure it is a huge issue. But, we'll see how quickly they come out of the gates tomorrow.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - January 20, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Did you get your wet field to do what you wanted yesterday?
"Yeah, we had some rain yesterday."
That's what you were hoping for to get a little work?
"Yeah, get a little... throwing the wet ball, surface, adapting to the cleats, etc. But it was pretty light."
Wish it would have rained a little harder?
What do you know about the field conditions at Candlestick? Do you know if it has the tarp on it? Do you expect the footing to be good?
"I do. I expect it to be pretty good. You don't know how much it's going to rain on Sunday, but it'll be covered. It's a good field. It was good last week. Put in before the Steelers game. Should be good."
Will you go up there tomorrow?
"We won't, no."
I know your focus right now is on the game specifically, but have you let the emotional side of this sink in and taken a breath and enjoyed where you guys are?
"Stopped to smell the roses?"
"No. I can only speak for myself. The challenge we have in front of us, and really our mindset, or focus has been on our preparation. The mindset that the only thing we have to fear is being unprepared. It's especially important against a team like the Giants. We knew when we played them in November that the Giants would be a team that would go deep into the playoffs. Just as we had foreseen, they are. Fortunately we're here, too. Get one shot and plan on giving it our best."
Is everything done for the coaches or do you like to do one final sweep, for lack of a better term, on Friday night to kind of go over things a final time?
"In terms of preparation? It's really never done. I think that ‘the hay's in the barn' philosophy is not one that we subscribe to. As coaches and as players, tomorrow's another good day for us, in terms of the mental approach to the game. We'll do some running around, too. Kind of prime the guys for the game. Coaches, we continue to keep thinking about scenarios really right up until about an hour before kickoff. We're still talking."
At the end of the Saints game, it looked like the game was over, you called a timeout. Why did you call a timeout in that situation?
"[Defensive Coordinator] Vic [Fangio] called for it upstairs. He wanted the timeout."
Just to prepare for...
"He wanted to see what formation they were in, what look they were in."
Do you have an official status on WR Ted Ginn?
"Yes, Teddy, there's a chance. Questionable is the way we'll put him down for the game."
Did he practice today?
"He did some things. He did some work."
How about TE Delanie Walker?
"Yeah, he did some work, too. He'd be in the same status as Ted."
Have there been weeks in the past where coaches have put in new plays on Saturday?
"A new play on Saturday? I can't recall that."
Frank Gore, how has he been running the last couple months?
You have no concerns at all with how he's doing?
"No. I mean, I'm always concerned about all the players. Especially guys like Frank. I feel good. Frank feels good. He's ready to go."
You just uttered that you can't believe we just got that out of you in terms of a formation. Was that secretive? It seemed pretty basic but maybe I'm reading into it.
"That was probably information I would have not liked to have given out there."
"Because. It was a slip up on my part."
Any other things you want to share with us?
Was the sky red this morning when you got up?
"No. It wasn't. It was too cloudy, I didn't see it. It was dark when I got up and drove in. So I didn't see the red sky this morning."
What time was that?
"That I came in? It was pretty early. Zero dark hundred."
You have a pretty good feel for the pulse of your team. Is what you've seen this week, is it any different from what you saw last week and what you've been seeing all along? Is there a different aura right now among the team?
"The focus has really been good this week. It just seemed razor sharp all week. In their study, in the walkthroughs, in the practice. I gotta say, this is one of our better, if not best, weeks of preparation. I really feel good about that."
What kind of confidence do you have in your offensive line and the challenge that they have?
"A lot. A lot of confidence in our offensive line. Both those groups, on both sides of the ball, defensive line and offensive line, have really been the tip of the spear for this football team. Both with their physical play, their attitude. It's been a team attitude. It's been a selfless attitude. That's why I say that. Probably haven't talked that much about the offensive line, just in terms of just how pleased we are with them. [T] Joe Staley, [C] Jonathan Goodwin, [G] Mike Iupati, [G] Adam Snyder, [G] Chilo Rachal, and [T] Anthony Davis and [T Alex] Boone has done a nice job. Those seven guys. We've talked about them as starters from the very beginning and they've all contributed in a big way for us this year."
Carlos Rogers told me if he had to describe you in one word, he would use the word blue-collar and he said he meant it in the most complimentary way possible. I'm going to put you on the spot, what one word would you use to describe yourself?
"Moody and complicated."
There's been a stomach bug apparently going through the Giants. This time of year with so much at stake, you're not going to say you don't care that they might have some illness, but what's your reaction to that?
"We've had some bugs go around, too, this season. In fact, [CB] Chris Culliver last week at this time on Friday he didn't participate in practice. When I checked on him, he was in the training room in the doctor's office and he had a 100-and-some degree temperature. He looked like he would have had to die to get better. He got a great night's sleep that night. Came back on Saturday, got some I-V and some fluid in him. Even Sunday morning at the game, still feeling under the weather. Ended up adrenaline kicked in and he felt better by game time and ended up playing. There's a lot of things that these guys deal with that are like that. See if we can't boost his immune system for next season."
You mentioned the line, is Jonathan Goodwin good to go?
"Yeah, seems good."
You mentioned, if I remember correctly, didn't you guarantee a victory over Ohio State or something like that. And Bo Schembechler said he loved it. Do you remember that and have any feelings like that about anybody saying this from this franchise about this big game?
"I remember it, yeah."
Do you think it's a good thing? Do you think that kind of confidence, I'm not going to say necessary, but important to have going into a game like this?
"Like I've always said, you damn sure gotta be confident. All these guys are. If you're not, both teams expect coming in to this game with a great deal of confidence."
To prepare for the Giants, how much do you go back to the November 13th game?
"Some, yeah definitely. Watch it, study it. Try to glean things from it."
QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - January 20, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Alex, what can you do to prepare, or what should you do to prepare for wet conditions? If it's muddy, soggy, wet.
"Obviously, mentally get ready for it, but physically the nice thing is we got some weather yesterday. It was pretty dry today, but yesterday got some rain and you get a little practice with the wet-ball drill, handling wet balls. For the person who touches the ball every single play, handing it off and throwing. So, it's good practice."
Do you have some experience with some of that, some games you remember?
"Yeah, oh for sure. Obviously a lot of bad weather games in college and then through my career here. The one that stands out the most is that Seattle game. It dumped up there and ended up delaying the game because it rained so much."
We just talked to WR Michael Crabtree out here where he had two or three drops in the last game. Is there anything you as a quarterback can do to get him going in this ballgame, like maybe get him a couple of easy ones early to get him in the flow?
"I guess it's not something I'm thinking about. For sure we want to get all those guys going, all our playmakers. A couple of them just throw better balls to make it easier on him. But other than that, I'm not thinking about that. That's more I guess the coaches thinking into that stuff."
What would it mean to get TE Delanie Walker back?
"He's done so much for us all year and just even that potential would be a big boost to have him out there. He does so much for us in the run and the pass."
Sometimes a quarterback is only as good as his offensive line. How much faith do you have in those guys in front of you, especially with the challenge that they have on Sunday?
"I've got a ton of faith in those guys. They've done it all year. We've faced these guys already and they did a great job that first game. They've got a lot on their plate. I think they understand that. I don't think there's a team that presents this kind of challenge. To have this many guys that can all rush the passer, I can't remember playing a team that had this many guys that can get after the quarterback. So, feel good about it though. It's going to be a challenge. Those guys have a lot on their plate and it's not just them, it's all of us, got to be a part of it, be a part of protection."
Is it different, the Saints were blitzing off the bus, this is a team that just kind of gets it done up front.
"Yeah, it's tough. They've got a lot more guys in coverage. Yeah, anytime a defense can get pressure with just their front four that can make things very difficult, very difficult. Means they've got seven guys back there that can focus on coverage and that's about as good as it gets if you're a defensive coordinator, right? Thinking about that, so we'll have to handle it."
In your three losses this year were there any common elements that you guys could learn from or takeaway?
"Yeah, lack of execution, turnovers, things like that. I don't know if there's any one thing that jumps out in my mind other than those things. You turn on the film and those are obvious though. Execution anytime you lose isn't going to be where you want it."
Did any of those three teams scheme you particularly well?
"They were all different. Yeah, they all did a great job. From my perspective, talking about the defenses that we played, no question all presented different challenges for us and all did different things to have success."
What is there left for you to do tonight? Do you have more film work? Do you have more meetings with offensive coordinator Greg Roman?
"Yeah, for sure. Kind of hay's not in the barn I guess totally still. At this point, yeah going over the game plan, the entire game plan as it gets put in essentially over the week. Now a chance to really wrap my head around it totally and just get it game ready."
With the receiving group, you've had former 49ers WR Braylon Edwards out and Braylon in. And now Braylon out and obviously Michael's had some games where he wasn't much. What do you feel about your receivers right now?
"I feel great. I feel great about those guys. It's been a crew, other than Michael, really a crew that has had to jump in and be ready to go and had one guy down, next guy step up and they've done such a great job of that. All year long stepping up and kind of embracing that challenge and taking it on. So, I feel good with the guys that we have."
Last time you played these guys, Greg Roman said the Giants put more emphasis on stopping the run than any team he's ever coached against in his career. Do you expect them to be more balanced this time around and have more respect for the passing game?
"No idea. I guess we'll find out. You don't know. Certain situations, no question, I imagine they'll be run-heavy. You turn on the Green Bay film, a team that predominately throws the ball in my opinion, situations that are still heavy, safety down in the box, the extra hat's in the box and they're playing run. That's what they're going to do at times and then at times they're playing pass. It's all situational, so I imagine we'll see a little bit of both. I don't know coming away. I guess we'll see."
Such a big game. What are your nerves like? And how relaxed have you been just the last couple of days?
"I think all the guys feel better this week even more than last week. The bye week and the first playoff game maybe a little more anxiety there than maybe this week. I feel like this week, obviously guys know the stakes are high, but a little more back in the routine of things."
WR Michael Crabtree
Press Conference - January 20, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
What do you remember about the first game against the Giants this year? Does anything specific jump out at you?
"It was a very competitive game. We only won by seven points. It was kind of hard for us, but we pulled it through."
Did first playoff game go the way you expected it to?
"Yeah, it went how I expected, we won. I expected to win and to come out with the W."
What kind of year do you think you've had personally?
"I've had an okay season, good enough. I feel like whenever they needed me, I came through."
You didn't have the huge numbers other receivers had this year. Is that because of the way this offense is run?
"It's just a part of the year. I look at our record. I don't really look at my stats. I look at the record. My goal is to win a Super Bowl. I'm just doing whatever it takes to win."
Can you talk about the blue collar mentality of this team and how it's allowed you guys to be so successful?
"It's helped us. It's really helped us focus on the team. Anything to make the team better, everybody is doing - blocking, catching the ball, trying YAC, being a decoy. However you want to call it. We've just been doing our job."
At this point are you done studying and just focusing on what was implemented in practice, or are you still looking at things?
"You're always studying. You're always studying the guy, the defense. Just like the coaches, I'm studying, too. I'm watching film, looking for flaws. That's part of football."
I know you're not going up against the Giants receivers, but you've noticed their three guys. What are your thoughts on the Giants receivers?
"To tell you the truth, those are my buddies. [WR Hakeem] Nicks, all of those guys, we talk in the summer. They're doing well. Guys are making plays. They're doing pretty well."
Last time you played the Giants they focused on shutting down your run game. They had a lot of guys in the box. Do you expect more of the same or do you expected them to focus more on coverage this time around?
"I don't know what to expect. It's the playoffs. You'll see when you get to the game. That's really what happens."
How has the team's reaction to something unexpected happening on the field been different in the first half of the season compared to the second half?
"It's just the game. It's the game of football. You never know what's going on. You never know what to expect. All you know is to beat the guys in front of you."
How has the transition from college to the NFL been? Has the focus not being on personal numbers been an adjustment for you? When do you think it clicked in?
"In the past, you can win all of the individual awards you want to, but if you don't have a Super Bowl, when you leave the game, it's kind of hard for you, to be in the game and not win the big championship. That's been my goal since I left college."
What are your impressions of [Giants CB] Corey Webster as a player? What kind of problems does he give you on coverage?
"He's a good guy, great athlete. Their cornerbacks, I've seen them both running around, swarming around, trying to knock the ball out. Trying to do different things trying to get in your head. Like I said, when it comes to Sunday, it's just me against you. I'll do my best and I hope you do your best. We'll fight it out."
Do you think you have a big responsibility in this game on your shoulders?
"Every game. My responsibility is big every game because I'm a receiver. There's a lot on my shoulders to just go out and play. That's all I can tell you."
How do you explain those drops last week?
"That's not normal for me to drop the ball. But two or three drops, it haunted me. I couldn't sleep, but at the same time you just have to put that behind you, and just go catch the ball."
S Donte Whitner
Press Conference - January 20, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
In talking to your coach [head coach Jim Harbaugh] and [QB] Alex [Smith], there is still some more work to do to go over the offensive game plan. What's left for you to do to get ready for Sunday?
"There's a lot of time left as far as preparation goes. Probably not physical, but mentally, taking your work home, really studying the DVDs they give us to take home, really studying those throughout the week so that when you step out on the football field you don't forget anything. There's about 48 hours of preparation left."
You guys have taken out six running backs this season that have not been able to come back in the game. How do you explain that?
"The only way I can explain that is that we play physical. Whenever you play physical, people get hurt. We don't want to go out and intentionally hurt anybody, but when you play this game the way we play it and you play it fast and carefree, some guys are going to end up getting injured. We're not going to stop playing physical. We're going to continue to do it and if guys get out of the game, hopefully it's not too bad of an injury."
I think the Bills may have been the worse run defense last year. Obviously, now you're on the best run defense. The question involves play action. As a safety, how different is playing play action here from your time in Buffalo?
"It's very different from my time in Buffalo. My tackles were cut in half. Last year I had 140, number five in the league. This year it's somewhere around 70, which is a relief on my body. Running backs breaking through there each and every snap is a really tough way to play a game when you're playing safety. It's a little different, play action. Here we don't really have to worry about the run, especially being in the back. A couple runs might squirt out here and there and we just have to get the guy on the ground. But other than that, we don't really have to play the run or worry about the play action because our front seven has really been so good this year. They're the best in the National Football League, so as a DB you know you can play the pass solely as the pass and it makes it a lot easier back there."
What is one of the benefits of making a team one dimensional?
"Making a team one dimensional, once you know they can't run the football, that's when you can get some exotic blitzes or play a lot of coverage, a lot of two high safeties, a lot of cover five, cover two, because you know that you don't have to worry about putting a guy in box to stop the run. We've been able to do that all year long - stop the run with seven guys in the box. It's really one of the keys to our success."
What's Harbaugh like as a head coach and how has his personality resonated with this team?
"Harbaugh is one of the most open and energetic coaches I've ever played for. He's not that far removed from the game himself, being a quarterback and playing so many years. He really knows how to relate to the players. He knows what players go through on a day-to-day basis. Coaches that have never played in the National Football League, they tend to be a little militant. They tend to think that things tend to go a certain way or they're just black and white. We're not like that. Football players are creatures of habit. We're used to a schedule. Guys get tired. At certain parts of the season, your body starts to feel a certain way. Him being a former player, he can really relate to us. He really cares about the players. He sits down and talks to guys one-on-one, gets to know you. He gets to know your family. He urges guys to bring their family in for walk-thru and just have family around. That's what makes him such a good coach."
Someone described the defensive backs on this team as high risk, high reward. They said sometimes you go for the interception when maybe you should just be going for the tackle. How do you approach it? What's your philosophy?
"I think it is high risk, high reward. I think that you have to be that way if you want to be a successful secondary in the National Football League. If you don't get turnovers, you don't get the football back to your offense, which means you really are losing possessions. If you're going up against good offenses, you need to get that football back. Last week we gave up some yards, we gave up some long plays, but all of those turnovers we got were really significant in coming out with a win. We understand that sometimes we have to temper it down a little bit and not go for the interception and really get the solid tackle, get the guy on the ground. But you have four or five guys back there that are thinking football at all times, whether it be a forced fumble, interception, fumble recovery. We need to get the football back and that's what we've been doing and that's why we lead the league in turnovers."
Teams that have a fairly large tight end have been testing this team across the middle. How do you help better defend that?
"We've been facing some really good tight ends. [TE] Jimmy Graham, even [TE Jason] Ballard from the New York Giants, he's a really good tight end. I think he's averaging 15 or 17 yards per catch. That's a high percentage for any tight end in the National Football League. They get him open in various ways depending on the coverage. He's not the fastest guy, he's not the swiftest guy out there, but he tends to get open and he has really good hands. He's actually from Ohio State, so I'm looking forward to playing him."
The Giants are healthier than when you saw them in Week 10. What other differences do you see when you look at them on film?
"I see [QB] Eli [Manning] really, really playing confidently. They have three receivers out there that can play any position out there, from the slot, to the ‘X', or the ‘Z'. That doesn't allow you to get a beat on them or what combinations or route combinations they'll run. Then they have [RB] Ahmad Bradshaw back. I would think that he's one of the best players on that offense, especially when healthy. He's actually a power back in a scatback's body. He makes big plays for them and he runs with a lot of heart, a lot of intensity. He's going to be one of our focuses this week. We have to take him out of the game."
Was the game last week more violent, more intense than a typical game?
"Yes. It was more violent, more intense. We had an adrenaline rush, a little nervousness towards the beginning of the game and towards the end of the game in the fourth quarter. [Defensive coordinator] Vic [Fangio] told us it would be that way. For a lot of the guys that have never played in playoff games, he really sat down with us and told us how the game would go and what we'd be feeling at different points in the game and it really helped us. Playoff football is a lot different than regular season football. The atmosphere is amazing in playoff football."
One of the Giants said they anticipate a blood bath. I don't know if you would use that same term, but do you think the intensity can go up another notch from where it was last week?
"I believe the intensity has already gone up another notch with our practices, our preparation, those guys doing some talking. I think the intensity is already going to beat it. The intensity was high last week, but I expect for the running backs this week to run a little bit harder, receivers to run a little bit harder and try to get faster. You can expect for us to hit harder. I don't know about a blood bath, but you can expect a really physical football game, because there two really good football teams and only one of us can win. Only one of us can reach that ultimate goal and that's the Super Bowl."