49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media on Friday to prep for Sunday's game against the Patriots, and as usual, he hit on a variety of topics without getting into too much detail. He did have some comments about a conversation he once had with Bill Belichick while sitting in Bill Walsh's office. Other than that, the most notable piece of information is that the team is unlikely to fill the extra roster spot they still have. The person in that spot would likely be inactive, so it is not a particularly huge deal. We'll see what next week brings.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - December 14, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Have you guys made a decision on the roster spot yet?
"Yeah, we have made a decision. Well, no it's not a final decision."
Will you fill it?
"We may not. We may not. That's kind of the way we're leaning right now. But, that could change before game time. So, yes we have made a decision. Most likely we won't fill it before the game. But, that could change before game time."
And that reason because whoever you would activate, or whoever you would promote wouldn't necessarily suit up?
"Correct. Keep our options open for next week with that spot."
Could you appreciate the challenge that QB Colin Kaepernick has in his fifth start to face this quality of an opponent on their home field? Schematically, all the stuff that he's doing? How daunting, how big a challenge is that for Colin?
"It's a big challenge. Big task for our entire football team. I think everybody looks at it that way. And everybody's up for it, excited for it and ready to get out on the plane and head toward Boston."
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told a story with reports out there today about the last time you guys had come in contact he thought it was in your office at Stanford and you were sitting there with Bill Walsh. Do you recall that conversation?
"I do. Yeah, it was actually, we were in Bill Walsh's office and Bill Belichick had called Bill Walsh and they were talking for probably 10, or 15 or 20 minutes and I was just kind of sitting there, like I used to do. I would just sit in Coach Walsh's office and try to pick things up. And then he handed the phone to me and said to talk to Coach Belichick. And yeah, I remember it very well. Very distinctly, him wishing us luck at Stanford and talking about how important it was for, how much he wanted to see Stanford get back on top with football. And how important he thought that was for college football, for institutions like Stanford, and the Naval Academy and the Academies to be competitive in football. Talked a little bit about his family and my family. It was a very, very good conversation."
Will sacks by LB Aldon Smith become more important in this game because that seems to be disrupting QB Tom Brady a little bit, when teams have gotten him on his back because they haven't had the success when teams have gotten to him a few times?
"Well, it's a big challenge and a big task to put pressure on Tom Brady when he's so good with every detail of his game. Everything is so refined. There are not a lot of tips you can get or clues even when he's in the shotgun for example. When the staff was coming, he's just refined every detail. Same with his throwing motion and his understanding of the game, protections, what a defense is trying to do. So, it's a big task and that's something that we would like to get done. And I think we're up for it and like I said, our guys are excited to go play this game."
You've talked about WR Michael Crabtree a few times I know. But, what has he done better to elevate his play in these last few weeks? Is he getting open better? What has changed to allow him to be more productive?
"He's really been productive all year when you look at the offensive production. His yards after catch, he's been doing that the entire year. He is, probably as well as anybody in the game, running with the ball after the catch, yards after catch, yards after contact, as good as anybody in the league."
Patriots DT Vince Wilfork is having another dominant year. Can you talk about the challenges he presents in the matchup against your guards?
"Well he's a heck of a player, 350-plus and has a great understanding of the game. I think the big thing is how well they play together as a defensive line. The synergy they've got there with their entire defense, great team defense. Not taking anything away from Vince, but the challenge is moving the ball against their entire defense."
Do you expect to sit WR Mario Manningham again to get him ready, 100 percent, closer to a 100 percent, for Seattle?
Is he questionable?
"I don't know how they list him."
Can you talk about what RB Frank Gore's importance to the offense is and what it's like to coach a guy like him?
"Yeah, Frank is vitally important to our offense. He's one of my very favorite players to coach. You guys asked me on Monday what made Frank so durable and what makes some players more durable than the others, and I didn't have a real good answer for you that day. I really thought about it the last couple of days, and I really think that in Frank's case and a lot of guys' case, the love of the game. Just how much he loves football, how much he likes practicing and playing this game. I think in his case in particular and in other guys' too, that plays a big part in making him such a durable guy, week after week. He just loves it so much. I love coaching guys like that."
What's more valuable, his running or his blocking? He seems like he's the best at picking up the blitz.
"Yeah, he has refined his game. The kind of back that can be in there every down, pass protection, catching the ball out of the backfield and running. All of the assortment of runs. He's not a guy that just has to run inside plays or outside plays, zone plays, power plays, counters. He can do it all."
That must make it hard to take him off the field. Do you have to worry about that, the durability, the wear and tear because of that, he's so valuable in all facets of the game?
"Yeah it is hard to take him off the field."
Do you think Crabtree has benefited from defenses paying more attention to TE Vernon Davis, and all are you worried at all about - Vernon's only had three catches in the last three weeks as you probably know. Is that a concern at all?
"Whoever is open, that's who the quarterback is instructed to get the ball to and that varies from week to week."