49ers Wide Receivers Dealing With Significant Numbers Battle

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh chatted with the media Thursday afternoon after the team wrapped up their minicamp. In case you missed the transcript, I've posted it once again after the jump. Coach Harbaugh had plenty to say across the board as the players go their separate ways for the next six weeks before training camp.

There was an interesting issue raised in the questions when somebody asked about the depth at receiver and the implications on practice reps:

Is it possible, that the depth you have at receiver, that it'll be tough to even get him on the field because you have veteran guys who have done it before who are going to be tough to nudge out of there?

"Well, we've taken the attitude of we're not counting numbers, we're counting opportunities. And working and not worrying and let the chips fall where they may. You start worrying about how many-who's going to get on the field - that'll all sort out and play out throughout the process. But, if you've got those things on your mind then you're not going to go out there and play free, and work the way you should to make yourself better. So, that's probably the more prudent thing to do at this time."

The 49ers have a host of talented receivers to sort through, which could create some problems further down the depth chart. A guy like A.J. Jenkins will get an assortment of opportunities in part because of his draft status. It sounds like he has had his share of struggles thus far, so we'll see how he rebounds in camp.

However, beyond even just Jenkins, the 49ers have a host of wide receivers that might not get enough looks. Guys like Nathan Palmer and Brian Tyms have solid talent, and a guy like Chris Owusu mixes talent with some semblance of knowledge of the offense being used. Do any of them really have a legitimate chance at cracking the roster? When you've got a number one pick in Jenkins, and then a guy like Kyle Williams who could be rebounding well, what are you gonna do?

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - June 14, 2012
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Opening Statement:

"Very excited. That was an A++ practice today, and that goes for the whole Mini-Camp. It was outstanding by our guys. Tremendous effort, and really over the last nine weeks it's built to this. Just really pleased with our players. I think a lot of teams in this situation, the last day of Mini-Camp, would have been in a sprinter's stance today. Ready to catch flights and knowing it's the last day of Mini-Camp, and ready to get out of here. And tend to lose focus that way, but that was not the case with our guys today. It was a heck of a good practice and feel real good about where we are right now. And we still got a ways to go, but feel like we're right on track."

Do you expect to still see a lot of the veterans around? Or are you sending them home and won't see them again until July?

"Well, that's a good chance that a lot of them will stay. I don't know, I haven't talked to each guy in particular. My advice would be to get away a little bit, get some time away, wherever that is, if that's here in the Bay Area, or back and see their family. I think that would be good. And if they came back in some point in July, that would be good too. So, that's up to those guys what they're going to do."

Can you talk about some competitions that you're looking forward to seeing during training camp?

"Sure, any in particular?"

Well, which ones jump out to you as intriguing?

"Well, I look forward to seeing them all. That's the great part about coming out here. You get to watch it all unfold. And we've been watching that over the last nine weeks. But, that's our team. It's intense and very competitive across the board at every position in some form or fashion."

Your number two quarterback, QB Colin Kaepernick, had a good practice today it seemed like. Is there a chance for a QB Josh Johnson, a QB Scott Tolzien to move up into that two spot? Or are they set for now?

"Well, they're set right now. [QB] Alex [Smith] definitely separated himself even further than what he was, which was a lot coming out of the season. He's the solid starter. I don't think anybody questions that. Nothing set in stone behind that. As you said, Colin had a near perfect day today. I was charting him, one incompletion and two drops. But, he had a heck of a day. Scott Tolzien, Josh Johnson have had really fine offseasons and really fine camps. So, I've said it before, there's all three of those quarterbacks will play in the NFL for a long time, in our opinion. And definitely the competition for the number two, the number three will be there when we get to Training Camp and that will unfold with the practices. And also a lot of it will come down to the actual pre-season games, and that will be, yeah, that'll be very exciting. And I think that competition will make them all better."

Was there any competition going on during the spring drills? Did you guys look at them with an eye toward competition? Or was it just getting better and going into Training Camp and that's when the real competition in the coaches' mind will start?

"Are you talking about the quarterback position specifically?"

I'm talking about all positions.

"There's several things you're doing at the same time. Competition's always there. Everybody's always trying to push each other, define roles, make each other better, make themselves better, compete for spots, starter, back up, contributor, make the team. So, that's intense. And we're trying to get better every day as a football team, but also as a unit, offensively, defensively, special teams. Trying to bring up a new group of players, whether they be free agents or rookies, to learn the system, understand the system, know the system. So, they can play fast, play to the best of their ability. So, get in the best possible shape that we can get in. As coaches you're trying to put the players in the best position. Try to be creative, try to come up with ways to what's best for our football team. And what can we do, where can we stretch some of the limits. An eye on our next game, the Green Bay Packers. So, all those things are really going on and working together."

Did WR Randy Moss and WR Michael Crabtree create separation for the starting wide receiver jobs?

"Well, they did really well, great offseason. Both those guys worked extremely hard and they were outstanding teammates. Everybody loves being around them. I think if you asked anybody about Randy and Michael, A++ in the way they've worked this offseason. But, [WR] Mario Manningham really surged on in this camp as he's gotten to know this system. [WR] Kyle Williams continues to elevate his play, very steady and then a pretty big inflection point I would say in this Mini-Camp in particular. Thought he was outstanding. [WR] Brett Swain had an outstanding camp. [WR] Joe Hastings continues to improve. And then the young guys have all shown really, really good flashes. And feel like still even more sure now than we were when we had the first rookie Mini-Camp if you recall, we said these guys were the best group of young receivers, rookie receivers, that we've ever been around. And now we're sure of that the way they've played. Now they're learning the terminology, is the biggest thing for those young guys, and they're way ahead of the curve. But, the better they learn it the more they hear it. And it's just a matter of hearing it and doing it. The better they will be, but they've all shown real signs of being outstanding. [WR] A.J. [Jenkins], [WR] Nate Palmer, you saw [WR] Brian [Tyms] today had an outstanding day. [WR] Chris Owusu just getting back into playing with us after going to school. The terminology is not an issue for Chris, so he's able to play fast and play pretty darn well."

Will you have RB LaMichael James in tomorrow?

"From my understanding his last final's today. So, he's taking that and I think he'll be here sometime later today. And be practicing tomorrow, and then Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Then the exciting thing again, as everybody knows, I know you talked about it yesterday with [defensive coordinator] Vic [Fangio], the defense is playing at very high level. You look out and you see [LB] Ahmad Brooks and [LB] Patrick Willis, and [LB] NaVorro Bowman, [CB] Carlos Rogers getting back in today, and this week getting some real practice time, looks outstanding again. Talked about [CB] Tarell Brown quite a bit this offseason and the kind of camp he's had. [CB] Tramaine Brock, perfect attendance guy every single day, really surged this offseason. [DT] Justin Smith, great camp. [DT] Ray McDonald, great camp. [DT] Isaac Sopoaga, great camp. [DT] Will Tukuafu, all four of those guys, perfect attendance guys. Really excited about our defense as well."

What makes a guy a perfect attendance guy?

"What makes him that? Perfect attendance, absolutely perfect. To the highest standard of perfection."

I understand what perfect attendance means. I was just asking.

"Every day here, every day. Never missed a day from the very start. Also, attended every session that they were asked to do, whether it was a meeting, practice, lifting, and they did them all that day. There were a couple guys that maybe missed a lift on a day."

So they're not perfect attendance?

"That they didn't have perfect attendance. Yeah, there was a couple close ones."

How many perfect attendance guys do you have?

"We had 30, pretty impressive."

DE Justin Smith was telling us this morning that he was telling his teammates that good teams don't stay together forever and they have to take advantage of their opportunities. TE Vernon Davis said something similar yesterday. Seems like the players are truly embracing the expectations for this team coming up this season.

"What's important now as we break this camp after a heck of an offseason, is to go get the business affairs taken care of. Make sure they go to the dentist to get their teeth cleaned. Make sure that they got their car insurance. Take care of their families and all of those things that are going to be hard to do once they go to training camp. That's important and continuing to train and stay in the great shape that they're in and come into training camp in the best shape of their lives. This team, we look at it as a young team, it's a young athletic team. I don't know if there's too many team that can come out and practice the way this team practices every day and your goal is to just bottle that. If you can just bottle it and build one practice on the next, on the next, on the next. Before you know it, you really have something. The good news is that they have the ability to do that, and that's an edge. We believe, compared to some older teams, this team is a young, healthy, athletic team. They demonstrated that this week. Practiced hard, practiced fast, and they can do that day-after-day."

Do you vacation? Do you get away?

"No, no vacations, but we do have a trip. We're taking a trip to Peru."

You don't consider that a vacation?

"No, we're going to do some work. We're going to build some houses down there. Looking forward to it, leave tomorrow."

How long are you going to be there?

"Seven days"

Is this with an outfit that does that?

Yeah, a catholic church in Piura, Peru."

Jim, there's lots of expectations surrounding this team now as you head into the summer. From your viewpoint, should this team be considered a Super Bowl favorite heading into the summer? Not ‘the' Super Bowl favorite, but ‘a' Super Bowl favorite?

"We're just trying to figure out a way to win our next game, and that will be against the Green Bay Packers. Our expectations are day-to-day. Trying to find ways to get a mile an hour faster."

Do you embrace those kind of prognostications that you guys are going to be one of those teams that are considered the Super Bowl favorites this year?

"I don't know about that, or any of the prognostications. I can tell you this, our schedule has got our attention. It's got all the fellas' attention. Starting with the opener, and the entirety of the schedule. By the same token, I don't think that there are a lot of teams that are going to be happy to see us on their schedule either. So, we want to work hard and not disappoint, and fate's in our hands to make that happen. So, like I said, we'll just take our expectations day by day and see if we can't get a little better tomorrow than we were today."

You've mentioned WR A.J. Jenkins a little bit in passing. Can you just talk specifically about what you've seen from him from rookie mini-camp until now?

"Yeah, he's very into it, very Gung-ho. Very fast, fast, fast. He's got excellent hands. He's got the ability to get in and out of cuts with his foot speed. And the turnover, he doesn't get stuck in routes. He doesn't get stuck at the top of the routes. He's able to get out of those cuts. And he's right on track. A.J. Jenkins is going to be just fine."

Is it possible, that the depth you have at receiver, that it'll be tough to even get him on the field because you have veteran guys who have done it before who are going to be tough to nudge out of there?

"Well, we've taken the attitude of we're not counting numbers, we're counting opportunities. And working and not worrying and let the chips fall where they may. You start worrying about how many-who's going to get on the field - that'll all sort out and play out throughout the process. But, if you've got those things on your mind then you're not going to go out there and play free, and work the way you should to make yourself better. So, that's probably the more prudent thing to do at this time."

You've talked a lot about that this is a fun team, you guys have fun. You also have a lot of positional flexibility, guys moving different sides of the ball. Is that part of the way you guys have fun?

"There's a definite element to that. I personally view that as fun, to watch guys stretch themselves and see where we can creatively find ways for guys to help the football team. I think they feel the same way. I know Will's fired up about it, the opportunity to be a three-way player on this team. That's rare on any team. And then some of the other fellows that are doing it, I think it's something that motivates them and gives them life-giving energy. So, I'd say I'd call that fun."

TE Delanie Walker missed the last two practices. Is he OK?

"Yeah, yeah, Delanie's fine."

It's not a long-term injury or anything like that?

"Delanie's fine. And he's got something that he's working through and he'll be fine for camp."

What about G Joe Looney, will he ready for camp?

"I think he's on track, we'll see. You hope for the best there and he's doing everything he possibly can. And all the reports are that he's on track and the hope when this all started was that he'd be there at some point in training camp."

You've got a guy like T Alex Boone who hasn't played a lot of guard. Can there really be any competition at that spot when you need to get this guy as many reps as possible because he just doesn't have a lot of experience there?

"Well, there are a lot of reps to be had out here. And you've watched enough for a couple days. You've seen the amount of reps that these guys are taking. So, there's quite a bit of competition. Now that being said, Alex has done a real fine job and really continued to work and grasp the position and what's expected of him there. We're really pleased with him. Now, that's not without competition though. [G] Daniel Kilgore's still right there and we're going to play the best five. So, it's a process where they make each other better. And that bodes well for us."

Is it difficult to evaluate offensive linemen when they're not in pads?

"Yeah, [laughs] it is."

How much more about that position will you learn once training camp starts?

"Well, I think a lot more. There are a lot of things we can get done athletically, mentally, in terms of technique and footwork. But when the pads come on you've got to play lower, you've got to play-it becomes the complete game of football. This isn't the complete game of football out here. But with that being said, you can do a lot, but there's still a lot to be done, especially at that position, offense and defensive line."

The rookies will be here next week, is that right?

"Yes."

What does that entail? What will they be doing here?

"They'll have a rookie mini-camp next week. Next week's their last week. So, quite a bit like what it looked like when they very first got here. Hopefully it looks better than that, and I think it will. I hope it will."

The baseball fan that you are, did you happen to catch the San Francisco Giants game last night?

"I did, I did. Loved it. Congratulations to [San Francisco Giants Pitcher] Matt Cain. Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants. A great team effort of pitching a historic perfect game. First in what, 126 or 128 years of the organization? Is that the 22nd perfect game? Wonderful, wonderful. And had a great experience playing golf with Matt Cain in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. A wonderful guy and great competitor, and just couldn't be happier for him. And I can say I know him. What an exciting thing, just really grasps the team effort of that when you watch some of those catches that were made in the outfield. And just wonderful, wonderful to witness. Congratulations to all the Giant Faithful, too. Just a wonderful thing for the organization."

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