Mario Manningham, Justin Smith, Frank Gore Expected To Play Saturday

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh chatted with the media yesterday afternoon after practice and I have to say, that's about as tired as I think I've ever seen him. Or maybe it was just an I don't give a [site decorum] right now looks? I've posted the transcript after the jump, but also found some video from CSN Bay Area.

Coach Harbaugh kept things fairly basic, but he did confirm that Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Mario Manningham would all play on Saturday. All three sat out last Friday's matchup against the Vikings. Manningham has reportedly been impressing folks in practice this week, and for much of camp. I'm curious how much the 49ers will go to the air on Saturday. They focused quite a bit on the ground in the offensive starters one series against the Vikings. We saw some passes, but they were fairly limited in that series. Maybe the passing game will be able to mix things up a bit more this time around. The team could conceivably open up the passing attack without giving too much away. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Coach Harbaugh didn't address the status of Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, but it seems likely that neither will play tomorrow. The good news for Aldon Smith is that he apparently was without the cane he has been using, and also was apparently walking without a noticeable limp. It would obviously be nice to continue getting him reps at OLB in practice and games, but improved health is a strong step in the right direction.

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - August 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Media I Media Center

Does this mark any sort of break in camp? Do you guys go more to regular season mode next week or are you still in camp mode?

"We'll be in camp, yes."

When do you start breaking from that schedule?

"There will be some changes, some variation to the schedule. The breaking of the camp, or the breaking of the camp mode, we don't subscribe to that. We just keep right on going. There's really nowhere to break to. We're here."

Well, when do you send the guys home? When can they start sleeping in their own beds?

"That's coming."

Will the starters go any longer in this game than the previous game?

"Possibly."

What about wide out? Do you have your starters for wide out?

"Who we'll trot out there the first play of the game compared to - I think you pretty much know our group, our starting group. It's not so much that it's that important who the first two guys are out. Could be another guy going in, by personnel groups."

What kind of role is WR Ted Ginn Jr. going to have aside from receiving? Is he going to be returning some punts too?

"We'll see if we decide to put him back there this week or not."

After the first couple days of the red zone stuff, you talked about how the defense really had the upper hand. Do you think the offense made some strides this week?

"It's been very competitive all camp. There have been some days up, down, and different. They've been very competitive all the way through. Don't really get into, who's winning, who's losing the practice. Hopefully, we're all winning. We are winning."

Let me ask you this, is the offense more sharp? Has it made strides in being crisp and sharp, especially in this last week?

"I think there has been improvement. We're still not where we want to be yet, but we're making progress."

What signs does WR Randy Moss give you every day out on that field that he's thrilled to be back in the uniform and playing at a high level? Doing it for a team like this.

"Just the way he competes. He's always talking about football. Never come up on him when he's in one of those loud, gregarious moods, where he's not talking about football. Trying to catch him in one of those moments, but have not been successful yet. Which is a great sign. He really enjoys it, he really loves football."

How's the acclamation process been for QB Alex Smith with not just Randy but WR Mario Manningham and WR A.J. Jenkins? He's got several receivers that are new to work with.

"They're doing fine. I think they're really getting to know each other. Reading body language. Understanding what each other does well."

As a former quarterback, how significant a process is that? To learn wide receivers body language?

"It's very significant."

Is there any part of that which was more difficult than others?

"For me?"

Yeah.

"I don't really remember to tell you the truth. That was so long ago when I played. It's a significant part. I can't give you an exact science on it."

When you have so many receivers coming in and out of the game, is it more difficult for Alex to develop...?

"I don't think it's any more than most teams. You have your four coming in, your five coming in, sometimes your six. You've got tight ends, you've got receivers that are running backs coming out of the backfield. I think it's something you just practice. You train. I don't think it's too different from any other team."

You guys threw the ball a lot in the spring. Has that helped Alex Smith develop a rapport with each and every one of these guys because so many footballs have been thrown throughout this whole offseason?

"I think it's helped. Yes. How much? We'll continue to see. We'd like to see good execution this week in all the phases."

With all these different moving parts for you and offensive coordinator Greg Roman with play calling, you've got all these different options, do you think you can be more creative?

"Hopefully we can be. I think everybody strives to be creative as a coach, putting your players in positions to be successful. And our players are real stimulated by that, by new things, new ways of doing things. They're very smart that way, our players are. I think Greg Roman is the best that we've ever seen. He's got a great, creative mind. We all kind of marvel at him."

What does RB Rock Cartwright bring to this team?

"Above and beyond anything else he's a very talented professional. [He] does everything right. Great role model for all of us. Real tough, tough as nails. I have great respect for Rock."

Do you see him being a special teams ace this year? I feel like he's always played a big role on special teams.

"Yeah, I feel like that's a real talent of his. But all around his game is real solid, running the ball, catching it out of the backfield, blocking, special teams. He does it all well."

Did you find yourself this training camp doing less hands-on coaching with QB Alex Smith than last year maybe when you were working more on the fundamentals, and now it's more about working on the schemes

"No, I wouldn't say that. I think my role with him has been about what it was last year."

Does he look a lot more comfortable in this offense?

"Yes. He's an expert at it. He's an expert in this offense, at this offense."

With WR Randy Moss, how much better can he be for your defense preparing with a long, athletic receiver and how much can your defense gain from facing him?

"They've talked about it this offseason, a lot of the fellas in the secondary. I know our offensive players feel the same way about a lot of the players that we have on defense. And iron sharpening iron is a good thing, become straight, become sharp."

When did you see that transformation of Alex Smith into an expert of this offense?

"Not on any particular day or date or throw or play, but it's just been a process."

Was he an expert last season?

"He is now. I notice it now. I think it's all been a process and by the time we get here next year, he'll be probably well past me because he's very, very smart and already has great ideas. Already very creative, already very knowledgeable on how to use everything in the system, at our offense's disposal for our offense's good. Way ahead of the curve. I think after a year you really know it, but it takes about two years in the system to become a real expert at it from the quarterback position. But he's cut that in half."

What about WR Mario Manningham? How has he adjusted? What does he bring? What's unique about him?

"A lot of things. Just overall, a very good receiver in all phases, catching the ball, getting off the line of scrimmage, savvyness, better than most that we've been around. Good player, proven player, dynamic player."

Will your new OLB Ikaika Alama-Francis play on Saturday against the Houston Texans? Is he permitted to play on Saturday?

"He will be permitted to play. Yes. Yeah. He was here for a physical on Wednesday, acclimating today, acclimating tomorrow and would be able to play on Saturday. And will he play? We'll see. We'll see if we're in the position to play him. It depends on him. It depends on us. It depends on circumstances."

I know it's only been one day, but can you tell anything from your new TE Joe Sawyer? He seems like a big, physical kind of tight end.

"Yeah, so far, [he] just moves around, looks the part out there. Catches the ball. Runs like a guy that belongs at this level. He's getting a late start at it, but it's an opportunity. He's got a fighting chance so we'll what transpires. And how fast he's going to be able to pick things up. We'll see."

Will RB Frank Gore, DT Justin Smith, Manningham play, the guys you rested in the opener?

"Yeah. Those guys will be playing."

Alex completed several passes to Vernon today. Did something noticeably click for them during the postseason? Are they a better combo now?

"Clicked in the postseason? I think things were clicking in the season too. Again, I think it's been a process. They know each other well. I'll state the obvious, but it's going well. Both of them are really fine players. Both of them had the opportunity to be in the same system two years in a row. They have used what they built last year as a foundation. I think they've built upon that. That's noticeable."

QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - August 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

Your coach just described you as an expert in this offense. He said that it usually takes two years, you cut that in half. How do you feel about, as far as just your mastery of the offense?

"It's better than it was a year ago. Yeah, I feel like I've progressed. When you're playing quarterback, I feel like you're always just working to get better and to learn. It's never-ending. So, a lot left to learn."

Do you feel like you know more about this offense than you have any other previous NFL offense?

"Yeah, for sure. No question."

What aspect of it are you more comfortable with this year? Is there any part of the process?

"The details, I think. It always just comes down to the details. It's not drawing up something on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper. It's not just notes. It's all the little details of the execution. What's really going on on the field, all of those things. I think the other part of it is just getting a good understanding of intent. Getting a great feel for G.Ro [Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman] and why we're calling stuff and what we're trying to do and what we're trying to get out of it. So, I feel like I'm better at handling those situations."

Has that helped when you've got some new receivers and some new personnel to have that grasp of the offense? To be able to make that come together pretty quickly?

"Well, it allows you to focus more on them, on the new faces. When everybody's new, everybody's kind of focusing on their own deal. For us that have been in it for a year and you're bringing in new guys you're able to kind of get more detailed with them, as far as what's going on and how we're doing things."

How challenging is that to have several new receivers, for a quarterback?

"That's going to be every single year. There won't be one year where-I've never had it. It's just the nature of the game. And that's at every single position, not just receivers. It's every position really, for the most part. Year in and year out you've got to adjust. There's going to be new faces coming in, guys learning. I don't think it's a bad thing because like I said, we're not going to be the same team we were last year. Things change, we evolve. The offense evolves. You're going to continue to try to get better and improve."

Doesn't a quarterback and receiver need a special connection, more so than other positions?

"Yes and no. I mean, yeah of course. But, every situation's different. Some quarterbacks see things differently. Some receivers are different as well. Everybody is unique. It's just the nature of the game at this level."

Is there a different feeling around here knowing you're expected to be in the hunt for a Super Bowl?

"The way it works here, we have higher expectations and have our own expectations. I don't think we pay much attention, I really don't, to what else is going on. To what people, what they're guessing, what they think we're going to finish. We all know what they thought we were going to finish last year and how right they were about that. So, it's no different this year. It's all about what we expect and we have to go out there and we have to do it. So, it doesn't really matter what anyone else is thinking."

On the field does WR Randy Moss show you certain things to tell you this guy's really happy to be back, running routes and doing the football thing?

"I don't know if there's any one thing. I think the joy of the game comes out for sure. You can see it out there, how much he likes being out there. How much he likes being around his teammates. He's got a great sense of humor, but he's out there working. I've said this many times about him, the guy communicates really well. Sees things really well on the field, comes back. So, it's great to have that line of communication. But for sure, you can see how much he enjoys being out there with everybody."

How much more comfortable are you in the second year in the offense and that you've had a whole offseason and training camp?

"Hard to quantify I guess. Definitely a lot more than last year, for sure. It would be hard for me just to tell you. I think we're all ahead of the game. But, this has been said before, it doesn't guarantee us anything. But for sure, we're much more comfortable than last year coming off the lockout. At this point last year in the second preseason game, we're still installing, still learning. Not even close I guess."

Obviously we've paid a lot of attention to Randy. What does WR Mario Manningham bring? Also another sort of established receiver who is proven in the league. How has that acclimation gone for you and him?

"I think it's gone really well, especially this last week. I really feel like he's just continuing to get a better grasp of the offense, what we're doing. One thing physically that jumps out, I think, is his route running. The guy's a very disciplined route runner. Really understands leverage, how defenses are playing him, a DB's leverage. Has a great knack for route running in and out of breaks, things like that."

You mentioned last week, I haven't been here every day, but I was told you've had some really good practices. Any examples of this week, maybe something that clicked?

"I think exactly that. Just a really good understanding of timing, what we're doing. And like I said, especially individually cuts, just a great job of getting open, really understands leverage, DB leverage, and attacks it well."

QB Alex Smith it seems like this week the ball didn't hit the ground very many times in the passing game. Is that something that you took note of, is that something that that you guys take a lot of pride in?

"For sure, yeah, absolutely, especially with a lot of the red zone we did this week. Much better if we are taking shots, it's our guys or nobody. I think just better decision making as a group and for the quarterback room this week in general. Even today, a very clean day, not many balls hit the ground. When they did they were good shots, not being carless with the football. We have been for most of camp. We had kind of a two day window there, whatever that was last week, the week before where the defense got after us pretty good. Especially this week's been very clean and that's a credit to the whole offense, but especially the guys in the quarterback room. Everybody has a good understanding of the offense. I know Coach Harbaugh said this, I have never seen it where you can throw in any one of these guys and practice doesn't fall off. Every single one of these guy has such a good grasp of the offense, works extremely hard at it, can step in and runs efficiently. It's a credit to those three guys."

It's training camp, but you are playing for the most part against your own defense. Can you remember a time or does it just feel better running the offense and having a passing game that's so efficient and so spot on?

"It's hard to tell, last camp is probably the last time we really went against our defense. It was tough to really get after them at that point. Like you said, you are learning it for the first time. It's been fun to have that battle this year, to have that competitiveness, O and D in general, but it's fun. [WR Michael] Crabtree and [CB] Carlos [Rogers], it's a ton of fun to hear those guys going back and forth. Offense and defense in general to have that competitiveness on the field that every day it was something, whether it be red zone, short yardage, third down, goal line, two minute, something that we are going out there and getting competitive with the defense. It's a great test for us, but it's fun to get some success and get after them a little bit."

Does Head Coach Jim Harbaugh want it to be that O vs. D mentality?

"Not at all, no. In fact he's the opposite; very much squashing it It's a great competitiveness out here. This isn't something where anything gets taken too far. You guys see it, we don't have any of the team brawls and stuff that go on a lot of places. We've got a great locker room, great group of guys. But it's fun to get competitive sometimes and get after each other. It's good. It's a lot of fun out there."

So do you agree with him you are an expert now in this offense?

"No, not at all. A lot to learn."

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