Jim Harbaugh talks Vance McDonald, Michael Crabtree, Rams offense

Rob Carr

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Wednesday afternoon. We've got a transcript for your viewing pleasure.

What's the WR Michael Crabtree update?

"Good meetings this morning. Good sessions there. Bright-eyed and ready to go.

Is he ready to play on Sunday?

"Wednesday, he's ready to go on Wednesday it looks like. So, we'll go out and take a look."

When he practiced last week, would you characterize them as full practices? Was he doing everything that everyone else was doing out there workload wise?

"There was one day that he did, one day that there wasn't the full workload."

So, just to clarify, when you say he's ready to go Wednesday, if the status quo holds, he'll be ready to go Sunday?

"Let's just take it one day at a time. I think that's the best approach."

Optimistic?

"Yeah. Optimistic like I said the other day. Hope for the best and we'll have a plan if he's not able to go. It's pretty much that simple."

How encouraged were you by some of the strides made in your passing game on Monday night?

"There was quite a bit of positive in the game. Number one being that we won the game. That was what we were after. But, yeah, definitely some good things. [WR] Mario Manningham contributing was big. [WR] Anquan Boldin had a great game. [TE] Vernon Davis involved with big plays. We hit some big plays and that was, generated offense and got us going."

Can you expand on what makes Boldin such an attractive threat on third downs?

"He's just a, he's a great player. He's really had a great season. His ability. His awareness at all times. Savviness. Great catching ability. Just strong, strong player. Strong catcher."

Did you have enough game balls to distribute on defense after that game?

"We did, yeah. There was a lot of deserving guys because nobody played poorly on the defensive side of the ball. [LB] Ahmad Brooks, [DT] Justin Smith, [LB] Aldon Smith, [S] Donte Whitner all got game balls. And then, some real good play. [DT] Tony Jerod-Eddie had the most snaps of any D-lineman in the game, hustling, playing good football. Anticipated that he was going to do that, and he did. [LB] Dan Skuta really toughed it out. Working through something, but played 16 snaps and played very good football. [CB Tramaine Brock] T-Brock in his first start was very good. [CB] Carlos Rogers made the big deflection on the long post. Just, several, all guys played really good and turned in a gem. Only allowing six points in that ballgame was quite a feat."

If you guys reach the playoffs it's looking like it won't be an easy road. You'll most likely be a Wild Card team going on the road. Looking at that potential challenge, is any of that appealing to you?

"The challenge and the task is the Rams. This is a very good football team that is playing their best football. Offensively, they have become very explosive. Completing passes down the field. The run game has been very effective for them. And, their churning yards and points. The return game, [Rams WR/PR] Tavon Austin has been special there. Defensively, that's a very, we talked about it the first time we played them, a very good defense. Explosive front four. [Rams DE Robert] Quinn, [Rams DE Chris] Long, this is as good a D-line as you're going to play. The linebackers as well. The defensive backs are very aggressive. It's a fast, strong football team. And, it's a big task for us and a challenge that we just have to concentrate on and have a great week of preparation to put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win."

The fact that the Rams are fourth in obviously a four-team division, does that speak to the strength of the NFC West, when a team like that is kind of bringing up the rear?

"Well, I mean, nobody knows what the rear is right now, as it stands now. But, it's definitely a strong division."

What are your recollections of Austin when you met with him out here back in March?

"I really liked him a lot. I had a very good visit here with him. Really liked watching his tape and talking football with him. He was very football-aware and there was a good football conversation. Got me fired up talking football."

Would you guys have, obviously had you moved up to get him, but were you looking at him the way the Rams have used him - special teams, offense, handing the ball off, just a multi-dimensional way?

"They've done a very good job because he's got all of those abilities. Speed, quickness, the return game. They've done an excellent job of using all of his skills. Trying to setup middle returns and bounce into sideline returns. Misdirection in the return game. I think they also use middle returns. They use the wide variety that reflects his skills and that's a huge challenge for our coverage units. And he's doing both now. He's doing punts, punt returning and kick returning."

You have a short week this week so there's less time to prepare. Do you load film on the players' iPads and if so, does that help them get prepared more quickly in a short week than maybe 10 years ago they couldn't?

"Yes, I think that definitely helps. That technology advancing helps. The guys got to watch it too. But, it's convenient. You want to chill at home, as the guys say, and be on the couch and watch the iPad. It's very convenient."

Without this seeming obvious, adding Crabtree to a group that already has Vernon and Mario and Anquan doing a lot, how much of a problem does that create for other teams when you add Crabtree back into the mix?

"I think there's things he does that he's the best in football at. And, that certainly bodes well for us and we're excited about it."

What specifically would you say?

"Catching the ball. There's routes that he runs. Tackles he breaks. Plays that he makes. There's evidence there."

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, can you share with us what you're thankful for?

"Thankful for so many things. In a year that time is very urgent to be thankful. And means and reasons to be thankful. But, thankful for the opportunities that we have. For family. For our team. For the job I have. Health. Strong country."

Does Tramaine Brock have an opportunity to stick as one of those top two corners even when everybody's healthy?

"Does he have the opportunity, the license to do that? Sure."

Did he play like a starter?

"I thought he did. I thought he played very good in his first start."

You mentioned Manningham getting more involved in the offense on Monday. Was he more comfortable in his third game back, more confident? Was that part of it?

"I think so. It looked that way."

You guys added Brock on a long-term extension last week, you've got a lot of your defenders who will be with you for the near future and beyond. What does that mean to have a lot of those guys locked up for the long term?

"Talking about Tramaine Brock, just very happy for him. Very much a success story. Everybody on the team is just happy for him as a player and for his career. It's been well earned. He didn't change at all. He was very humble about it around the locker room, the meeting settings and the practice field. It probably makes you feel even more happy for him that he reacted and responded that way which knowing his character I anticipated he would."

How is TE Vance McDonald? How has he progressed both as a route runner and what you've asked of him as a receiver, but also the blocking side of it?

"This past game was very good. He made some strides. The week before he had some struggles in the run game. But, he has been the kind of guy that learns from his mistakes and gets them corrected, gets them fixed. And then, I just anticipate him being a really good football player. He doesn't flinch though. It doesn't ever get too much for him. I've never really seen him sweat, sweat it. He sweats, obviously. Very good. Very cool. Very smart and learns. And, I think it's going to be a bright future for him. I'm still convinced of that."

He mentioned that that play against Carolina, he said that kind of haunts him, but it also sent him back to the film room to try and figure out how to avoid something like that happening in the future. Whether it's where his body was, how strong he was with the ball. Is that something that you have to talk to him about that, or have you noticed that he was just ready to move on and try to get better?

"There's so many things that the players learn just by doing them. And, you can talk about it in the film room or in the meeting room all you want, but the game doesn't always slow down until you're doing it for a second time where you've been in that position and then you learn from it and the next time you're better for it because you've done it before. And, there's just things in this game that are that way."

I'm asking this because you have a fair share of adversity this year unlike your first two seasons here, but have you had to invoke Freddy P. Soft this year?

"No. Not that I can recall. The fellas have been preparing great every week. And, that's where it starts. That's where we're at today. And, we're looking for a good day today."

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