Jim Harbaugh talks Michael Crabtree, Rams pass rush, December football

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Friday and had a chance to talk about Michael Crabtree's return, the Rams pass rush, and the life of December football.

What did you see from WR Michael Crabtree this week at practice?

"Good practices."

Is he not on the injury report? He's totally healthy as far as the injury report is concerned?

"I did not see the injury report. Was he on the injury report?"

No. All systems go for Sunday?

"Looks that way."

What can you expect from a guy who hasn't played for the first 11 games of the season, didn't participate in training camp? What's a realistic expectation for him coming into the mix at this stage?

"Contribute to the football team, by any means necessary. That's what we're all looking for out of each other right now."

What do you think he got out of traveling with the team and maybe watching the game from the sideline, picking up on other aspects of the game while not playing?

"Many things I'm sure. Probably talk to him about that. I think a player can learn quite a bit though."

When you get pressure on the edges like you did Monday night from LB Aldon Smith and LB Ahmad Brooks, what's that do for your entire defense as a whole?

"Pressure is a good thing. Helps the coverage. Helps create negative plays for their offense."

How much has the Rams running game changed since when you last saw it Week 4?

"It's gotten better. I think that's one of the big things. They're playing very physically. Their running back is playing very well. They are rushing for yards. They've put up some real good numbers rushing the football. It's made them a very balanced team. Helped create some of the shots that they've taken down the field in their play-action game. It's been very effective."

What's your evaluation on Rams QB Kellen Clemens as a quarterback?

"Done a fine job. He's generated offense. Played well within the system. Made the key throws, big throws. Has been cool under fire in the pocket. He's done a marvelous job."

What in particular jumps off to you about their front seven?

"That it's very good. I said it's probably the best front four we've played. And, that hasn't changed from the last time we've played. Linebackers are playing even better than the first time around when we played them game four. So, it's improved, aggressive, hard hitting."

Rams DE Robert Quinn is second in the league in sacks, going against T Joe Staley. How is Staley doing this year and beyond his play on the field, what does he mean to that meeting room, the younger offensive linemen, T Anthony Davis, those types of guys, watching a guy like Staley play?

"He's been rock-solid as he's always been this year. That's on the field and in the meeting rooms. Great leader. He's truly a good, strong guy. And he's got a great ability to be loose and focused at the same time. A real good example of what that combination is. And it's a great test to him this week. I'm sure he's challenged by it, and his competitive nature. We'll be looking forward to it."

You were asked about the pressure the defense plays with. How would you sort of describe the personality of your defense as a whole? For all the attention paid to the offense the last few weeks, it seems like your defense has really played very well most of the season. Maybe not the first couple weeks, but for quite a while now.

"Yes, they certainly have. There was a time where we were, I read some stat where we were giving up points or we're averaging 29 points a game scored on us in so many of our last games, but that has not been the case for the last couple months. They're doing a heck of a job. Playing really well together. Playing within the framework of the defense and a lot of really good players that are well coached. There's real good teamwork."

After Monday's win, you said it's going to be tough from here on out. Does football change like, in general terms, in December with the stakes increasing coming into the stretch run here?

"Yes, I think it's only for the tough. There are a lot of guys that can play in April and May when you're going through the OTAs and minicamps. A lot of guys who participate in August and even September, but there's a real toughness and a hardness about playing down the stretch, both mentally and physically. Those guys that have been through 11, 12 games and it has an effect and toll on the physical nature, but also mentally, the pressure, the stakes. It's only for the tough."

You guys obviously play division games the next two weeks. What's different about playing a so-called rival? Is there a different vibe? Just familiarity because you play them twice a year or how, if at all, is it different?

"Well, they're all playoff games right now for us. I can't say that they're, every game is that nature."

I think this is the first time since you've been here that you haven't had three quarterbacks on your active roster. Is that odd for you? You seem like a quarterback traditionalist where you'd like to have three guys on the 53-man. Is that tough, that decision?

"Yes. Having [QB] McLeod [Bethel-Thompson] on the opportunity squad is a good place for us. We feel like we have three. I feel like we have three. Feel good about it."

Who's your emergency third in case you need one on Sunday?

"That's a good question."

Didn't WR Anquan Boldin play quarterback in high school?

"Yes, he did."

Is he the third?

"We'll let you know if we're in that position."

Did you watch the Thursday night game last night? What was your take on Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin along the sideline and what transpired there against your brother's team?

"I have no take on it."

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