Jim Harbaugh talks recovery from Seahawks game, special teams and more

Brian Bahr

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Monday afternoon. He discussed the 49ers win over the Seattle Seahawks, and their preparations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We've got a transcript for your reading enjoyment.

Any challenge getting the guys back up for a game that doesn't have quite the luster as this one yesterday?

"Every game's a challenge. Every game's a big task. Tampa's playing extremely good football right now. I've been following them the last month, playing good ball. So, we're into that process right now. The players are making their bodies feel better and coaches have been game planning. We're moving onto the next one."

Making their bodies feel better. Was it especially physical yesterday? Are there more bumps and bruises today than you experience on a normal Monday?

"I can't say that it is or isn't. Standing on the sideline, it looked like a physical game."

When you go back and watch over the film of yesterday's game, did you look over RB Frank Gore's run, the 51-yard run a lot just to see who executed their blocking? Because it looked like everybody was in on the play.

"Yeah. It was one of the biggest holes we had on the day to run through. And, everybody got their blocks. [T Joe] Staley, [G Adam] Snyder, [C] Jonathan Goodwin. [G/T] Alex Boone got up on the second level and was able to shield and get Frank up on the safety, which Frank did a great job of making him miss and then making the long run."

You had asked last week for a nice showing by the Candlestick crowd. What did you think about the crowd yesterday?

"I thought it was outstanding. It really shows you what you can do when you put your mind to something. It was great support, a great atmosphere, and we've got one more game."

Did it sound like a playoff game? I mean, the Saints game, the Giants game from 2011?

"I thought it did, yeah. The energy from the fans. And our fans are great. They know football. They know what's at stake in these games and it was great to have that support."

Do you still see this team as ascending, you guys still getting better?

"I think so, yeah. At this point your aim is number one to win the game by any means possible. And you'd also like to improve and come out healthy. I think that's going to be the case in this one. But, it was a good team win, like we said yesterday."

You said yesterday games like that aren't necessarily enjoyable. When you know the outcome and you can then review the tape, is it more of an enjoyable experience to watch that?

"Yeah. I've always said it. That's what games feel like to me. People say you must be having a lot of fun out there. But, it's a grind. It is for the players. Yeah, you allow yourself after the game. There's no finer hours than those hours spent after a game that your team came together and won the football game, accomplished the goal, accomplished the mission. Those are wonderful hours."

Speaking of that, it looked like you guys had a lot of fun in the locker room after, everybody did the slapping high-fives. Where did that come from, or what's the, it seems like there might be a story behind that?

"No, I don't think there's a real story that I could think of. Just everybody congratulating each other on a job well done. We've done it after a few ball games."

And that leads to the, ‘who has it better than us?'

"It did this week, yeah."

You guys are currently in the sixth spot, the last spot in the NFC. Do you have a goal? Would you rather be in the five spot? What are your intentions? What are your hopes for the playoffs?

"Well, win the next game. Win games in December. Those count just as much as the other games do. But, where we're at we've got to win football games. [Former Oakland Raiders owner and general manager] Al Davis said it as well as can ever be said, ‘just win,' and those are our intentions."

A lot of new faces on special teams, three in particular contributed big yesterday, K Phil Dawson, WR Kassim Osgood and S Bubba Ventrone on the final kickoff. What have your revamped special teams meant to you guys this year?

"They've been playing extremely well. Been on a roll. Been consistently good every week making plays. In this one, the blocked punt was big. That led to points on the board. And then, Phil putting the points on the board. I understand that he broke a record for the 49ers organization. Congratulations to him on that and everybody that's involved in the mechanic of that operation. To kick 20-straight field goals, quite an accomplishment. You get a chance to put points on the board you want those points. Three guys really stood out yesterday on special teams besides Phil. That was Kassim, two tackles and a blocked punt, Bubba, four tackles and [S] C.J. Spillman I believe had three or four. So, those guys really shined."

What did the officials tell you on the blocked punt when the Seahawks batted it forward? That if you had challenged it they would have, or if you would have accepted the penalty they would have gotten a chance to punt again?

"Correct. It was not a loss-of-down penalty. It's different than kicking. Kicking's a loss-of-down penalty. Batting's a, treated like any other penalty. If you take the penalty then replay the down. So, the options were, take the ball where it lied at the end of the play, or take the penalty and they would re-kick, re-punt."

What do you think about that rule? It seems odd that they're allowed to kind of move it downfield with a bat?

"It does. That you could benefit from a foul, I don't think anybody wants that. So, the solution possibly is you treat it like the ball was kicked. Kicking and batting would be the same. It would be a loss of down. But, that's for the Competition Committee to decide."

Regarding Ventrone, he's getting older, 31, he's not the biggest guy, but obviously he's done this for a long time and stayed in the NFL for a long time. How's he done it? Because when you look at him, he doesn't strike you as necessarily being a special teams demon.

"He's got a lot of talent. He plays fast. He runs fast. That's what he's been doing extremely well. Penetrating on the kickoff. And, he's smart, physical on the punt. He's our punt protector. He just plays with a lot of great energy and effort. He's special in that way. He's a shining light, shining star in that regard."

Obviously assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Brad Seely has a long history with him. Was he a guy that, I guess, kind of vouched for him or influenced the decision to sign him?

"Yeah. Yes, Brad was with him and I remember when we were signing [former 49ers and current Chicago Bears LB Blake] Costanzo, who is a great special teams player, was a great special teams player for us. We were looking at the tape, game tape, practice tape, and it's like, ‘Was that our guy there with the long hair? Is that our guy? Because he's pretty darn good too.' But, those players really add a lot to your team and Bubba's been, been thrilled to have him on our team. He's a joy to be around every single day. He doesn't have a bad day. He doesn't come to work down or, he's just not had one bad day since we've been with him. A great teammate. "

Could you say the same for WR Kassim Osgood? He's in his 11th year and to have that veteran presence on the special teams. He seems to be having a resurgent season.

"They haven't had a bad day between the two of them. Kassim is, we've talked about this a lot just as a team, just how great Kassim has been for our team. A wonderful, wonderful teammate. Every day he comes with a bounce in his step. Pizzazz. There's guys that have just got oomph. Don't know another way to say it other than he's got a lot of pizzazz. There's some people, we all know them, that kind of sleepwalk through the day and got no oomph. He's the opposite of that. He's got a lot of pizzazz."

Several weeks ago, you guys didn't suit him up for a game. Looking back at that, could you tell that his presence on special teams was missed that game?

"Yeah, I mean, the reason we've suited him up for all but two games, wasn't suited up for the first game either, was he just brings a lot to our team."

WR Michael Crabtree's stats don't jump out, what you would call low-hanging fruit, but what kind of impact did his presence have on this game, especially when you can contrast it with week two when he wasn't here?

"Well, good, good. Again, he made some real phenomenal catches. He made one phenomenal catch. It was only a four-yard gain, but somebody that [QB] Colin [Kaepernick] has confidence in, the team has confidence in and he was really motivated for this game. It's like he's back. I could tell. Not this game, but the game before, I turned around at one point and he turned around, but it's like, ‘What do I have to do to get the ball?' Alright, Crab's back."

The defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher through 13 games. Is it really just a strong testament to how the front seven and even the depth players behind them are stopping the run?

"Yeah, that's quite an accomplishment. It certainly was in this game. Seattle's got an outstanding offense. They have a very good scheme. They believe in it, they stay true to it and they execute it very well. That running game, that corps of playmakers and the quarterback, it's a lot of ways to move the ball and score points. Our defense played really well. Really good team defense. Quite an accomplishment really to hold them to just 17 points. Don't know that there's a guy you say, ‘That's the game ball,' because so many guys played really good, played well. Nobody played bad kind of effort. So, it was good."

During that 21-day practice window, what did you see from RB Marcus Lattimore?

"I thought that he grew in confidence and just being able to turn his feet over and put his foot in the ground, run behind his pads. Felt like each week got better and better. I think he'll be excited about having that time and knowing the offseason every day he can get better and stronger and more confident with it. So, I thought it was very positive."

Getting back to Crabtree, you look at WR Anquan Boldin's stats from week two, seven yards. He had 93 yards yesterday. Is that attributable to having Crabtree on the field at the same time. Were the Seahawks able to be as aggressive with Boldin with another high-caliber wideout on the field at the same time?

"That's a valid point. There's been times throughout the year where Anquan's gotten doubled and [TE] Vernon's [Davis] gotten doubled on the same play. Michael's presence out there and everything he's done and everything he's shown he can do since coming back, that's another guy, high-level guy, that's got to be accounted for."

As the games get bigger here down the stretch, how important is your depth given that everybody on the roster may be asked to make a big play in important moments here in December?

"Very important."

Frank Gore kind of ended limping around after the game. Do you expect that to be anything serious, something you have to monitor this week?

"I don't know that at this time."

The Buccaneers obviously, as you mentioned, they are playing better. Have you been able to dive in a little and have a sense of how they've turned things around?

"Yeah, just doing that right now. We'll have a better feel as the day goes on today."

Did T Joe Staley come out of the game OK health-wise?

"I think so. I think he did. Said he did after the game, but see how he feels today. I think that'll be important, but was able to suck it up, walk it off, all those things and looked like he played pretty darn well too."

I've got a fashion question for you. Have you gone to cleats on game days now?

"Have I? Yes."

What prompted that change?

"The first thing that prompted it was that scuffle I was trying to break up in Tennessee. I had no traction."

You wanted to be prepared for the next time?

"Didn't want to be in that position again."

Now, did you unveil them in London?

"Yes."

And you've worn them every game since London?

"Two games I didn't wear them."

Noticeable difference in your footing?

"Yeah, there was a difference in the footing. One was on turf and the other was a home game. So, I hadn't worn them in those two games."

Not to beat it into the ground, but how do you decide, ‘I'm going to wear cleats.'?

"I've been wearing the cleats because we've won every time I've worn the cleats. So, there was a time I was superstitious about not being superstitious, now I'm suddenly superstitious a little bit."

Former MLB manager Tony La Russa got elected to the Hall of Fame today. He's a friend of yours. Any thoughts on him getting elected and any advice he's given you over the last year or so with team success?

"Yes, so many things. Few people understand it like Tony La Russa understands it. I would share one example with you, but I don't know if he'd want me to share it. So, I'll just keep it private. Yeah, he just understands things. He gets it. Been a great mentor. Great advice. I had heard a rumor that he might get elected to the Hall of Fame and there's nobody more deserving than Tony La Russa. He pulls for us. He's in our corner and feels great to be able to have somebody like him to call up and get advice from."

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