Although Jim Harbaugh has had a strong tenure as 49ers head coach the last two seasons, he has made mistakes. On Wednesday, Coach Harbaugh admitted one such mistake. He was asked about what it means to have Haralson back on the field, and he used that question as an opportunity to admit that the team should have used the return designation when they placed Haralson on injured reserve. According to Harbaugh, Haralson was good to go by mid-December. Had the 49ers had his services, they probably would worked him into a rotation with Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks since both were dealing with shoulder injuries.
Smith and Brooks have both been sidelined thus far, which could prove quite helpful in the long run. The rest of the outside linebackers were moved up the depth chart for the offseason workout program. They will move back down when training camp gets here, but this provides an opportunity to learn the defensive installation with the ones and twos, and get a chance to compete with them.
Having a veteran like Haralson could potentially be a steadying influence for the young talent. And having a couple legitimate outside linebacker options behind Smith and Brooks would be pretty big. Clark Haggans was able to fill in on occasion, but he was more of an emergency option, rather than a legitimate backup last season. The 49ers need that to get Smith and Brooks at least a little bit of rest.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - June 12, 2013
San Francisco 49ers
When you look at this defense, a lot of defensive changes on the line. So, what are you seeing during this mini-camp with DT Justin Smith out, losing two big key pieces and then DT Tank Carradine isn't in there yet? What have you just seen from that front?
"I think the big position is the tackle position, the nose tackle position. [NT] Ian Williams, [DL] Glenn Dorsey, two fine players that there will be a lot of attention on that position this training camp and this fall. Got very high expectations for both those men."
Would you keep Ian just at the nose, or would you use him at backup at the end kind of like former 49ers DT Ricky Jean Francois did last year as well?
"Well, there's some flexibility. But, the key thing is the nose position right now. And they've done a phenomenal job. Ian is going into his third year, worked extremely hard. Ready to have that opportunity. Glenn Dorsey has done everything you can ask a man to do this offseason. He's paid his dues. He's poised for perfect attendance after tomorrow. And he's played well. And fit in real good with the team. And again, high expectations for both those guys this year."
How has S Eric Reid been coming along?
"Good. Eric's coming along good."
You said, I think last week or the week before, that DT Justin Smith was bench pressing 350, or was looking good. Is everything on pace with his return for training camp and prognosis good in his status?
"Yes, believe so. Everything on schedule for Justin."
How much does he mean to your defense as a whole to have him healthy enough to play 90 percent of the snaps I guess?
"Well, that's what he does. He's been a great football player for our team, and a team leader. He's one of those guys that we were talking about yesterday who's at the top of their game, top of their profession. And there's a lot of pressure on those kind of guys. And he is one like [QB Colin] Kap [Kaepernick], like [LB] Patrick [Willis], like [LB] NaVorro [Bowman], like many of our players, [RB] Frank [Gore], they relish that pressure."
Has he mentioned at all how many more years he will want to play?
CB Carlos Rogers, is he on schedule working through something, but doing OK in his recovery?
"Yeah, Carlos is doing good."
Anything you can elaborate on him?
"No, not that I'm aware of that needs elaboration."
OK. But, he'll be healthy and good to go by?
"Yes. I believe so. Unless you know something I don't."
I don't. I'm just checking.
How have you liked the way the safety position, the competition has unfolded through the offseason?
"It's good. Very good competition. Good players lined up at that position. And things have been very fair the way our defense is going about throwing out the balls and letting the guys compete. Floating one starter this week, a different starter last week, a different starter the week before. A very good way to do it."
Is S C.J. Spillman the one that you probably know the most since he's been here the longest?
"Yeah, I don't know if it's any..."
Any great advantage?
"Yes. Thank you. Appreciate it, [49ers beat writer from the Bay Area News Group] Cam [Inman]."
Is CB Nnamdi Asomugha a quick learner? Do you sense that he's getting things, settling in nicely here?
"Yes. He is a quick learner. I think he's shown all those things of being a true professional. I forgot to check it, too, but I think he's in store for a perfect attendance certificate. So, it's been really good. Real pro, as you would expect. And then also something really I think interesting to point out is [WR] Kassim Osgood who got here, I think started practicing June 4th or 5th, so last week OTA seven, eight, nine and 10. And, basically he showed up and we're telling him the plays, where to line up, what route to run, what his blocking assignment was, every single play. And then over the weekend, he must have just locked himself in his hotel room and studied the playbook all weekend because he came out here on Monday and didn't have to tell him anything. He got the play in the huddle with the correct alignment, the split, the route, depth, everything was really good like he had been here all offseason. An example of a real professional and a guy who works at his craft. A great example for the rest of our guys."
Are you looking at him as much as a wide receiver as you are on special teams?
Did you give him some feedback? I mean, "hey, I noticed you did a great job preparing."
"Yes. Yes. Yeah, it was one of those things that really stood out."
Are you and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio starting to get an idea of how you can use Nnamdi in this defense? Or are you just going to let him go through mini-camp then look at the film and decide by training camp how you might use him?
"Yeah, more than just an idea, that's as you would expect. We're not going to fly by the seat of our pants there. So, yeah he's doing a great job. And he's a guy who has a lot of tools in his bag you can use in many forms and fashions."
With your top five corners returning, how can he make his imprint on this defense?
"Just like anybody else would."
Is there a certain, like with his skillset, does he give you something you guys didn't already have?
"I'm not saying that. It's just how does anybody make their imprint, their impression on the team? Knowing what they're doing. Playing with great competitive fire, and playing within the framework of the defense within their skillset."
Is it difficult for a rookie safety to come in because you've got to know all the techniques pretty much of both free and strong?
"Yeah, difficult, every job out there is difficult. There is nothing that these guys do that is easy. That's what the NFL players do, the good ones, the great ones, they make the difficult look easy. So, all positions are hard. Everything that looks easy as you watch it on TV, most of the times it's a world-class athlete making the difficult look easy."
With former 49ers TE Delanie Walker no longer here, how's the tight end position shaking out during these mini-camps and OTAs?
"Well, first and foremost, [TE] Vernon Davis has been an absolute stud all offseason. I believe he's in line for a perfect attendance certificate. And just done everything right. Done everything at a captain level. Then [TE] Vance McDonald has really asserted himself, both athletically and someone that's understanding the system also with a lot on his plate. At a position that's asked to do a lot of different things. [TE] Garrett Celek continues to improve and come along. And [TE] MarQueis [Gray] is doing a nice job, a college quarterback. But, I think he's got the ability to be an NFL player. And then I think you already know my appreciation for [FB] Jason Schepler, back playing Y tight end and fullback. So, again, another guy to keep a close eye on as somebody that you just root for, that you're pulling for because he's a do-stuff-right guy. And all of that has really come from Vernon Davis' example, and I think it carries down to the rest of the position group."
Can you put your finger on why there's been two Achilles injuries just in a couple weeks?
"No. No, don't have the finger put on that right now."
Have you guys changed anything, stretching or anything like that?
To have LB Parys Haralson's presence again, what does that mean to this team?
"Well, we've always had his presence."
Certainly, but back to the field.
"Yeah, and it brings up a really good point. Parys showed what kind of team player he was last year, what kind of leader he was. And throughout the season, (he was) engaged, helping all teammates at his position and on the defensive side of the ball. I know one of the things I look back and think that I made a mistake on personally was probably not putting that tag on him, that exemption that he could have come back and played because he was healthy and ready to go probably mid-to-late December. And to his credit, he always stayed engaged and stayed focused on helping his team. So, now that he's back on the field, I know that all of us coaches and players and certainly Parys himself, there's a life-giving energy when a 49er, a true team player like that is back out doing what he loves to do."
Is he sort of a natural leader type?
"Yes, he's got great leadership qualities."