JIm Harbaugh met with the media on Wednesday as the 49ers prepare to open their preseason against the Denver Broncos. Coach Harbaugh addressed numerous topics related to the game. He talked a bit about playing time, but spent more of his time addressing questions about some of the specific players to watch. Among other things, he spoke on A.J. Jenkins, Lawrence Okoye, Vance McDonald, and the backup quarterback position as a whole. Here is a transcript of his comments.
How many of the vets do you expect to just get the night off tomorrow?
"Just a few."
"[LB] Patrick [Willis] for sure and possibly [RB] Frank [Gore]. We'll see."
What about DT Justin Smith?
"We'll see. But I think the bigger, rather than go through the who's playing, how much is anyone playing kind of thing, this feels unlike any other preseason game, certainly any other first preseason game of the year. And the reason I say that is that there are pretty much every, almost every position group there is a fight for either a starting spot, a backup spot, to make the team more so than I can ever remember the last two years. That's exciting on one hand because there's been several players that have risen and gained traction to be officially in the hunt to take a job. And, neck and neck in terms of battles for starting jobs or backup spots or making the team, and so much so that you can't just look at it like there'll be this number of tight ends, this number of offensive line, this number of linebackers, this number of secondary players, corner or safety, wide receiver. It's going to be the best player. So, if there is a better corner than an extra offensive lineman or tight end or linebacker, all those things will be in play to add to the competition. I just say that's where I think it's on one hand both intriguing and exciting. You say, maybe you want it to be clear-cut. You want guys to clear-cut make the team, and clear-cut be the starter, and clear-cut be the backup and you want to see that take place in these preseason games. Maybe it hasn't taken place because we haven't played games yet. On one hand it's exciting that there's guys that have risen and made it so competitive. On the other hand, I want somebody to be the clear-cut guy, no doubt about it everybody sees it, and these preseason games give everybody that opportunity to show it and for us to witness it. That's the intriguing, exciting part going into this first game."
Is there any gamesmanship that you look towards when you're facing an opponent where a lot of people picked you and the Broncos to go to the Super Bowl? Is there anything that you can glean off of the exhibition opener in terms of seeing how matchups are or setting up plays that can come into play six months from now?
"I haven't thought of that, no."
WR Ricardo Lockette had a good practice yesterday and WR A.J. Jenkins had a good practice on Monday. Is that one of those things that you were just talking about that you see individuals having good days on different days and it's hard to kind of figure out who's winning that battle because there are so many different individuals that are competing for it?
"I'm not going to use one position as an example because there's examples of it at almost every single position group. And, I believe they know who they are. We've addressed it as a team and just so they know. They know the information, where they stand and they have that information going into these practices and into these games."
Will A.J. start at that position?
"I still haven't totally decided. Again, if start two receivers if you start three, if you start only one because of the personnel group, what do you consider the starter? So there's no."
Are we going to see a lot of ‘or's' on the depth chart?
"The depth chart is not a painstaking thing that I go fill out. That's, [director of public relations] Bob Lange fills out the depth chart. So I wouldn't read, nothing against Bob, it's not. Understand I wouldn't read too much into it. It's not a painstaking process to fill out the depth chart."
You just said that you addressed it with the team like they know where they stand. Do you have a super-secret depth chart that the 90 guys in there know about and see?
"It's a process. I love that word. It's a process. Where we are in that process is we've gone through 12 practices and now we're going to play our first preseason game. So there's, facts are stubborn things and how you play in practice, how you play in these games determine outcomes. So, that's where we're at in the process."
How encouraged are you to see WR Anquan Boldin and QB Colin Kaepernick and their timing in a game situation with the first team? Anquan and Colin and what they're showing you on the practice field, how eager are you to see them in a game situation together?
"Eager, eager. I'm jumping out of my skin. I really feel like they're going to be jumping out of their skin and ready to play this game."
What have you seen from TE Vance McDonald so far and what has he learned from TE Vernon Davis?
"Steady growth. He's in a process and there's been a lot of information thrown at all of the players who are first time in the system. There's been some that have been great. I would say that Vance has been good to very good and he continues to grow in football. Guys like Anquan Boldin, great. [DL] Glenn Dorsey, great, [CB] Nnamdi Asomugha, and you'd expect that. The guys that have played football in the National Football League even though they're coming from other systems, there's carryover, so no surprise in that. And everybody's kind of on their own learning curve and how do they play in the game. How do they take that information that they've learned and practiced on the practice field and can they stay loose and focused at the same time during the game or do they get too tight or are they too loose. It's a lot of the game that brings that out."
Will you have senior offensive consultant Eric Mangini in the booth with offensive coordinator Greg Roman during the game?
"Yes, Eric's going to be in the booth."
The second part of that question, are there improvements for the coaching staff this preseason? Do you feel that since you have the same coaching staff, the method of how you guys run a game has been fluid or do you think you need any changes this preseason at all?
"The first part of the question, I didn't quite hear that."
Just meaning are there any changes for the coaching staff this preseason that you'll look to implement as far as how the staff as a whole runs the game or do you feel that in the past two seasons, you're pretty much dialed in on how you run a game?
"Nothing dramatic. No dramatic change."
With LB Parys Haralson, he was saying that last year, given his time not on the field, he learned a lot about seeing the field and what was going on. Have you seen that translate to his game now that he's healthy enough?
"To site an example or say I've seen it, I can't really say that I've seen it but him saying it is definitely evidence that resonates with me. That's kind of the same feeling that I had when I missed half of a season in college, the ability to stand back and get a broader picture of the game and your ability to encourage teammates. Your love of the game is something that's tested but you find out that when it's taken away, that you love it even that much more heightened. So those things resonate with me. If he's seeing that and feeling that, that's evidence that will happen."
What does his presence being back on the field mean to you guys?
"It's been noticed. Parys is one of a big number of veteran leaders on our team. Guys that demonstrate their leadership by what they do. They demonstrate it with their action and how they go about being a professional football player. He is one of those solid individuals."
Did QB Scott Tolzien kind of get toughened by that competition last year against a veteran guy and ultimately winning the number three job? Have you seen the steady growth in him?
"Yes, I definitely say his skin is thicker, callus, built up and I'm excited for him to go out there and play. And again, he's in the fire of a new competition. I think it's a step in the direction of not just making the team but of contributing and competing to win, not just compete to make the team. Sometimes when you compete to make the team, the thought of not losing it creeps into your mind. I want to see that jump of competing to make the team, to win. Not competing not to make the mistake. Kind of like you'd associate it with the analogy playing to win or playing to lose, playing not to lose. That's one thing I want to see him doing and I think that would be a really good step."
Did you think that happened in the last preseason game last year?
"No, I knew you'd go there."
You set yourself up for it.
"No, I didn't set myself up for it. No."
He had a pretty bad game in that final game and QB Josh Johnson had a pretty good game in that game. So that seems to fit with what you were just saying about seizing the opportunity.
"Not specific to any particular player, I'm saying making the team versus making the team to contribute to the efforts of winning. I think he's at that stage. A third year quarterback, he's got to be thinking that way. He's got to be able to demonstrate that."
Are those two spots behind Kap, are they up for grabs? Has QB Colt McCoy shown that he's the number two guy?
"No, there's nothing shown there. So, it's very even. And very much looking forward to the games and future practices to determine that, but it's not clear cut at that position."
Is QB B.J. Daniels in that mix for number two as well?
You have one guy who's never played in an NFL game, DL Lawrence Okoye. Are you concerned? Are you curious? You know what it's like to jump in there. What are your feelings about him playing?
"Very interested. He's made improvement. I don't want to make expectations be anything more than what they are. He's not a good football player. And his next growth seems to be not a bad player. But he's made growth from being never played the game of football. So, once again you talk about process, the expectations need to be realistic. I want him to be a bad football player because that's really the next jump up for Lawrence Okoye. But he's making significant strides each and every day."
Expectations, what are your expectations for--?
"I'm sure you'll find something really negative to say about that. That was a positive thing."
Lawrence said the same thing, that he wants to be a bad football player. We were just talking about expectations, what are your expectations for A.J. Jenkins?
"Go out and play a lot, needing that experience to play. And step up in that game type of situation. So, expectations are high for A.J. Jenkins."
You guys brought in a lot of special guys with backgrounds in special teams in the offseason. How do you value what they can contribute on special teams verse what they can provide on offense in a reserve role or defense in a reserve role?
"What, I don't--?"
How you value what a guy can do on special teams verse what he can contribute in a reserve role on offense or defense?
"We value it extremely high. We value it to the point that a guy could make the team just because he does that, on that body of work of what he can contribute on special teams. And then it could be six, seven core guys that that's their main contribution. And somebody could be, in that group, could be a significant backup and a specialty player, either in the nickel on defense or a three or four wideout package or two tight end package. And then they could also be listed as a starter in a specific personnel group."
How much will QB Colin Kaepernick play tomorrow?
"He'll play a series, two series, no more than a full quarter, somewhere between there. One to two series to a full quarter."
You guys added a scoreboard out here on the practice field yesterday. What are big benefits of that? Is it more about situational instances and time management?
"A lot of situations in football. It's a situational game in some aspects and thought we could get a mile an hour faster getting a scoreboard in here. Looks good. I feel great about a lot of the additions that ownership has given to our compound here. I would like a before and after picture of what it looked like then, two years ago, two and a half years ago, and what it looks like now. In my mind it's really significant. Everything, as football coaches, we've asked for they've given us, from the Forty Niner Way, to the sign, to the weight room, to the speakers, to the nice fence and the padding around the grass fields and now a scoreboard. Taken out all those bushes and we got more grass. There are so many, so many real good things that make us feel like our place, our compound. Is that what it looks like?"
Last year you said this was your football oasis inside the construction zone.
How do you prepare to play against the other team of the first preseason game of the year? Do you look at film from last season or is this more about evaluating your players and your playbook?
"Both, definitely both. And they look at us, what we do in the preseason, I'm sure. But, both."
Was the blue collar an addition to your uniform?
"Nope. It's an either or. Sometimes both."