The San Francisco 49ers began their official practice week, which means Jim Harbaugh had some time to meet with the media. Harbaugh normally answers questions on Wednesday and Friday, but this week he is also going to answer questions on Thursday.
You can watch the video HERE, but if you don't have time to check it out, Harbaugh was in quite the jovial mood. He had a great give-and-take with the media, joking with them, and showing all sorts of personality. Although he has been given a reputation of being a tough press conference, he has had some very entertaining press conferences this year.
One of the more entertaining moments came when he talked about how much he would love to play in games like Sunday's NFC title game. He mentioned how he was thinking of things he would trade to be able to compete in these games. This led to quite a bit of follow-up on what he would trade. He was asked if he would trade his house or his college degree. His response was pretty classic as he talked about giving up body parts for it. "I was thinking like a body part. Could I do without an arm?", "Could I do without my left arm or one eye? I was kind of going to those extremes." A little random, but a lot of awesome.
I can almost guarantee you however, that by Friday we'll see Harbaugh in his more guarded position. Last year, in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Harbaugh was incredibly engaging, telling stories and generally having a good time. However, on the Friday before the game, when he had his joint press conference with his brother, he was all business. He deferred most questions to John, and there was little laughter and amusement like we had seen the previous days. I expect something similar on Friday.
In talking to people about this game there are some people and I guess a lot of fans that believe there is some lingering animosity between you and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. Is that false? What are your impressions about Pete as a person?
"Animosity, no, erroneous, erroneous. It's football. It's competition. It's winning."
Obviously you've had chances to have conversations with Pete. Do you guys get along well? Do you have any impressions about what makes him tick?
"We've had football, competition, winning. That's the sport, that's what we have had, great competition."
Obviously QB Colin Kaepernick is a very good quarterback. Aside from the measurables, is there an intangible, an "X" quality that makes him unique, that makes him stand out?
"Yes. A-plus in all those regards in terms of intangibles. Poise, big stage never seems to bother him, and his leadership ability. Players love him, coaches love him. Work ethic off the charts. A-plus, plus."
When you say that big games don't bother him, does he have the same composure, the same attitude in a big game like what's coming up, as opposed to a regular season game?
"Just noticed it watching him play even going back to college when I first started watching him play, the big games, the big challenge, the big task. He has that special ability that the great ones have to elevate their game in those situations."
Do you have to have a stronger emphasis in the playoffs in terms of protecting the ball and avoiding turnovers, which he's done these last couple months?
"We do that with the whole team in terms of protecting the ball, daily, hourly."
"Remind them to protect the ball, daily and hourly."
When it comes to protecting the ball and all those things going against a very good Seattle team, what are the biggest challenges against their defense?
"The Seattle defense is looking to get the ball at all times. Create turnovers in any situation, generate them on all downs, to looking to take the ball away."
Can you go back and look at some of your previous matchups and see why they have had success in taking the ball away?
"Well, some they have, some they haven't in previous matchups."
You took some criticism for playing LB Aldon Smith a couple days after he got arrested. He comes back. Do you feel justified that his performance and his behavior kind of justifies the way you handled that?
"I feel very good for Aldon and he's carried the water, the biggest share himself. There have been a lot of people that have helped. He's got a great family, his mother, father, A-plus, plus. And he's handling his business. We all tend to forget that the reason we got smart is because we learned from our mistakes and that's how you get smart, by learning from your mistakes. He's been really good as a teammate. And on the field he's been outstanding. Teams that want to block Aldon Smith one-on-one are whistling Dixie. That's the way he's playing right now. Therefore, he's getting quite a bit of double-team chips, help from the backs and the tight ends, and he's really playing well."
With the two games against Seattle, Colin has had a few struggles. What in your mind makes you believe that this one is going to be different?
"Our preparation is what we'll lean on for every game that we play. And having a great day at practice today. Meetings have been outstanding. We're going to try to make those the best of the season. Make our practice the best of the year. Make our drills the best drills we have had all season. That's where we get confidence from."
Jim, how early on did you notice WR Anquan Boldin taking a leadership role on this team, or amongst the receivers?
"How early on? I don't remember exactly, but early on."
Is that rare because you had veteran leaders on this team, is that rare for someone to come into a team like this and kind of assert that leadership right away?
"Anquan Boldin is a valuable, valuable player and every player should aspire and practice and play the game of football like Anquan Boldin. So, it doesn't take guys long to see that. It's not saying anything, it's the actions of him doing. And yeah, you'd be pretty unaware not to notice it right away."
Is it being the tough guy kind of important to be at the receiver spot, especially competing for this team? I mean, you hear defensive players talk about admiration for Anquan being tough. Is that a different thing in him?
"Well, there are a lot of tough receivers out there. There are a lot of good receivers, a lot of good players. He's a great player as well."
Last year, former 49ers WR Randy Moss said he wasn't, even at the Super Bowl week, he said he wasn't that happy with his role, he felt like he was kind of a decoy. Has that role changed because of Anquan? That having a receiver other than WR Michael Crabtree, has he kind of made you change the way you throw to or target that position?
"Well, first of all, I don't even know what you're referring to back with-."
Moss said that.
"I don't remember him saying that. He never said that to me. So, I can't-maybe he just said that to you, but he didn't say it to me. So, I don't even know to go any further. Anquan Boldin, my goodness. He's been a valuable, valuable player. He's a real football player. Of course we're going to utilize him."
Your offense has a lot of motion and shifting pre-snap before you get into your audibles. How tough is that in the environment in Seattle and the crowd noise to communicate all of that effectively?
"Well, there are tough things about communication in a loud stadium, on the road that the offense will strive to be very precise at. But tough, this is only for the tough. This kind of game, this kind of point in the season. And our guys are very happy about it. They're very excited and very much looking forward to this being a lot of fun. This kind of game, I was thinking of the things I would trade to be able to compete as a player in these games, in this game. It's pretty significant."
What would you trade?
"There's a lot. There's a lot."
If CB Carlos Rogers is healthy, does he go back to his old role of starting at corner and sliding to nickle?
"There is a subset questions other than the question, "will Carlos start if he's ready to play." In terms of do you come back at a 100 percent, 90 percent, 95 percent, that'll all be determined out on the practice field. Those subset of questions will be answered out there."
So, those four cornerbacks, there will be competition to figure out those roles?
"Yeah, we'll practice and the players that we feel give us the best opportunity in certain situations, nickel, dime, base, we'll play in there."
Would you trade your house?
"Oh, easy, yeah. I thought you were going to make it tough like a body part. Could I do without my left arm or one eye? I was kind of going to those extremes."
Would you go Ronnie Lott and trade a finger?
"Oh, easy. That would be an easy decision, yeah. Could I play with just one eye? It was that kind of thing."
Would you trade RB Frank Gore?
"No, what I would give up myself personally."
Would you give up your college degree?
"To play in this game?"
"Yes. I was thinking like a body part. Could I do without an arm?"
What would you get from playing in the game that you can't get from coaching in it?
"Well, playing, there's nothing better than playing. Coaching is the second-best thing though because you are competing."
What commonalities do you see in your game, when you were a quarterback and Colin's? And granted, you were a high pick anyway, but, do you think the NFL has evolved in a way that your skills would be even more valued if you were coming out now?
"There is a lot to think about there. Too many layers for me right now. And I don't think it's that relevant to what we're trying to do this week. So, maybe for a later time address that question."
In general, the regular season and the playoffs, your team is very good on the road. But, what has been missing in the last two games in Seattle the team has had on the road?
"We're spending time getting ready for this game and preparing to play our very best and that's what it's going to take. We've got to play our best football against a real quality team in a tough environment. So, we're spending more time thinking about that, answering those questions than going back six months or 12 months or 13 months."
You obviously have done something no coach has ever done, three straight years in the NFC Championship, when you look at the totality of this year, if there is a disappointing last-second loss heaven forbid in Seattle Sunday for you, does it make the season less than a great year or a good year? How would you characterize the year if you don't win on Sunday? We know what it would mean if you do win, but if you don't win?
"Well, we've always taken the approach that no matter what you did and no matter how good it is, how good what you did last week or two weeks ago or yesterday, if you're still talking about that then you haven't done anything today. So, we're trying to do something great today. We're trying to do as much as we possibly can fit into today to make ourselves better so tonight when our head hits the pillow that we look back on the day and feel joy in that, that we made today better than tomorrow. We're better today than we were tomorrow. Our goal will be better tomorrow than we were today."
You've spoken about your admiration for RB Frank Gore a lot. Did you develop that right away when you took this job? Or how soon did you realize that how much you admired this guy, number one. And number two, you said I think one time you called him mystical. What's the most interesting question he's ever asked you?
"The very first time I talked to him was right up on that balcony right there, and never forget that. It was about a half hour conversation. I really felt like I walked away knowing a lot about Frank Gore. And then it's been daily, hourly since then. So, my admiration is as high as my admiration can be. But then every time I think he's 10 out of 10 in that regard he finds another wrung on the ladder. I think he is a mystical man. I think he sees things that we don't, I don't, we don't see. He's got a spiritual connection and he can be inward, he can think about things, or he can walk up and down the sideline and talk to anybody that's on the sideline. We're showered with his attributes and his character and just the kind of man he is."
What is the most interesting question he's ever asked you?
"I'll think about that. I'll think about that and let you know."
You have a great running back in Frank. Can you tell us about Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch in Seattle?
"Outstanding. Consistently been great game after game. Huge task for us and challenge for our defense. That's the kind of competitive struggle that we all anticipate and that's what makes it just so much darn fun."
Recently defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said that Aldon Smith's attitude has been really great since he returned. Have you noticed a difference in his attitude since his return to the team?
"Yeah, I would have to agree with that. I'd concur. It's been very good, as a teammate, as a friend. Been a strong guy."
You said you've been having great drills and practices this week-
"The best, the best of the season. That's what we're looking for."
What can you tell us about what you're preaching and what you're emphasizing to your squad this week?
"No, not so much. Don't see any advantage to saying that right now."
What kind of tone would you like to set in Seattle? What kind of tone do you think is necessary to set for you to be successful?
"I don't know about tones. Setting tones. What is that exactly?"
That means do you need to come in and be physical right away?
"No desire to talk about what our plan is."
I have one more for you.
"You've already had a few. Share. Let's share."
Going to the tough road environments the last two weeks, how has that helped maybe the rest of the team prepare for this tough road environment, just specifically the Green Bay and Charlotte situations?
"Tough situations I think builds a callous for a football team. We've been in a lot of situations. Been in a lot of venues and I think that helps build a callous on the football team. We've been everywhere, man. (Singing) Been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto."
Going back to I guess when you said Colin's college career, the Boise State game specifically, do you remember what you saw in that tape and you thought this guy could be the guy that could play here?
"Yes, that was one of many games that I saw him play in that was really impressed. But, that kind of stage, that kind of big game, cream rising to the top. Definitely."
Can you describe your relationship at all with Seahawks CB Richard Sherman? You coached him in college.
"Yeah, I have great memories of Richard Sherman of when we were teammates at Stanford University. And now we're adversaries, competitors. But, I still wish Richard great success and happiness in his career. I can't wish him luck this week because we're playing him. But, yeah I have great memories, fond memories, of Richard when we were teammates."
Can we just ask about Sarah Harbaugh's phone call yesterday to the radio station?
"Yeah, I heard about that. They were making quite a bit of sport of me. But, problem solved there. Well, the Levi's and the Nike and the Dickies makes a flat khaki so happy wife, happy life. As far as tucking in the shirt though. If I'm the last person that tucks in their shirt, that will be great. I will feel like an innovator."
Those don't cost $8 then?
"These Dickies cost $23. But, they were on sale that day."