The San Francisco 49ers are off for Seattle, but before they left, head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media to wrap up the practice week. Coach Harbaugh was as loose as I've ever seen him in a final game-week press conference. Normally by the end of the week he's fairly tight and not looking to talk much. This time, he was loose, joking and having a fairly good time. You can watch video HERE, and the transcript is below.
He discussed plenty about the game, but the highlights of the press conference had to be his discussion of a race horse, and his endorsement of Colin Kaepernick's Beats by Dre commercial.
The race horse came up when someone asked him if he knew about a horse named "Harbaugh" that was racing at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday. Harbaugh said Tom Rathman had mentioned something to him because Coach Rathman is a fan of the ponies. Harbaugh was told the horse was 10/1 for his race. Naturally, Coach Harbaugh said "Better not underestimate him. He likes being underestimated. He'll use that as long as he can. I'm sure. Is it a he, or a she?"
The other great comment was at the end. It's not in the transcript, but without being asked, he said that he enjoyed Colin Kaepernick's Beats by Dre commercial. He felt the song was a "toe-tapper", and that he was going to get himself a pair of them. Amusing stuff. Check out the video for more.
Why take off today to Seattle because you guys normally go the day before for a West Coast trip?
"Actually, some of the guys suggested it. Some of the players felt that was the way to go, and pulsed the team and we all came to that conclusion. That was the best thing for us."
Can you say who it was that came to you with that?
"It was some of the leaders, [RB] Frank [Gore], [DT] Justin [Smith], [LB] Patrick [Willis], [LB] NaVorro [Bowman]."
It was their argument that they were in a nice pattern right now and might as well stick to that pattern?
"Yep, stay together. Be together an extra day. And it's been, the majority of our road trips have been that. Well really, the only games that we don't do that are Seattle and Arizona. So, it's a departure in one way and in another way it's the same as what we do."
Did you mix in any Seattle bands with their music today during the practice? And how effective do you think that can be to get guys ready for that environment?
"I feel like our team is ready. Excited to go play this game. Prepared to play this game. And unless I've drastically misread our team, we're ready to play."
Obviously, you guys have been on the road a ton. Do you still think your team is fresh? Do you sense that they're not wearied by the journeys back and forth across the country?
"Well, A - I would say that you don't strive to be fresh. You strive to be hardened, and a callous built up. B - they've got this brand-new invention that's made it really good for us, called the airplane."
When was that? I thought you guys were just going to take the train up there.
"You're on it and you're there. You're back. It's a wonderful new invention."
Does the team seem relatively loose this week and has experience in previous conference championship games prepared them for this one?
"The team, as I've said, you have my quote on that, I feel like we're ready to go."
I've got a hard-hitting question for you. There's a horse named Harbaugh running at Golden Gate Fields tomorrow, in the $100,000 California derby. Are you aware of that horse? And your thoughts on that honor?
"[Running backs coach] Tom Rathman told me that. This may have been a month or two ago. He said that there was a horse named Harbaugh that he thought was going to be running at the Kentucky Derby. Tom's a big fan of the horses and the Kentucky Derby."
It's going off at 10 to 1.
"Better not underestimate him. He likes being underestimated. He'll use that as long as he can. I'm sure. Is it a he, or a she?"
I'll get back to you on that.
You and the Seahawks seem to enjoy playing against each other. You seem to enjoy challenging each other in these games. And in an era where the NFL's trying to do a little bit more finesse-type game, you guys seem to really enjoy the physical contact of that, playing against each other. As a football guy, does that hearten you, that it's this kind of game? Do you embrace that?
"Yes, we embrace that. We're about that. There are other teams though, that are very physical football teams and tough teams. And I can honestly tell you I didn't see a lot of finesse teams that we played this year. There were a lot of hard-nosed teams that we played. But, to your point, I do believe that players like to play in these kinds of games. Big games, a lot on the line, stakes are high and competition is keen. So, why wouldn't you want to play in that, as a player? How does it get any better than that? It's going to be a lot of fun, a lot of fun for all those players."
Piggybacking off that, the last three trips you guys have gone up there, you've had some pretty serious injuries with NT Ian Williams and WR Mario Manningham, TE Vernon Davis got knocked out of a game, former 49ers WR Kyle Williams and former 49ers TE Delanie Walker. Does that weigh on these guys' minds at all, or do you want them to block it out? Just some of the past instances of the injuries up there?
"It hasn't been mentioned. I haven't heard any of the fellas talk about that."
CB Carlos Rogers yesterday said that he expected to play. And that he expects he'll mostly be in that nickel role. After today at practice, is that the same plan going forward?
"It's a very good possibility. He seemed to have a pep in his step today."
The news out of Seattle is that WR Percy Harvin will not be able to play in this game. What's your reaction to that?
"I already reacted to that. Took that information in, and I don't have any outward reaction about it."
RB Frank Gore and also WR Anquan Boldin were fined for what happened on Sunday. What do you think about those fines? Do you think they're just?
"Who were the two names?"
Anquan and Frank Gore. I think Frank was fined for grabbing a facemask trying to block, and I think that Boldin was fined for the head-butt that wasn't penalized.
"That's the first I've heard of it. I haven't even had any time to process it - just four or five seconds. So, I don't have any reaction to it."
Will you guys go through walk through practice tomorrow at Centurylink Field, or will it be elsewhere?
"We've got a plan. We've got a plan for what we're doing tomorrow. I don't want to give any information. Where we'll be. When we'll be there."
Have you figured out what you would not give up to play in this game?
"No, but somebody had asked me, might have been [San Francisco Chronicle writer] Eric [Branch], or maybe it was [San Jose Mercury News columnist] Mark [Purdy], what's the most profound question that Frank Gore had ever asked me. And I did give it some thought. Maybe the fourth or fifth game coming back from Philadelphia in 2011, it might have been coming back from Detroit in 2011. Frank had come back to where I was sitting on the plane. It's something that's become kind of an every flight thing, where he comes back and talks to me, which I enjoy immensely. But, that particular time, he came back and he said, [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] ‘G-Ro's the best coach I've ever had.' And some other things, but, ‘G-Ro's the best. I wish I would have had G-Ro earlier in my career.' And I think that stands out as the most profound thing, that he realized that very early on. Our offense was just in its starting out stage, and was just starting to have an identity."
You mentioned obviously how much it would mean to you to be able to play in a game like this before. I came across a quote of yours a couple months after you lost to the Steelers with the Colts. When you said one of the emotions that you felt after that game was joy just because that game was so much fun to be in. Do you remember that? And it seemed like it was such a devastating loss. Joy doesn't seem like it would be the emotion. But, what was that about?
"I remember feeling the great joy of competing. Also, that was right after the game. I really felt there would be other days. And as it turned out, there were no other days. That was the only day."
Having played in a conference championship and coached in it, as far as Saturday night goes, what do you want your players to be thinking about Saturday night before they go to bed? Where do you want their minds to be at?
"I'd like their heads to hit the pillow and believe that they had done everything that they could have done to prepare for this game. And then get a great night's sleep."
You mentioned Roman. Think back on that last staff of yours at Stanford. You had obviously Vic Fangio, Greg Roman, David Shaw, Pep Hamilton, Derek Mason just got the Vanderbuilt job. Did you realize at the time you had a bunch of possible star coaches on that staff?
"I really, truly believe being a coach's son the way I am, having a dad who coached for 42 years, that's all I was ever around as a youngster. The adults were coaches and friends of my parents or acquaintances, or professionals that he worked with. And then as a player, all I ever had was coaches. I think I have a real good skill for picking great coaches. And that's been a real talent of mine, I believe. And it was that way at [the University of San Diego] USD, it was that way at Stanford, and it's certainly the way it is here."
Is there a common theme for what you look for when you hire coaches?
"Maybe we can get into that sometime. But, I really believe it's been a good skill. Probably from upbringing You just know it. You know a good one when you see one I think."
Has it been bittersweet these last couple of seasons, the more you guys advance in the playoffs diminishes your assistants' chances of getting head jobs, which has happened again this year with a possible exception in maybe Cleveland?
"Yes. It's hard to believe that Greg Roman, or Vic Fangio, or Brad Seely, and then there are others. But, those three for sure. I've been around a lot of coaches. Those are great coaches. Those coaches are better coaches than I am. And then we have others. [Secondary coach] Ed Donatell, [defensive line coach] Jim Tomsula and other coaches that are coming along as well. So, it'll happen. And maybe that is the explanation, that we've done so well and the timing has not been right. But, certainly wouldn't want to change that. But, it'll happen. There will be a smart club out there that gets it right."