We got a whole bunch of little surprises on today's 49ers practice participation report. As posted earlier, Braylon Edwards is out after a procedure on his knee and is "out for a little bit." If it's like Reggie Smith it's two to four weeks, but as Tre9er said earlier, we don't really know at this point and likely won't know until he's practicing again. For now, Coach Harbaugh indicated Michael Crabtree would most likely be active on Sunday, so it remains to be seen if the 49ers add a wide receiver in free agency.
There were two other significant names on the injury report. Moran Norris is officially out for Sunday's game and will not be participating in practice due to a fibula issue. That likely means Bruce Miller will be inserted into the lineup at fullback. It will be interesting to see how well he performs and whether maybe we have our own little Wally Pipp action at fullback.
The other name of note on the report was Alex Smith who was listed as a full participant in practice but at some point before today suffering a concussion. There was no indication after Sunday's game that he had suffered a concussion, but apparently something happened. I'm going to go back through the game tape and see if anything out of the ordinary appears. I took a look at the last sack he suffered in overtime and nothing struck me as particularly rough when Ratliff took him down.
For comparisons sake, Michael Vick suffered a concussion against the Falcons and while he participated in a walkthrough earlier today he did not otherwise participate in practice.
After the jump I've posted Coach Harbaugh's transcript.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - September 21, 2011
San Francisco 49ers
Listen to Audio I Media Center
The decision to stay in Youngstown, what went into that? Why are you guys doing that?
"Some different reasons. The two back-to-back east coast games, number one, take the air travel out of it, some of the jet lag out of that. Also, I feel like we have a team that enjoys each other's company. This is a chance for them to be close to each other all week leading up to a big game. Also, families that are in the mid-west and east coast, let them be around and be a part of it."
Do you think there is something to be gained from that, like the typical training camp going away, off-site, sort of bonding?
"Yes, somewhat. That being around each other, camaraderie."
Why Youngstown in particular? Why not Columbus or Cleveland?
"Ownership is from there and have good connections. We'll have first class treatment at Youngstown State facility, factoring in. So that's the reason for Youngstown."
Is one of the factors that this team hasn't played well on the Eastern time zone over the years, is that one of the factors that goes into this also? Where maybe it's a positive that you get your body clock's adjusted?
"Yeah, that's one of the factors. Trying to pull out all the stops and I thought there were enough positives to it that it warranted doing it."
You worked out Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton, right? Generally, what did you think of him?
"Impressed. Very good football player, great college career. He's doing an excellent job right now."
When you looked at him, was he a guy you figured could play pretty quickly in the NFL among the group of quarterbacks in this draft?
"Yeah, we had a high evaluation of him."
What does your receiving corps look like this week with questions of WR Braylon Edwards and maybe WR Michael Crabtree?
"What does it look like this week?"
Healthy? Not healthy?
"Yes, some are healthy and some won't be this week. We'll go through the week, but yes, some healthy and some not."
How's Braylon's knee?
"He's going to be out for a little bit."
Any guess on how long?
"No. I'd hate to speculate."
Getting back to Dalton, the conventional thinking is that this year in particular it would be hard to get rookies up to speed in time, yet you see a lot of them starting and playing well across the NFL. Is there something different that is happening either at the NFL level or the college level where you see them better prepared to make an impact right away?
"Something that's happening compared to other years?"
Yeah, in the past.
"There's been guys that have started their rookie year pretty consistently I think for the past 10, 15, 20 years."
But this many?
"I think you get a couple a year, play early, last year was that way."
I guess what I'm asking is, are they coming in better prepared to play in the NFL than perhaps in previous years? Is the college game different now because of the NFL game?
"I think there's a couple different factors going on there. A few different factors. One, maybe the college game is spreading it out, more throwing in the college game is contributing to that. More teams than there were 40, 30 years ago. More of a mentality before free agency to draft quarterbacks and groom them for one, two, or three years. I think there are multiple factors there."
Are rookie quarterbacks more susceptible to getting rattled by a pass rush?
"I think it depends on the quarterback that's playing. These guys that play quarterback, that earn a starting quarterback in the National Football League are not easy guys to rattle. You don't earn a position like that if you're an easy guy to rattle."
What have you thought of your pass rush? You had five sacks your first game and you got one against Dallas QB Tony Romo but you also broke his ribs obviously, so what's your evaluation?
"I didn't break his ribs. I blocked and tackled nobody. Assessment of the pass rush was good, very good. They got some hurries, they got the sack, they got pressures, they got to the Dallas quarterbacks and were close at other times, breathing distance from them."
Is DT Justin Smith run into double teams most of the time?
"No, not most of the time. When we're in a three-man rush then he would be. Four-man rush, that happens occasionally. Not so much in the five and six man rush."
CB Shawntae Spencer hasn't had really any playing time and Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio said last week he wasn't in football playing shape, is he closer to that? Do you expect him to play more against Cincinnati?
"Definitely a possibility. He's been working his way back on the practice field, working hard, it's something that could happen."
Will Crabtree be active?
Is LB Aldon Smith a guy that you just have to see drop into coverage before you can get him some significant snaps at a time or is he just a pass rusher right now?
"I wouldn't say that he's limited to that. Same thing we've said from the beginning, it was a process he's going through converting from a defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the NFL. He's doing very well."
On the depth chart, S Dashon Goldson is still listed as the free safety. Is that his job when he's healthy?
"Is it his job? Those are earned, who's practicing better and who's playing better."
With that in mind, will both he and Shawntae get that opportunity this week to earn their spot?
"Definitely they'll get an opportunity, yes."
With Edwards out for a little bit, will you make any moves, any additions at wide receiver?
Let me ask you another question about Michael Crabtree. He was injured on artificial surface; do you have to consider artificial surfaces different with him now in terms of playing time, practice versus grass?
"I think we have to keep a close eye and monitor, as our doctors and training staff and coaches have."
QB Alex Smith's high completion percentage and low number of attempts and yards. Is that a result of the fact that you guys have gotten off to a lead or is it just how you envision the offense running best?
"Well, we envision the offense running at a high level. That's what we envision and that's what we're working towards. Now we've got to keep at it and stick to our guns. We're not changing, we're improving. Do we have to coach better? Do we have to play better? Yes."
I would assume that you believe Alex has played at a high level?
"Yeah. Tough son of a gun. He was making some big time plays. I think we talked about it after each of these games, definitely watch the tape and see the same thing. Pleased with the way Alex is playing and we definitely want to play better. He wants to, we want to, and that goes for all positions on the offensive side of the ball, and include coaching in that. We're striving to do it all better."
Have you been following the conference realignment chaos in the recent days and what's your take on all this?
"I have no take. Are you talking about the college conference realignments?"
Yeah, I was just curious of what your observations of all that are.
"To be honest with you, I really don't know about a lot of what's going on in the world. Sometimes I just go up to people and ask them ‘what's going on in the world? Is there any new news? Anything happening? Any earthquakes anywhere or natural disasters? Stock market, I have no idea.' Conference realignment, same."
Did you have a chance to talk to TE Vernon Davis yet about his frustration? What can you share with us about what happened?
"Yeah. Not really going to share much. It's a two-way conversation and it was just about football. It wasn't about frustration or anything else that you'd categorize. We talked. Talk to a lot of players every day."
Nothing about the way, the vehicle he used to voice his frustration after the game?
"Conversations are two-way, me and him."
Obviously the Niners have not been a great road time for several years. Besides having better talent, what goes in to being a good road team in the NFL? Is there something mentality-wise or anything you can address a little bit going forward?
"You got to be good. You have to pack all units for the road trip, offense, defense, special teams. You've go to play with a lot of poise and understand what you're doing, especially in the chaos of a road game. You win games because you deserve to win them. You prepare for them, you practice for them, and get motivated to go play them."
When you were with the Chargers, did you notice in your own body, in your teammates, that the eastern games were tougher than when you were in Chicago and weren't going three time zones over?
"I can't really say that I did. Kind of try to do what you can, sleep and get plenty of rest and when it's time to play the game, go play the game."
Does Braylon need surgery?
"Braylon had a little procedure done, yes."
Is there a quarterback stat that you circle, one that you follow carefully when you're evaluating a guy?
I figured that one. Other than that one?
"Completion percentage is big. Third down efficiency. Touchdowns, interceptions. They're all standards, but winning is the one over arching goal that you want to see the quarterback contribute to."
At the end of regulation, the Cowboys let the clock tick all the way down, with a couple seconds before they were to kick the game time field goal. Did you consider taking a timeout there?
"In regulation? No, I felt like taking a timeout there would give them another chance to try to get the ball closer. Felt like the distance they were kicking at, we had a good shot to either block it or if they missed it."