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49ers rookie minicamp: Jim Harbaugh speaks

The 49ers opened their rookie minicamp on Friday. Head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media to discuss his optimism thus far.

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

The 49ers are back for more organized offseason workouts, as they welcomed their 2013 rookie class. The rookies arrived on Thursday, at which time they underwent physicals at Stanford, and had their first team meeting of their NFL career. Friday saw their first official practice, and midway through, head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media.

While the rookies are getting to know what it's like being in the NFL, Coach Harbaugh was in midseason form with the media. He kept things pretty general, and did not provide a ton of detail. A good number of questions focused on Lawrence Okoye, but that is not particularly surprising. He is a unique story, and you know the media will hammer in on that. We've already had several posts on him, and I'm sure we'll have plenty more.

It is always interesting trying to decipher what people are looking for with certain questions. Over the next few months, we'll probably see articles on every single rookie, so these Q&As provide the media with a chance to lay some groundwork.

Here is the transcript of Coach Harbaugh's media session. You can also listen to the audio.

Listen to Audio I Media Center

How did everything look out there?

"Good. Excitement's in the air. Our team got bigger. And there are more of us. But, these guys look really good. They look like football players, what it's supposed to look like. I'm very pleased."

What impresses you about WR Quinton Patton?

"So far, what you have to go on, I explained the story a couple weeks ago where he was so gung-ho to come up here on his own dime, bought his ticket. So, impressed with that enthusiasm. He just said he just wanted to get started. So, here he is starting and take your first step. A journey of a thousand steps starts with the first step. So, that's where we're at right now."

What kind of work will DL Lawrence Okoye do? Will he just get thrown into the fire? Or will it be a little bit more of an ease into the situation with him?

"Well, everybody is starting with their first step. So, he's right in there. Defensive line, special teams right now. And all of us, we've all got a long road ahead, tough road to hoe. But, we've got to be patient along the way and it starts with the first day."

How concerned are you with the fact that he hasn't played a down of professional football in his life?

"I'm excited by that fact. I'm excited and I know our coaches are. [Defensive line coach] Jim Tomsula is. The challenge for us as coaches, it's a challenge for him. And you're wanting to see him be successful. He was a rugby player until he was 18 years old, and then he just took up being a discus thrower at the age of 18. And two years later he's throwing in the Olympics. So, that bodes well. That was a shift in what he did and picked that up and did very nicely at it. I'm excited. I'm excited to walk out onto the practice field when the veterans get here with Lawrence, with [LB Corey] Lemonier, with [DT Cornellius] Tank Carradine, with [TE] Vance McDonald, with [S] Eric Reid. I'm just going to walk out with those guys and say, ‘hey guys, this is what it's supposed to look like right here.' Very excited about that."

How does it feel to finally get Eric Reid? I know you've had a relationship with him for quite a while?

"Well, we recruited Eric when we were at Stanford, and that was a great process. He didn't go to Stanford. But, in this case he didn't have a choice. And very excited to be working with him."

Have you sat down with RB Marcus Lattimore yet and talked about what your expectations are for him for this season?

"We did a really extensive medical yesterday. And what a wonderful thing it is to have Stanford University, Stanford Hospital right up the road. So, that's the first step of the process. Really knowing what we're dealing with. And everything looks good structurally with all the guys that we drafted. The ACL looks really good for Marcus. And we're going to have to take a step back in terms of some of the cutting because we want that inside of the knee, the lateral side of the knee to heal fully. But, we're good. We've talked. And our trainers are excited. We talk about us as coaches with Lawrence Okoye, our trainers, Jeff Ferguson, vice president of football operations and head trainer, is fired up to be working with Marcus Lattimore and Tank Carradine. And they're taking it as a challenge. And we have great confidence in our medical staff, trainers, doctors, and also our strength staff. So, it's Super Bowl for them. They're fired up about those guys."

Is he prepared to sit out, not play in 2013? Has that been broached with him? And is he OK if that is indeed how it plays out?

"Well, I don't think it's necessary to go through those hypotheticals yet. We're very early in the process. As we've said, we've talked to the doctors. We've got the gold standard of MRIs and evaluation on all of our players. So, I think you just take it step by step and no need to delve into those hypotheticals right now."

You have other people here besides draft picks. How does somebody like LS Kevin McDermott get chosen to join the party today?

"Through the evaluation process, what he did in college, his work leading up to the draft. We really felt that he was the best long snapping candidate in college football. And we're really pleased to have him on the squad. And he'll be in a battle of competition with the great [LS] Brian Jennings at that position. But, I think he's an excellent candidate and has the license and the opportunity to make a spot on this football team. And they'll be others. I'm really excited about the draft picks, free agents that we've signed that are on the 90-man roster. Also, there have been players that had made the 90-man and made the 53 roster that were out here on a three-day tryout. [DC] Wopamo Osaisai, who we coached over at Stanford has been playing in Canada for the last two days, we're really excited about him and his opportunity and his chances. So, there is a story with every guy. And our goal is to get our guys ready for when the veterans come in here. Give them a chance to make the football team and evaluate, because we don't want to cut anybody that's going to come back and beat us on another football team eventually. So, a lot of excitement. A lot to be done."

Is there anything special that you do with Okoye to try to bridge the knowledge gap with having not played American football before?

"Well, we have an expert in that regard, and that's Jim Tomsula, who coached in NFL Europe. He has done this a number of times. And I can't think of another coach who's coaching who's better suited to take on that challenge. And like the trainers, the challenge they have, Jim Tomsula sees that as a great challenge and he's fired up about that."

Is it a process of sitting down and watching tapes of old games, reading a rule book? What do you think it will entail to climb that learning curve?

"Well, all those teaching methods - chalk board, video, out here on the grass doing it. Like you would with any player, you teach them, you show them, tell them how to do it, and then let them do it. And then tell them what they can do a little bit better and then tell them what they did right. But, college football to pro football is a different game. There are different rules. There are different factors. So, this is new for all the players that are coming from college football."

When will he be allowed to move here and workout fulltime at the facility, Lawrence?

"Starting Monday is what I've been told. I think the only person that has to wait a week is Quinton Patton. He needs to go back after this rookie mini-camp. But, everybody else, as I understand it, will be working on Monday."

So, everybody but Quinton is here now?

"That's my understanding, yes."

Quinton's going back for graduation, or something?


Does Tank Carradine have to do the same path as Marcus? Or is he on a faster path to get back because his knee injury wasn't as severe?

"Tank is further along, but we're doing the same process. Got the same gold-standard treatment as all of our players did and a little extra, too. So, gold-plus-plus. Gold-plus-plus standard."

In terms of going to the doctor?

"Making sure everything is we know exactly where Tank is right now. And again, everything is good structurally. And now we set a plan in place and not going to get into hypotheticals, whens and things like that, day one. But, we feel good with the evaluations that took place yesterday. That everything is good structurally with all our guys."

How do you feel about Tank's role and where he'll evolve and where you see him fitting in?

"Just day one is our expectations, to have a great day one from all of our young players. And so far, so good."

You talked about giving Vance McDonald the number 89 and it worked out. Can you talk about just kind of his Mike Ditka-like qualities and discussion you may have had about his uniform number?

"He reminds me of what I saw of Mike Ditka when he played the game. I was curious to see if Mike Ditka will see some of the same similarities. And yeah, that was an exciting thing to get Vance on the team and I kind of wanted to get him in 89 and it worked out. He looks good. He looks good out here. We're really happy to have him on the team. And, we'll see. I'll let you guys be the judge and Coach Ditka if there are some similarities there."

Have you talked to Coach Ditka?

"No, I haven't. I haven't heard from him. I texted him, texted Coach. I don't know if I have the right number. I didn't get a text back."

Maybe he's not quite as excited.

"He's probably just reserving his judgment until he sees him play."

As a physical specimen, what were your first impressions of Lawrence? Pretty formidable?

"Like I said earlier, really with a lot of our guys, big, physical, strong guys. You first notice it when you shake their hands. Lawrence's, Tank's, Vance, Eric, Corey Lemonier. They engulf your hand when you shake it. And that's a good thing. And then they look like NFL players, and they're going to get even stronger and faster as they transition to the pro game. But, yeah, as it looks, we've got a good-looking team right now, already. And I think these youngsters really add to that."

Is there anything to be said about a blank canvas when it comes to Okoye that he doesn't have any bad habits or anything yet? He can be molded exactly the way Jim Tomsula wants him to be?

"I think, to use your analogy, paint a lot of analogies and examples. But, really it's a process. And we'll be patient. And think that there's a lot of great clay there to mold. So, I don't know how else to say it. I'm excited. I know Coach Tomsula's excited. Everybody in our organization is excited to see it play out. And we'll do everything in our power to give him a chance to be successful."

Are you generally optimistic this time of year?

"Generally optimistic?"

Yeah, this time of year?

"All times of the year, yeah. I've always tried to keep a positive approach."