San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media on Wednesday for his first press conference of Kansas City Chiefs week. Naturally, he got a lot of early questions about Chiefs QB Alex Smith. However, Coach Harbaugh also discussed Travis Kelce, Patrick Willis and Michael Wilhoite's work together, and the 49ers secondary. Here's a transcript of the media session.
Is this different, just the preparation in any way, facing somebody at the quarterback position that you know so well?
"To some degree it is. I think about it. When we start talking about the scouting report and it's [Chiefs QB] Alex [Smith]. So, yeah, in some ways it is."
Do you get involved at all more than you might with the defensive side of it because you know his strengths and weaknesses so well?
"No, I haven't."
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio hasn't asked you questions?
"I think we're all aware that Alex has got a lot of strengths and understanding that he's capable throwing the ball, running the ball. We'll probably see more running out of the quarterback than we did a week ago, et cetera. Vic was around Alex a lot, too. We have great respect for his game."
Are they doing more running with him than you guys did with him?
"I wouldn't say it's any more or less. They're utilizing his ability very well."
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was saying that prior to the trade you and he had a conversation and you spoke very highly of Alex Smith. Did that occur at the combine and do you remember exactly where it took place and what you said to Andy Reid at the time?
"I think it was at the combine. I'm not sure. It could have been the owner's meetings. I'm not sure which it was. Just to the effect of, ‘You're going to love Alex Smith.' And he was very excited at the time to have him and that's what I remember from the conversation. I think it was the owner's meetings"
Have you seen his game progress at all since he's joined Kansas City or changed since he's been here?
"You know, I have never seen Alex Smith not be good. Right from the time we were with him, how he's playing now. He's just always been a very good quarterback."
It must've been a difficult decision to make. Did you think about the locker room at that time? All of the guys who had been with Alex Smith for so many years and were friends with him before making that decision. How did that dynamic play into your decision?
"Well, that's going back quite a ways there. I think we thoroughly discussed that as it was happening and now it's the ballgame this week, the competitiveness of this week. And I'm sure it does add to it, adds to the competitiveness, the fact that Alex played here."
Let me ask you just one follow-up. Answer it if you want to. Were you impressed by how the locker room handled it? It seemed like it was something that some people didn't really like, but they still kind of went on with their business and you guys ended up winning a big game in New Orleans?
Obviously you've gone all in with QB Colin Kaepernick. But what validates it now? It's almost two years later after the trade. What validates you making, the organization making the trade and you guys knowing, ‘You know what? We did the right thing here by going with Colin and trading Alex to a different team?'"
"Never been a big fan of comparisons. Colin's play has spoken for itself."
Any updates on TE Vernon Davis and some of the other guys this week? T Anthony Davis?
"As the day progresses today, we'll know more. We'll know more today than we did yesterday. We'll know tomorrow more than we know today. Right now it's day-to-day."
On Friday, TE Vance McDonald said he went through a nice conditioning and felt he was ready to go. Was he physically able to play in that game Sunday?
"No. Not in the opinions of the trainers and the doctors."
Going back to Alex one more time, what's your relationship with him today? Do you guys talk? How is it between you two?
"It's very good. Anytime you do the very best you can, I know Alex did the very best he could when he played here and he did great. We felt the exact same way. And when you do your best, you look back and you feel good about what you accomplished. That's the very nature of giving it your very best. Therefore, you can look back and feel good about the things that you accomplished. Very happy for his success. Not rooting for success for him this week, but always very happy for his success, almost all the time, for Alex Smith's success. This week not included."
A lot of people called Alex Smith a game manager. Is that a pejorative term, is that an accurate term?
"No. Not an accurate term. He's a football player."
The challenge of stopping Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles, what do you see from him this season and how big of a threat is he and what types of things are you looking for your defense to stop him this week?
"One of the top backs. Great speed back, elusive back, power back. Tremendous hands. Got all the feel and instinct of a tremendous back. Real feel in the screen game. Just A-plus across the board. Big challenge for us this week."
Did Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce catch your eye in that game the other night?
What stood out about him to you?
"Big, physical. He's a big target. He's got a very good catch radius."
They matched him up against smaller guys. They tried to split him wide against cornerbacks and whatnot. Is that a big challenge for your guys this week?
"Sure is. And we've been playing some big receivers as you know. We're getting some work in that area."
You've had four games to watch LB Patrick Willis and LB Michael Wilhoite work together. What have you seen from that working relationship?
"Both played really good in the game Sunday. There really wasn't anybody on our defense who played bad. Nobody. Everybody played good. Those two in particular, played a lot of snaps. Playing good together, playing good team defense. Always felt that good team defense starts with those two guys up the middle and the nose tackle and the safety. Similar to baseball - the catcher, the pitcher, the shortstop, the second baseman and the centerfielder. And Michael Wilhoite also showed some real good pass rush in this past game. His timing, his tempo, his feel on that was extremely good."
Once CB Tramaine Brock comes back, it seems like CB Perrish Cox has played quite well in subbing for him, do you have to find a way to keep Perrish on the field more than maybe than you had anticipated before the season began?
"We thought Perrish coming into the season had tremendous value to our football team. Like the way he's playing, very much so. It bodes well for our football team."
Does this game have a sense of like a rivalry because there's so much personnel that's been involved? Over the years, I mean, so many 49ers quarterbacks have gone on over to play in Kansas City. Does the locker room, do you have a feel of that all that there's more to this game than, say, another matchup?
"I've got a sense that our team is very focused. Anticipating really good practice today and meetings. We're already off to a real good start. They understand how good the Kansas City Chiefs are. We understand it's a big game, big challenge ahead of us, big task. Our guys are on to Kansas City and preparing."
When you watched their performance last week, were you surprised at what you saw?
"No, wasn't surprised. They're an outstanding football team. Played tremendous football on all sides of the ball."