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Jim Harbaugh talks Chris Borland, Chris Culliver, DEA inspection, more

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had plenty to discuss on Monday, following the team's win over the New York Giants. There was extended questioning about the DEA's inspection of the training staff, but plenty of other interesting discussion. We've got a transcript for you.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Opening comments:

"I'd like to congratulate the University of San Diego Toreros for making the FCS playoffs for the first time in school history. Congratulations to [head coach] Dale Lindsey and [University of San Diego associate director of athletics for business] Dan Yourg [University of San Diego executive director of athletics] and Ky Snyder and all the players and all the staff there. That was a dream that we all had playing and coaching there at USD. Dream realized. Wonderful, wonderful. We'll be following and pulling hard for the Toreros in the FCS playoffs."

I forgot to talk about this after the game, but after having had a chance to look at the film, what do you think about LB Aldon Smith's impact? Seemed like he played well in his time out there.

"He did some good things. Powered some blockers back into the quarterback. He was close and definitely put pressure on the quarterback. Think the quarterback felt him, as he did our pass rush. There's some football snaps and taking on live blockers. There will be things to grow from in that regard. And I think the instincts will be honed quickly and the reflexes will come back very quickly."

Were you impressed at how well he played considering the nine-game suspension? He didn't look that rusty. He looked like he was ready to go.

"In a lot of ways. I think there's a lot of ways to grow, too. But remember, he was in training camp, offseason, et cetera. Much like last year, there were games that were missed and this year the same. Didn't know exactly how it would be but he was on his assignments and very good. Acquitted himself very well."

Somebody's going to ask the LB Ahmad Brooks question. And I saw a couple of stories on the wires and I saw your quote that, ‘We're working it out'. Is it worked out?

"Yes. We've addressed it and had those conversations. Onward."

Can you be specific? When you say you had the conversations?

"Yeah, I can be specific. I can be very specific. It's something I don't want to share with you or share publicly."

Do you expect him to play this week, though?


What's the status of DL Glenn Dorsey moving forward and also LB NaVorro Bowman, I believe you have to make a decision with him bytomorrow? Is that right?

"It will be our intent to open the window for NaVorro tomorrow, along with [TE] Garrett Celek, [T] Brandon Thomas and [CB Keith] Reaser as well, those four. Now, how much all four of those will be able to do remains to be seen. Definitely don't think Brandon Thomas and Reaser, they're not going to be full-go, they're not going to be practicing but they can take advantage of some walkthrough, some limited individual drills. There won't be much as compared to Celek. Garrett, I think, he'll be able to practice. He's much further along and ready to go. And then with NaVorro, we'll see where he falls and how much he can do, but it'll be somewhere in that spectrum."

Do you expect him to practice this week? Are you optimistic?

"We'll see, yeah. I know two of the guys won't be able to practice. I think one will. And NaVorro will fall somewhere in that spectrum."

I don't expect you to answer this one but let's give it a shot. In what ways does QB Colin Kaepernick need to improve to become an elite NFL quarterback?

"I know a lot of people stress about that."

I'm not stressed. I'm just inquiring.

"OK, you're inquiring. A lot of people inquire about that. A lot of people, some pontificate on the subject. For us, we're living in the moment. That's the great thing about being human beings. You're always in the moment. For us, that's preparing to play the Washington Redskins. That's trying to improve, build, build, build our football team and get stronger in all areas. And that's our focus. That's where we concern ourselves with."

Sure. I've had a lot of people not answer questions of mine. That was one of the best that you just did. That was clever and philosophical. I like it.

"Wasn't trying to be clever. I have a hard time even spelling philosophical. So, I wasn't trying to be that. Just being honest. That's what we have to concern ourselves with."

How far has CB Chris Culliver come in your mind? Maturity on-and-off the field, perhaps? I saw him run the interception ball right up to you and embrace you. What have you seen from him?

"It is a special friendship that we have. Him as a player, he's always been extremely competitive. A very talented individual. He's playing his best football right now. It's great to see that in his execution, in his effort, in his talent. I just love the competitive nature that he plays with. He competes like a maniac. And he's doing it in a physical way. That's important to our football team - to be physical. And to do that from the corner position is really good. You're playing with 11 tacklers out there when your corners are physical like safeties are. That's the way he plays the game. Was in on some great, important plays in the game. Covering the deep ball there in the fourth quarter, covering part of the goal-line stand and quite a few others. You look back to the Saints game and he set the tone physically with his tackle early in the game. Plus, plus, plus for Chris right now."

When you watch LB Aaron Lynch and Aldon Smith rush together on the field, is it very similar, their body-type? When you watch them compete, do they look like LB Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman in the way that they're very complimentary in their skill sets?

"Yes, they're definitely...physically they look somewhat alike. I hate to compare them though, two players. Aaron's coming along very nicely. You don't like to put yourself on somebody else's dance floor, if you will. He's doing a very good job. There's one play that really jumped out. [Giants QB] Eli Manning had faked the run-action and was booting to his right and Aaron played strong down on the tackle, he had contain. And then, you could just see him burst, a real change in acceleration. That jumped out. That jumped out that he has got that kind of talent, he's got that kind of instinct to do that. So, it's going good and just coming. Just keep coming. That's the message to him every day."

Has this been a more challenging season for you to coach this year?

"No, I don't like to compare. I really don't. Don't compare anything. Compare one player to another or compare one team to a prior team. Somebody always gets diminished."

Is that a yes or no?

"I don't like to compare. I don't like to compare."

What has linebackers coach Jim Leavitt meant to this linebacking crew, especially when you have some new faces working in there regularly? Have you met many more people more enthusiastic than this guy?

"Not many more, no. He's at the highest level for enthusiasm, love of the game. You see how he interacts with his players. He loves them. They love him. He has a lot of fun. You see it in the individual drills when you're out covering the team. Just an excitement for him being out on the grass, coaching. It's consistent every day. There's not an up and down with coach Leavitt and there's a real excitement for him. He's coached two great players in NaVorro and Patrick and now to see what he's doing with [LB] Michael Wilhoite and [LB] Chris Borland. That's at the highest level kind of coaching."

Borland has been really impressive. What do you see in him? What do you like about him?

"I've loved him since I first started watching him play. As the draft process was going on, you're watching every game that he plays. It's just ‘football player.' And throughout that process, I know he's got some fans and he's got family and lots of brothers and people back in Dayton, Ohio, that admire him, but I feel like I'm at least tied for first in the Chris Borland fan club. And I felt that way when we were evaluating him and drafting him and since he's been here. What does he do? He's got great instincts. He's got a great ability to take coaching. He's got a great knack for the football. He's moving a step ahead. It's like the great baseball players that are moving at the crack of the bat. He's moving before, a step before some other players that have played this game for a very long time. The way he's able to dip. The way he has a knack for the football. It's like a thief in the night. He'll come steal your football from you. And he's so physical. You can see when he takes on the lead blocker that there is some rattling of fillings. And then sometimes he'll just go by him. He'll just slip past him. He had a great move, tackle for a loss in this past game. It was a classic NaVorro Bowman move, where linebacker is filling, fullback is getting ready to lead on NaVorro, and in this case Chris Borland, and he just disregards taking on the blocker, goes right past him and makes the tackle in the backfield for a three-yard loss. You can probably find the play I'm describing, but that's a classic NaVorro Bowman move. Excellent job of incorporating that into his game. So many things."

That was almost a comparison.

"Almost." [Laughter]

What did you think of the DEA officials showing up after the game? That's obviously not a normal postgame occurrence.

"Haven't thought anything about it. I don't know anything about it. Don't know anything about it. I did see where my name was, I was linked with walking out with Dr. [Tim] McAdams and I were supposedly walking out of the locker room together. I don't know anything about that either. I walked out with my wife, Sarah [Harbaugh], and my daughter, Addie [Harbaugh], and I think [49ers director of communications] Bob Lange was next to us too. But was Dr. McAdams with us? ‘What's your point?' I know nothing."

What did you think of the issue when you were a player? Did you take pain killers often? Did you ever worry that would be an issue or a health concern long-term?

"I love the questions, ‘when you were a player.' I've forgotten half of my life from when I was a player."

What's the status on Glenn Dorsey? Is he going to remain on IR or are you guys going to activate him?

"We'll look to activate him."

Why do you think they picked San Francisco? They said it was at random, these drug tests. Would you care to speculate as to why they might have picked you and these other teams in particular? Would it have been that they were in large markets? Apparently there media that was alerted about this? Was there anything to suspect in this locker room? Have you ever seen anything like this in locker rooms?

"No, I have not. And to speculate, I don't know. I have no idea."

How do you respond to the fact that they even came to the 49ers? Do you take that personally?

"I don't know anything about it. So, it's hard to take anything personally."

You never saw them?

"No. I didn't see them."

Nobody's saying anything about it inside the team today? Nobody's told you anything about it? You've got to know something about it.

"I don't know anything about it. I don't. Is there a follow-up there? Do you want to follow-up on something there? I don't want to make the impression that Bob's cutting anything off here."

Well, it's just everybody's talking about it.


Well, everybody that follows the NFL. There were columns this morning talking about how the NFL has been ignoring the pain problem for decades, for generations. There are ex-players coming out. There's a lawsuit saying that they've had health complications because of this.

"We're an open book in those regards. So, any kind of scrutiny, any questions, we're an open book there."

Your defense, for all that it's gone through in the last two-three weeks or you know injuries, what can you say about what this unit has accomplished given all of the different faces moving in and out?

"Well, we're still in it. We're still biting and clawing and scratching and building. But, it's been admirable. Guys are acquitting themselves extremely well. And there's good play in so many different areas. I mean, [S] Antoine Bethea has been a rock for our defense. [S] Eric Reid an interception yesterday, making tackles and plays all over the field. The two defensive tackles, [DT] Ray McDonald, [DT] Justin Smith, did a fabulous job. Really covered up some holes that would have been some bigger gains in the running game. [DT] Quinton Dial did some very nice things. [DT] Tank Carradine got in and made a real good play. Young [CB] Dontae Johnson the red zone play there at the end, outstanding. [CB] Perrish Cox. We talked about Chris Culliver. Just some real good play and they're playing well together, playing extremely well together."

Why do you think all the stuff that's happened hasn't really hurt the defense? The losing players, injuries, why do you think it hasn't had the negative effect that you might expect?

"Guys stepping up, playing football."

Does that say something about the way you guys practice and prepare the backups around here to be ready at a moment's notice?

"Like I said, we're still in it. We're still fighting and nobody's gonna hurt their arm patting ourselves on the back or each other. We're still fighting and preparing, so keep going that way. And the last thing I said, in terms of being an open book, all medications are documented to my knowledge. Any medication that we have those are checked, inventoried. Any kind of medication that's given out is documented. So, it's an open book."

Just a question, a general question, what do you think is the difference in the public perception of pain management in the NFL and the reality of how it's dealt with?

"I can't say that I know that for sure."

When you say it's documented like that, was it not in the past? I know you don't recall all of your playing days, but do you recall it not being inventoried that way?

"I don't know when it started. But, I know our trainer [49ers vice president of football operations] Jeff Ferguson spends a lot of time in terms of documentations and inventory because I've heard him tell me that he spends a lot of time. A lot of paperwork there. A lot of paperwork and documenting and inventorying."

And you couldn't hazard a guess to why they picked you guys?

"No. There were others, right? Maybe you can hazard a guess."

There were others. Well it's my job to ask you the question.

"Hey, we love it. I mean, that's oversight and documentation and sounds like you have a little better handle on what's taking place than I do."

They didn't ask you any questions?

"No. Don't know anything about it."

How did you find out about it?

"I read about it. Remember, I said I was supposedly walking with the doctor."

Do players play in pain or do they take medication?

"We're going to start talking about all players and every kind of ..."

Let's talk about your personal experience. You played quarterback in the NFL. Heck, I've got to take an aspirin to go play golf on Sundaymorning or an anti whatever you call it.

"Anti-inflammatory? Aspirin, etcetera."

Yeah. But, I mean from what we hear there's bigger stuff than that. Is it expected of a player to do that, to take that stuff?

"No. No, there's no expectation of that."

If it's suggested to a player and he doesn't take it, what's the response?

"It's not suggested."

It is not?


Even with a 53-man roster and people waiting, isn't there pressure on a player to--?

"As I said, I made my point. I think we've plowed this ground about as thoroughly as we can plow it. It's been plowed, it's been seeded and now it's grown. It's well documented. We're an open book in terms of how we catalog and how we dispense."