San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Wednesday afternoon as the team continued preparations for their matchup with the Saints this Sunday. The press conference came shortly after Marcus Lattimore announced his plans to retire from football. Harbaugh got a few questions about it, and had a chance to discuss Lattimore's impact on the 49ers.
After that, someone asked if the team was planning on staying in Youngstown, OH in between the Saints game and the Week 11 matchup with the New York Giants. The 49ers have done that in the past for extended 2-game road trips. Normally it involves a game in the upper midwest, and then a game on the east coast. In this case, the 49ers are going down south to Louisiana, then to New Jersey.
Earlier this week, Trent Baalke suggested Youngstown was still an option, or at least that it would be discussed. It sounds like discussions have been had, and the team is likely headed back to the Bay Area after the game. The early start means the 49ers can be back to Santa Clara at a fairly reasonable hour Sunday evening. That allows players to spend the week in their own beds as they then begin preparations for the Giants.
Just got the word, of course, that RB Marcus Lattimore has told the team he plans to retire. What are your thoughts on his decision and how much did he seek council from you during that time?
"We discussed it last week, over the weekend, et cetera. Respect his decision. I have a lot of good feeling about Marcus Lattimore. He gave it his best shot. Great kid, young man. Team gave it the best shot. With regards to football, you give it your very best that way you can feel good about what you accomplished, whatever that may be. Feel like he gave it his very best."
Do you feel that, even though he didn't play for you guys, didn't practice too much, that you guys got something in return from him just having him around?
"Yes. There's a trusting, lasting friendship there."
With regards to his knee, was it just a matter of it wasn't going to be able to function at an NFL level? Did he come to that conclusion or did the medical staff come to that conclusion?
"Yeah, I think that was his thoughts. To sum it up, he didn't feel like that it was something that he could do or would be able to do."
Do you think he made enough of an impact on teammates where they're going to kind of use this as a rallying point that they're going to play for Marcus?
"I think he made an impact on our organization, our staff, our coaches, our players, all of us. I wish him great success in his future endeavors and challenges. Like I said, it's a trusting, lasting friendship with Marcus."
Is he still in the Bay Area or did he go back to South Carolina?
"I think that's his intentions, to go back to South Carolina. But I know his family had flown in over the weekend."
49ers general manager Trent Baalke on Monday said that you guys haven't totally ruled out the possibility of practicing next week in Youngstown. Does that remain a possibility of going to New Orleans and just staying in that time zone?
"It's something we're considering. [49ers CEO] Jed [York] has made that available if that's something that we feel as an organization that we'd like to do."
Have you talked to the players?
"Yeah. We're considering all things."
And when would you guys make that decision or have you made that decision?
"Unless something changes, we're going to come back here after the New Orleans game. The game's at 12 o'clock. We'll be back to the Bay Area around 6 or 7 [p.m.], so, 8 [p.m.] at the latest. Talking to the people we've talked to, feel like that's the best thing right now. But as I said, Jed's made that available. If that's something we change our thoughts on, then we have the ability to do that."
When you say players you've talked to, is that veteran leaders on the team?
"Mhm. [Director of elite performance] Fergus Connolly, others."
You talked on Monday about wanting to discuss some things with the team in the meeting yesterday before talking about it publicly. How did the meetings go? What did you see when you looked at your guys eye-to-eye about their commitment to try to improve and correct the things that went wrong on Sunday?
"As we said, that's a standard principle. That's a normal thing every week. We talk here, media on Monday and then our team comes inon Tuesday."
How'd you feel about just the whole stuff, getting the pulse of the team at that meeting yesterday?
What do you see that the offensive line needs to do to bounce back from that and what, eight sacks, allowed?
"As we always look at it, this is us. This is what the men in the room need to do. Talking about the entire team. And that's train, that's coming together as one and put it all together. Play our best football."
Does it help that you guys have gone to New Orleans so often and just the familiarity aspect of not only the place, but the team you're going to encounter?
"Really, every week is a one-week situation for us. We have to prepare, we have to win. That's the way we're looking at it. Train."
Your run-pass ratio is reversed from what it's been your previous three years here. Is that a concern to you? Is it right where you guys want it? Would you like it a little bit more 50-50? Has that been looked at, at all, by you and your staff?
"Yes. And it will be approached week-by-week."
You've had several injuries at tight end for example. Does that affect how much running you call versus how much passing you call in a game? Do personnel issues affect that run-pass ratio?
"Really, probably only had one game that I can think of this year that it's affected that ratio."
Obviously, there were some offensive issues Sunday. Focus is always on the quarterback. I'm curious what you think about the development of your quarterback and what's the fairest way to judge that? What's the fairest way to judge how a quarterback is developing and how he's coming along?
"Well, the focus is always on the team, on the unit. Really, that's where our focus is."
So, you think the quarterback should be judged on how the offense is doing then or how the team is performing? Is that what you're saying?
"Yes. He's part of the team, part of the unit."
ESPN analyst Steve Young was on the sidelines for the ceremony for former 49ers head coach George Seifert. He said from being on the sideline, just looking at the body language of some of the players, they look broken and a lot of guys complaining as they came off the field. Does that resonate with you? Do you sense any sort of lack of energy or lack of passion with any of your players?
"I really don't comment on anything that's coming from outside or flack. Keep that on the outside. It's up to us. It's up to us, the men in the room. We understand that we have a challenge ahead of us and that's where our focus is."
Former 49ers WR Jerry Rice also had stuff to say on the outside. I'm just curious, do you agree with his theory to some point that your uncertain future is impacting how the team's performing?
"Again, keep the flack on the outside. We're training. We're preparing. We understand the challenge in front of us and we're attacking."
You guys extended RB Kendall Hunter. How's his progress and what does it mean to have him around and signed through 2015?
"Good. Very pleased about that. Had a chance to speak to Kendall about it yesterday and he's doing well, he's coming along very well. You look at both legs, muscle structure, and it's coming along very nicely."
When the team had a performance like they did the last one and worry that the team is pushing to the postseason, there could be a tendency to press. How do you keep your players loose and just play football and not press in these upcoming games? What's your approach to just keeping them loose?
"That's what you strive for, to play loose and focused, both at the same time."
Trent Baalke and LB Aldon Smith's agent both said that he's been doing some great things in the community, kind of intimating, perhaps, that he kind of deserved to have some time taken off of that suspension. What were your feelings on that? Did you expect the NFL to reduce his suspension?
"I really haven't been involved in those communications. The positive is Aldon is very close to returning to practice and I'm excited about that. He knows now that that'll take place next week. My understanding is he's done a very fine job."
Is he in the kind of physical condition from what you've heard that he can step in and make an immediate impact or play a significant amount of snaps Week 1?
"I don't want to get ahead of our headlights. There's a timeframe. And he has been conditioning. He has been working out, et cetera, attending meetings. Everybody that I talk to, everything from my vantage point, he's doing a fine job. I'm proud of that, proud of him."
Saints QB Drew Brees isn't a stranger to you guys. But how do you see him and how has he elevated his game since the last time you've seen him?
"Excellent quarterback. Playing at the highest level. No surprises there."
They're 4-4 as well. Is it like playing for your playoff lives right now? Both teams have a lot at stake, especially in this game.
"As we said, we're training, preparing. The only thing that matters to us is this ball game. Expect a great day of preparation."