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Jim Harbaugh discusses Michigan rumors (sort of), injuries, Ray McDonald and more

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Thursday. He was asked about the Michigan rumors, injuries and Ray McDonald's situation, among others things. We have the full transcript.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

How's the running back situation looking at this time?

"[RB] Frank [Gore] practiced today. [RB] Alfonso Smith has had a good week. And we have a new back that has worked in very nicely. Anticipate him being ready for the game and contributing at running back and special teams."

So, RB Phillip Tanner, you expect to be in uniform?

"Yeah."

With Frank, is he moving along as far as the protocol goes and on pace to play?

"Yes."

The decision on former 49ers DT Ray McDonald, I know general manager Trent Baalke talked about it yesterday, but how simple a decision was that for you? Was it pretty clear-cut in your mind that he had to be released?

"Well, it was a discussion, and we made the decision as an organization. Contributed to it and in agreement with it."

Did the organization consider releasing him even before this incident at any time?

"I'm not going to get into the discussions that took place before. Really, I thought Trent laid it out yesterday. What the organization felt and why they made this decision, and I support it."

Does this team have a code of conduct that you can point to?

"It does. The league does. And we'll just say that."

Without Ray, the defensive line only has four guys right now. Is that what you're going to go into this game with or this there a chance you call up DL Lawrence Okoye?

"[NT] Mike Purcell would be the next option."

Are you going to do that?

"I think so, yeah. He's been good. He'll do a good job."

Can he play all the spots?

"Mainly nose, but he's done a nice job. He's ready to go and feel very confident that he'll do a good job."

LB Aldon Smith said yesterday not everything he does is all about sack numbers, and he feels like he's done OK pressuring the quarterback. What's your take on his abbreviated year and what he's been able to do?

"Well, it's true. There's a lot more to the job than just sacks. He's setting an edge, drops into coverage, physical against the run and the tackles. I think he's done a very good job. It's been good for everybody to have him back out there."

Have you been offered a contract by the University of Michigan?

"As you know, l only talk about the job that I have. We've been together a long time and it's a long-standing policy."

I have to ask you. Trent mentioned that you and he talked briefly this week to say that you would sit down and talk after the season is over. Was that something that you asked for or how did that agreement become that you would talk at the end of the season?

"As you know, Trent and I have discussions every day."

You've said in the offseason that your intention was to coach out this contract. Is that still your intention?

"Yeah. I've said that I'm going to finish this until the end. My focus is the same as the players' focus, same as the coaches' focus, the focus on the practice field, the focus in meetings, by our players, by our coaches and by me. That is our focus - this football game against the San Diego Chargers and playing well to win it. That's where our energy and focus is."

Can you imagine DT Tony Jerod-Eddie starting in McDonald's spot?

"Yes."

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was just saying that, in his opinion, these last couple of games are scrutinized more as far as player evaluation than other ones are earlier in the season when things might be going well. See how somebody reacts when things might not be going well. Do you agree with that? Who are you looking forward to watching, evaluating, these last couple weeks?

"I think you're always evaluated and somebody's always watching. Especially, you're known by your effort, by your execution, by your talent. Those three things are how you're known as a football player. Somebody's always watching that."

So many times that you've mentioned when you thought you had players who deserved Pro Bowl candidacies. Who would you say this year, would you say among your players really deserves to be looked at as a Pro Bowl candidate?

"I think there's several. I don't want to comment on that right now and leave somebody out. I think we do have that."

I asked Greg this question, so I'll ask you, too. In terms of coaching up QB Colin Kaepernick this year, he's obviously had a different year than past years. Did you and your staff have to work with him more, or not have to, but did you work with him more in terms of trying to get him out of that stretch that you were talking about earlier?

"Yeah, that's an ongoing thing we're always working at all positions. As you know, I believe very strongly in Colin Kaepernick and his talent, his effort, his execution. We've gone through some years here where we're maybe one play away and now we're not in that same situation. This business, I think you tend to look at like what's happened the last weeks, the last game or the last four quarters. It's not a profession where you look at things in totality. So, I think the quarterback a lot of times gets the scrutiny, but we're a team. This is all of us and we're all working to get it right."

Greg Roman said Frank Gore's been unflappable through a season that's not been easy for anybody. What has Frank shown you this year and at this stage in his career, even with maybe a slightly smaller workload?

"He's an unwavering professional in everything that he does. Great to be around. Loved by his teammates and coaches. He's a joy to be around every day."

Are you sensing that given this is the last year of his contract that he wants to be out there perhaps more than usual in these last two games coming back from the concussion, too?

"He's always motivated to play. Boy, he's the most or as motivated as any player I've ever been around to play the game. I think back to 2011 when he had the ankle injury and we were playing against the Eagles. He really wasn't able to walk on it all week and then went out and rushed for over a hundred yards. It's special."

I know you're not big on stories or anecdotes or whatever, but was there a moment before that Eagles game where you kind of knew what Frank was all about? Where you just got a sense of, OK this is, as you would say, a ‘football player', this is a guy that I'm going to really like?

"Yeah, I mean [laughter]."

You don't have a story, right?

"I don't have a story, right. That's a good way to say it. Just from being around him. Just watching him in practice and we had played games by that game, that was the third game of the season. But, his history, the injuries that he's overcome. His desire to play doesn't get any better. Who's ever shown that they're more unwavering to play the game of football than Frank Gore?"

I'll try one more. It has been mentioned, obviously, you have history with Michigan, is there a special affinity that you have with that school that might supersede all other loyalties at this point?

"Again, I really don't want to ... I don't talk about any other job than the one I have or talk about anyone else's process."    

One more Ray McDonald question, which is do you think that his termination sends a message to other players? Whether that's intentional or not, do you think it does?

"It could. I notice you want to compare. I've seen it even written comparing other situations and, really, there's a lot of different situations. This was the decision by the organization. They have the right to employ who they want to employ."

I know this wasn't already in this decision, but you did bring up due process yourself very sharply. Why didn't due process figure into this decision since it was very quickly after his last incident?

"I think Trent, again, framed it well yesterday. The circumstances dictated the decision."

You mentioned as far as NFL quarterbacks totality of their career, what they've done is not taking to account. Are head coaches in the same boat?

"I think that's the profession we're in, yes [laughter]."