The first thing I noticed when I scanned over the transcript of San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh at yesterday's press conference: the phrase "You're either getting better or you're getting worse." This didn't jump out at me because it's a particularly compelling phrase or something worth really thinking on but it made it pretty clear what kind of press conference we were dealing with.
The kind that doesn't generally reveal a whole lot worth knowing, usually. But my first impression was wrong this time, as Harbaugh went out of his way to defend quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He gave the bare minimum of information about guys like NaVorro Bowman, Anthony Davis and Dontae Johnson, but he talked at length about Kaepernick, who has come under fire of late for a variety of reasons.
Rather than paraphrase those comments on Kaepernick, I'll just get right to giving you guys this transcript. The 49ers play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday ... Go Niners. Here's the transcript.
How do you guys approach this game? As far as the travel and everything, is it almost like a home game as far as staying in the team hotel the night before and going to the game on a bus?
"Yes, we are going to do that. Stay in the team hotel and then bus over in the morning. But, the approach has been good. Guys have had a great week. Really had a good day of practice today. Working mentality. We're preparing ourselves for this big game."
Has anybody had any notable wise words this week with four weeks left in the season?
"Yes. [49ers linebackers coach Jim] Coach Leavitt was very good today. [CB] Dontae Johnson, on his birthday, and yeah it was good this week."
Dontae Johnson getting a lot of responsibility lately. Can you talk about him and what he's added to the team and to the defense?
"Just one thing he talked about was the sign as you come onto the practice field, ‘you're either getting better or you're getting worse, you never stay the same.' He talked about that in terms of football and life as a person getting better, etcetera. It's very good. A powerful message."
Can you see him in a starting role, obviously not this week, but just in the near future from what you've seen from him this rookie season?
"Yes. He's been very good. He's got a great approach attitude wise. His physical ability. Gives great effort. Very smart player. At times he has been in that starting role in the nickel defense. So, he's acquitting himself very well."
The window closes for LB NaVorro Bowman next week. Have you guys made a decision of what to do with him?
Is he still doing the rehab the same as he has been doing on the field?
Has T Anthony Davis been ruled out for the game?
"I think so. I think today he will be ruled out."
How unique a venue is the Coliseum and when you worked for the Raiders how much of a home-field advantage did you think it was then and how much of an obstacle is it for visiting teams now?
"I've always looked at it as a challenge playing in that stadium. A loud crowd. They're behind their team and they do a nice job there. Unique, it's got the baseball-football setup."
The only one left.
"Is that right?"
I think so.
Did you ever go down and pay homage to the black hole fans when you were coaching?
"I might have. I definitely went down and looked at it."
What'd you think?
Do you have any memories or anecdotes about playing the Raiders over your quarterback career?
"Anecdote wise? No."
Playing there in the Coliseum, any memories of that?
"Mhm. We didn't win the game so it wasn't a great memory, no."
Obviously you've got a game to prepare for. But, will you be checking out what's going on in this stadium tonight?
"I'd like to. But, I really haven't seen my kids much this week. So, I'm going to go home there and see the little ones, watch it on TV."
What kind of sense did you get from your players this week in terms of how they're looking to bounce back after Seattle?
"Determined. Determined to do well. I saw that there was quite a bit of sport made of [QB] Colin Kaepernick. People were even tallying his responses. It's sad really because you don't know him. And, he's a determined person. He's a spiritual person. He's a very hard worker and he wants to do well and works extremely hard at it. And, you get the honest person when you deal with him. If he's not chatty, he's not going to be chatty. He's single minded when he's playing the game of football and preparing for the game and I appreciate that. I appreciate that he is who he is. I'm around him every day. He is his own person too."
You bring that up. A lot of us who don't know him nearly as well as you do didn't know what to make of that - what message was he was trying to get across or why he responded the way he did on Wednesday. Can you shed a little bit of light on that of how you read it?
"He's very professional. He always stands up. He never dodges or deflects criticism. He takes accountability. He's honest. He tells the truth. The questions you were asking, he was telling the truth. You're not going to just be at somebody's beck and call or bidding. He's going to act the way he acts. He's his own person. I appreciate the honesty. That's who he is. His jaw is set. He's a team player all the way. That's what he's doing. He's working. He is working. He loves this time of year, loves this kind of football, these big games. And I appreciate that. It's all a person can do. They do their best. If that's not appreciated then you do your best anyway. That's who he is. That's what he does."
Just one more on that, right before you came in here we were just watching a national TV show where they were talking about that's not the way, a quote, unquote, "the face of the franchise should be, the image he should give off". What would you say to that, to people who would think that a face of a franchise quarterback should be a little bit more accommodating?
"Face of the franchise quarterback should be a great leader by example, the way he works. A team player all the way. What's in his heart is about the team. It's not about himself. And then, you get the raw honesty. He is telling you. You ask him what his mindset is, it's to work. That's his approach."
Are you saying that if he were to go up there and be really wordy and eloquent, he would be someone other than who he really is? He wouldn't be true to himself?
"Wouldn't anybody be? If you want someone to be wordy and that's not who they are, that'd be phony to be that. That'd be passive aggressive. That'd be being somebody that he's not. The jaw is set. He wants to win this football game. He's going to work his way to get there."
Did you talk to him at all about that or is that something that you wouldn't concern yourself with?
"I talk to him all the time."
But, I mean about that specifically. That interaction that you're referring to with the media on Wednesday.
"He's doing everything that I expect, and I appreciate it. He's a team player all the way. He's a great leader and he's a tremendous worker. He's got goals and he likes this time of the season and he wants to do well. I appreciate it."
We're going to be talking to TE Vernon Davis in the locker room in a few minutes, and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman alluded to this earlier, that there had been other times in his career where he's had dry spells and that they've gone away over time. Is that to be expected with any receiver, any tight end, that you're going to go four or five games with smaller numbers of receptions?
"It can happen. The thing he's done is he's working through it. He is. He had another tremendous week of practice this week. He's done a tremendous job blocking. We all think we're still rolling here. We've got a quarter of the season left. The team is alive and that's how they're preparing."