San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Thursday immediately after practice, and had a chance to wrap up minicamp. We put together a basic practice recap here, while Coach Harbaugh's comments ended up being a bit more high level. As is often the case, he had praise for quite a few players. He'll single out individual players, but it's usually amidst a slew of names. Check out his second answer to see what I mean.
One of the more helpful answers was in regard to how the coaches evaluate the offensive line during non-contact minicamp. He talked about foot work, hand placement, understanding the system, and taking correct blocking angles. It obviously changes when a defensive lineman is coming at you with serious force, but they can still assess the basic technique issues.
How would you assess this three-day minicamp? Did you guys get out of it what you wanted to?
“Outstanding. Really pleased. Thought our players are getting better and better at multiple positions on our team. Coming out of this feeling really good that we improved as a football team this week, over the nine weeks over the offseason training, and stayed pretty much completely healthy. Come out of here with no serious injuries, no ‘keep-him-out-very-long’ injuries. Feel good about that. Both those things.”
Is there anything, when you talk about how you guys improved, is there certain areas that really excited you or plays that stood out over these nine weeks?
“Really happy with the offensive line. Thought they progressed extremely well, better and better and better. Inpidual players, thought [RB] LaMichael James really stood out this week. [RB] Kendall Hunter had a great camp. Really happy with [QB] Blaine Gabbert, his progress up until now and this entire week. Very good. [WR] Brandon Lloyd is standing out. [WR] Bruce Ellington is standing out. I’m kind of focusing on new guys, new additions. Defensive line, talked about that several times, just how good I think our defensive line is going to be, and what a strength that’s going to be for our football team. [DT] Tank Carradine, [DT] Quinton Dial, [DT] Kaleb Ramsey, [TE/DT] Demarcus Dobbs, [DT] Tony Jerod-Eddie, [NT] Mike Purcell, not to mention [DL] Glenn Dorsey, [DT] Ray McDonald and [DT] Justin Smith. It’s a real stout unit for us. Our linebackers had an outstanding camp. Really believe that we can be dominate at that position again. Very pleased where our secondary is right now. The addition of [S] Antoine Bethea. [S] Eric Reid continues to grow. [CB] Tramaine Brock had a great camp again. His third year in a row for perfect attendance. I’ve handed out a perfect attendance certificate to [CB] Tramaine Brock and a t-shirt. New t-shirt this year. New design this year.”
What does it say?
“Perfect attendance 2014, The 49er way’.”
Is that silver and black?
“Changed up the colors. Black and grey.”
Is he the only one who gets it?
“In fact we had fifty-nine players get perfect attendance this year.”
“Five, nine. Five, nine.”
Is that a record?
“Well, it is a record. 31 was last year’s. Last year’s we didn’t include the rookies. This year we did. What’s that? Sixteen, seventeen rookies that got perfect attendance? That’s still eleven, twelve more veterans than we had last year. Twelve more veterans than we had last year made perfect attendance this year. [LB] Patrick Willis, third year in-a-row with perfect attendance, etc. All the quarterbacks, perfect attendance. Tremendous job by our team. Lot of contributions, and I appreciate that one, when the guys volunteer to make the team better.”
When you evaluate the offensive line during a non-contact camp, what are you looking for when you say you really like what you see from them?
“Foot work, hand placement, understanding the system, taking the correct blocking angles. You can still play with low leverage, but just feel like the group did an excellent job. [T] Joe Staley was really good, really good this offseason. [G] Mike Iupati, coming back off of his surgery, seems to be in great shape, looking ready to go for training camp. I think he’s going to be 100 percent. And he played through all the offseason, where he was right now.”
What about C/G Daniel Kilgore?
“Kilgore was good. Kilgore was real good. [C] Marcus Martin’s got a chance to be real good, too. [G/C] Dillon Farrell, [G] Fouimalo Fonoti, thought they both did an outstanding job. [T] Jonathan Martin got back in this week did a real good job. That whole group really has come a long way. Not just the starters but guys that are new into the system. Really felt they progressed and came a long way in this nine weeks.”
Are you heading into training camp expecting that you’ll have LB Aldon Smith being able to participate or do you have contingency plans for if he might not be able to be here?
“That’s to be determined. Right now, planning, as you can see he’s out here practicing, part of the team.”
He seemed to be enjoying himself and very energetic today.
“Aldon was dominant today, yesterday especially. Got a lot more reps yesterday. We weren’t really able to block him. [LB] Ahmad [Brooks] was similar. I thought our linebackers were dominating. Patrick as well. [LB] Corey Lemonier, you’ll see that this is year two for Corey, and Dan Skuta. Outstanding group there. I think [LB] Aaron Lynch is going to be a real good player, too. He’s shown some real good things before he hurt a hamstring. So that’s a real position of, not only strength, but a position of dominance for us. Feel real good about that position.”
How has LB Michael WIlhoite progressed in that job potentially with LB NaVorro Bowman out for a period at the beginning of the season?
“Good. He’s always been a guy we can count on. Always been that kind of player for us, and he continues to be good. [LB Chris] Borland was … to quote Denny Green, ‘he is who we thought he was.’ He’s that kind of player. He’s done a very nice job.”
What makes intern coach George Whitfield a good teacher?
“Very passionate, loves what he’s teaching, loves the subject matter. Has done it. Has great experience of doing it. Most of all, I think it’s his love and his passion and his knowledge of the quarterback position.”
You mentioned LaMichael having a good camp, what about in terms of other returners or any others that stood out as looking like they have some potential there?
“Definitely. [CB] Perrish Cox has been doing a nice job there. [WR] Devon Wylie, very good. [WR] Bruce Ellington is doing a nice job back there catching the ball. I think we’re going to come out of this with a real good returner, and not just one. Feel good about that position.”
All these changes, personnel at receiver, give your quarterback a chance to change a little bit to expand on what he can do?
“Yes. Think he’s excited about that.”
Your fourth year in, do you and the rest of the coaching staff keep tinkering with this process, and keep changing based on what’s worked and what hasn’t worked in years past? Do you find yourself doing that this point in the year still?
“Always. That’s football, I think. It’s always going to be an evolving playbook, an evolving process based on what you think is going to work or couldn’t work, what needs to attack a defense or counterattack with what they’re attacking you with. Also, with the players that you have, putting them into roles to be successful. Ever changing and evolving. It’s what makes it such a fun job.”
What words of wisdom – you had a long meeting there at the end – did you give them any words of wisdom to head off into the break?
Anything you can share?
“Beware with whom you associate. Very important to know your surroundings. Friend or foe. There always seems to be a foe present. Get into a good football position and be ready for anything that’s coming at you. Be able to see around corners, see under doors, anticipate. But mainly, surround yourself with good people.”
Do I understand correctly that you’re off to your big trek to Peru this weekend?
“Yeah, I leave Saturday. Very excited about it.”
So what does that all entail for you?
“Going back to see some friends that I’ve been visiting for six years now, and building houses, missionary work, friends in the prison, orphanage, families that the church sponsors down there. Taking my kids this year. That’s exciting. Taking my older kids, so they get to have that great experience. Looking forward to it. Packed, ready to go.”
How much longer can the rookies stay here and work?
“They can stay until training camp, if they want.”
And work with the coaches?
“No. They can be only supervised by the weight staff and the training staff, but not directed by the weight room staff. But they could come in. It would be open for them to use the training room and the weight room.”
They can come in a week before the veterans, though, for training camp?
“The rookies will be coming in July 16th. Injured vets and quarterbacks would come in the 18th and then the reporting day for training camp will be the 23rd.”
“First practice the 24th, second practice the 25th, first practice in pads is the 26th.”
Are you going to be practicing out here, or will you do any practices inside Levi’s® Stadium?
“Yeah, we have three scheduled right now.”
And the public will be allowed in to see those?
That’s going to be the first time in a while that the public has been able to see you guys. What is that going to mean to the team?
“Everything about it. Everything about a new stadium will be exciting. Especially all of the things for the first time, including practicing in the new stadium, public seeing our team in the new stadium, going into the locker room, families going into the family room. It’s going to add great excitement to the players, and that’s a good thing.”