Before the San Francisco 49ers took the field for their very first training camp practice, Jim Harbaugh took some time to speak with Bay Area media.
The theme of the day? Rebirth - both in a figurative and frighteningly literal sense. You would only need to watch one Harbaugh interview to know his propensity for having a cryptic and euphemistic, yet oddly-poetic manner of speaking. Around these parts, we call them "Harbaugh-isms" and this interview was loaded with them.
One of the first questions levied at coach was the reemergence of his star tight end: "What did it mean to you to see Vernon Davis report to camp yesterday? Did you know he was coming in?"
"Definitely added to the excitement. And it's already such an exciting day."
And this is where the madness begins.
"The first day of football, where it's the new year. It's the start of the new year in football. It's like it's your own birthday. Like it's a family reunion. It's like a rebirth. Feel like you come out of the womb and reborn into football."
But...back to Vernon...
"And definitely having Vernon there added to that.
Everybody sees their friends, sees their family. They haven't seen them for a month or so, since we've been apart after the mini-camp. It's a happening. It's a happening. The reporting day to training camp."
The next question pertained to right guard Alex Boone who continues his holdout, remaining absent from team activities.
"How much did it subtract from it to not have Alex Boone there?" a reporter asks.
But Harbaugh wasn't finished.
"It's such a positive happening, that first day. Imagine you're kind of in the comfort of the off-season, like being in the comfort of the womb. You get plenty to eat in there, it's warm, very cozy. And then you're born, into somewhat of the unknown.
A lot of people looking at you, lot of faces looking at you, lot of excitement. It's light, it's bright, it's noisy, it's the crazy world of football. Again, it's a real happening. Wish everybody could experience it."
Let's all collectively just take a second to appreciate the brilliance and sheer absurdity of this metaphor. You may have tried to describe your love of football to others in a thousand different ways in the past, but I can almost guarantee this wasn't one of them.
At this point, I'd like to imagine the crowd of reporters just sitting in stunned silence.
But in reality, one actually attempts to redirect the conversation: "On Alex Boone, are you disappointed that he's not here?"
To no avail.
"Again, I'm relentlessly positive right now. That's how I feel. I'm trying to describe it to you, the rebirth of football."
Yeah, what's your deal, guy? Pay attention.
"You step out onto that grass for the first practice, smell the smells, you see the sky. You've got your team out there. It's a wonderful feeling."
It's a new season of football, indeed, and it just wouldn't be the same without a little bit of jive turkey gobble from our loveable weirdo of a head coach.
Here's the full press conference transcript
Harbaugh: "Welcome. Nicer setup than we had before, huh?"
You like it?
Are you going to move locker rooms, do you know? What's the plan there? Move your lockers into the stadium and have stadium lockers, one locker room?
"I kind of envision them having two lockers. One there and one at the stadium. Take advantage of the good things at both facilities."
What's RB Marcus Lattimore's status going into Day 1 of training camp?
"He's on the PUP list, right now, the physically unable to perform list."
Did he have a setback at all, possibly in the offseason program?
"The trainers, doctors evaluate and they make those decisions. As an organization, we do what's best for the member of the team, the youngster on the team, because, ultimately, that's in our best interests."
It was a hamstring that was slowing him down in the spring. Is that the issue or is it due to the knee itself?
"It's a combination of the two. Again, doctors would be in a better position to talk about that. [Vice President of Football Operations] Jeff Ferguson, our trainer, would probably be in a better position to talk about that. We believe, talking to them, we're doing the best thing for Marcus."
What did it mean yesterday when TE Vernon Davis came in to the coaches, the team and the players? Did you have advanced warning that he was going to show up on time?
"Definitely added to the excitement. And it's already such an exciting day, the first day of football, where it's the new year. It's the start of the new year in football. It's like it's your own birthday, like it's a family reunion. It's like a rebirth. Feel like you come out of the womb and reborn into football. And definitely having Vernon there added to that. Everybody sees their friends, their family, they haven't seen them for a month or so, since we've been apart after the minicamp. It's a happening. It's a happening. The reporting day to training camp."
How much can it subtract from it to not have G Alex Boone there?
"It's such a positive happening, that first day. Imagine you're kind of in the comfort of the offseason, like being in the comfort of the womb. You got plenty to eat in there, it's warm, very cozy. And then you're born, into somewhat of the unknown. A lot of people looking at you, lot of faces looking at you, lot of excitement. It's light, it's bright, it's noisy, it's the crazy world of football. Again, it's a real happening. Wish everyone could experience it."
On Alex Boone, are you disappointed that he's not here?
"Again, (I am) relentlessly positive right now. That's how I feel. I'm trying to describe it to you, the rebirth of football. You step out onto that grass of the first practice, smell the smells, see the sky. You've got your team out there. It's a wonderful feeling."
Is DB Jimmie Ward going to be out on the field today for practice?
And just what are you expecting to see out of him since he wasn't able to do team drills in the spring?
"We were doing some practices right before the reporting day with the rookies, and quarterbacks and some of the injured vets. Couple practices under his belt even with pads, Jimmie and some of the younger guys have experience. Some very, very good positives. Looking forward for him and everybody to be out there Day 1."
What are some of the positives that you saw out of him?
"Good. Good player, good football player. Lot of things that we saw on tape."
How many padded practices did you have for the rookies?
"We had two."
QB Colin Kaepernick said he sees Vernon being up to speed in no time at all even coming back from not being around. Do you agree with that?
"Vernon is a known friend and trusted agent. We've all been through the wars with Vernon, he's been through them with us. Very positive."
DT Justin Smith revealed yesterday that he played with a shoulder injury all of last year, and that he did some work in the offseason. How much better of a player can he be fully healthy?
"I've come to learn never to underestimate Justin Smith. He's strong as ever, looks like to be in great shape, as all our guys did. We had a conditioning test - run, flush. Our guys just killed it. They knocked it out of the park. All of them did."
Speaking optimistically, are you guys working towards getting Alex that sort of rebirth and getting him that ‘comfort of the womb', so to speak?
If Alex isn't here for a prolonged period of time, do you feel like the guys you have on this roster, that you have an NFL starter that could take his place?
"We're early. As we said, this is just Day 1 of training camp. Things will be determined. It's a process."
Did you see anything in the offseason workouts that suggests someone can step up in general?
"I'm just going to talk about our entire roster. I'm very pleased with the team that is assembled. I think [General Manager] Trent Baalke, all of us in the organization, have done a wonderful job assembling this roster. Very, very pleased to be a part of it."
Last week, LB Aldon Smith had a resolution as far as his sentencing. How do you feel that he has performed off the field after this entire offseason after the incident in LA and leading up to this point in training camp?
"He's really going through a process. There's accountability for some mistakes made and also he's been given the opportunity to do what he says he's going to do. So far, he's doing that."
He stepped away a few games last season voluntarily. Do you expect the NFL to also suspend him to begin the season? Would that be just?
"As you know, that's in their hands. They will discipline if they warrant it."
In your mind, though, has he served enough in those five games?
"Again, it's a process. A life cycle of where we are as a football team. We talked about that. First day of training camp, relentlessly positive. It's a happening. We're enjoying it very much. And there is a life cycle to what you're talking about. There's a process that plays out."
You mentioned the positivity several times. Is that because you're feeling so positive, do you think your team is feeling that or do you want them to feel that?
"Well, I see it in their eyes. They're cheerful and undefeated. I might be a little bit older but I look in the mirror and I see my eyes. They're cheerful and undefeated. I don't know if you can ever have a team that's truly happy, as a football team or in training camp, especially. May not be around a happy team. But, our team is the least unhappy team I've ever been around."
More so than any other year?
"Yeah, it's in the eyes."
Do you feel like T Jonathan Martin has at all been a media distraction?
Speaking of Aldon Smith's life cycle, have you guys heard if and when that whole process may come to an end or if he in fact will be punished and when it will come down? Anything along those lines?
"Just to reiterate what I said, it's a process. Don't have any information to shed on that process."
Without Bowman, what did you see from some of those guys who played a lot last year and will be called upon to fill that void?
"It's going to be exciting. Tremendous competition for that spot. [LB] Michael Wilhoite, [LB] Chris Borland, [LB] Shayne Skov, [LB] Nick Moody. It's going to be all talented players all trying to get that starting spot."
How's LB NaVorro Bowman's rehab? LB Patrick Willis gave us the report but would love to hear it from you.
"Good. Talked to him yesterday about it. Positive. Doing running, looking forward to doing some cutting. That'll be next in that process."
At some point in the offseason you speculated or suggested LB NaVorro Bowman's absence would last about half the season.
"Who speculated that?"
"OK. I think I remember that. I remember ballparking it that."
Is that still realistic or has he made some progress since and it got moved up?
"I don't know. You make a prediction and that's basically based on these guys, these athletes, these super fit, the most superhuman. The way they rehabilitate themselves, they come back from injury, it's not the normal guy, by any means. I think we've all seen the evidence of that. NaVorro is the cream-of-the-crop of the athletes, professional athletes, on a football team. Hard to say where it's going to fall. My prediction would, be seeing other guys, he's just even the cream-of-that crop. I don't know, to be honest with you. Very hopeful. Very optimistic. Knowing NaVorro the way I do, nothing would surprise me if it's sooner than that. That would not be a surprise when you're talking about NaVorro. But again, it will be in the hands of the doctors and NaVorro. And, we'll do what's in the best interest of NaVorro Bowman, because ultimately that's in the best interest of the program."
In terms of Colin Kaepernick, what positive strides do you want to see him make this training camp, and are you looking at specific area, such as accuracy or reads?
"I think you know how I feel about him. He's had a tremendous offseason. Very excited to continue that into training camp as we build the foundation for our team. We're laying the keel right now. Building the spine and backbone of the ship."
WR Stevie Johnson said he has something to prove, that he's an elite receiver in this league. What are your impressions of him? What has he shown you so far in a 49ers uniform?
"Already feel like he's an ally. Feel like I've gotten to know him very fast. Like everything about him. Know what he has inside. I know what he can do on the football field. Very much looking for him being the best that he can be."
The way the last three seasons have been so close, yet no Super Bowl trophy, do you feel there is any special pressure on this one season to get that Super Bowl?
"Again, it's a new year, this is a rebirth. I know I've made that analogy before. You're reborn in football into a new season. One of the things, we're reborn this year into some very high expectations. We welcome that. My young son, Jack, was born and put some very high expectations on him. Happy to report that he's exceeding them. And we'd like to do the same."
Your identity is great defense and run game. With the improvements you've made on offense, do you think you could be a more dynamic offense in the passing game?
"Can we? Yes. Sure. All our focus, all our attention is on exceeding those goals, to become better as a football team. We strive for that every day. That's a mantra for us. Better today than we were yesterday, better tomorrow than we were today. That's our focus. We work very hard at that."
At this point, how do you feel this team is better than when you arrived here?
"I never really compare things like that. One team, the last year or this team two or three years ago. I try to avoid that. Every time you start comparing things or people or teams, someone gets diminished."
You said you were better. You've got to be better than something.
"I think we're better than we were yesterday. Hope to be better tomorrow than we were today. It's been a heck of an offseason for us. Think we had - I don't know about everyone else's reporting day because you're not there - but I feel like our reporting day was A-plus, plus. Meetings have been very good, very sharp. Players engaged 100 percent mental in those meetings. Had a terrific walkthrough. Our expectations are high, our expectations are high for a great practice this afternoon."
Did everyone pass the conditioning test yesterday?
"Yeah, they knocked it out of the park. Grand slam."
Let me ask you a question about the running backs. You've got a very talented, deep group of running backs, lot of young guys. Is there any sense of going into the season with a more running back-by-committee approach than RB Frank Gore getting the lion's share like he has in recent years?
"I don't know. We could be talking about the wide receiver position the same as the running back position. Very talented group of running backs, there's no question about it. Very talented group of wide receivers. We have a very talented group of quarterbacks. Very talented group of tight ends. We have a very talented offensive line. Talented and deep. The way the roster is positioned, very pleased with it."
Is T Jonathan Martin full speed? I know he had an illness this spring that slowed him down for a while. Is he full speed to go, back, caught up and good to go?
"What he told me, he was. Been around [T] John [Jonathan] [Martin] a long time. Asked him how he feels and if anything is lingering? Told me, ‘No, coach, I'm good'. He has a tendency to use that. I've heard him say that before, and he's always been good. Never lied to me before, never misled me. Take a man at his word. He looks good."
You've got a couple of rookies who are on the Non-Football Injury List which would suggest ... Were they injured away from the practice field this time, C Marcus Martin and WR Bruce Ellington?
"Yes, those two."
What are the natures of their injuries?
"It doesn't seem to be anything real serious. Both involved rolling an ankle. Kind of a basketball-type roll of the ankle. Not playing basketball according to them. Again, you take a man at his word. They were doing football drills away from the team and I'm very optimistic that Bruce will be back, that he'll be out the shortest period of time. He'll be on the PUP the shortest amount of the time. And then maybe Marcus next. [LB] Aaron Lynch very soon as well. I'm talking days I think for those three in particular."
How about with TE Garrett Celek?
"We're still waiting for some tests. He was talking about his back and we did an MRI. Again, precautions."
Did he injure it during his conditioning test?
"Yeah, he did. And afterwards he felt tightness there and we'll definitely take a good hard long look at that."
You mentioned Jack has exceeded your expectations. In 22 months, what has he done to exceed your expectations?
"I bring that example up, it's just he's my biological son and these are football sons and you have high expectations for Jack, the football players, myself, our coaches. I'm very pleased with how all are coming along at this point. Very happy."
"I am. We talk about a little time away from football, I had a chance to have some time away from football with the family. I was coaching my butt off teaching Addie, our five-year old, to ride a bike without training wheels. That's harder than I remember with some of the older kids, but she's coming along. Katie's swimming now. Coaching her to swim and coaching Jack to hit a baseball and he can actually swing and hit it off a tee. So, it was good."
I saw him head butt you back in Orlando.
"He's got a callus built up on that forehead right now, it's good."
Did you get your house solar powered?
"Yes. How'd you know that? It's working out great, fantastic, most pleased."