Jim Harbaugh met with the media at lunch time on Sunday, and as he is wont to do, Coach Harbaugh spoke about most of the team. He likes to dole out praise to everybody, and sometimes he gets rather extensive. He got a nice mix of questions, so it allowed him to really explore the studio space in his responses.
Yesterday, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said that with RB Marcus Lattimore, it's as much the mental barrier trying to get back into the swing of things than the physical barrier. How would you assess how he is mentally as far as trying to come back from that knee injury?
"Well, I'm not a psychologist, none of us are. I had said the other day that we were going to do what's best for Marcus Lattimore and the opinions of the doctors and us as an organization because we truly believe that's in his best interest and that's what's in the best interest of the program. There's a percentage that it needs to get better. As I watched him through the offseason you could see it getting better every single day. To ballpark a percentage, that would be hard to do. But, it's not yet 100 and I say that more from a physical aspect than from a mental. When it gets to that point then he has the best chance to compete out there. I would think of it as my own son. What would I do if it was my own son in the same situation? I would do what's best for him. The same applies to Marcus."
Is there an added kind of urgency for a guy like Marcus and RB Carlos Hyde and RB LaMichael James to step-up their games with RB Kendall Hunter out for the season?
"No. For Marcus Lattimore you're talking about?"
"No. That's in the hands of the doctors. There's nothing that changes because another player on the team got injured. That's irrelevant to his situation. As far as LaMichael James, we have complete and total confidence in LaMichael James and I don't see anything in terms of stepping up, or proving anything on his part. We know him to be a very fine football player. I think if you look at where he was at last year at this time in training camp, he got a MCL injury that kept him out of action for quite a while and affected where he was on the depth chart. And then eventually he got his chance, but he was right in this same mix last year at this time. He's on familiar ground. He knows the team has always counted on him to be a top football player at the highest level. Carlos Hyde is doing extremely well for a first-year player. We're seeing really, really good things from Carlos. Also, I'm sick, physically sick for Kendall because, such a fine person, a great player, a very good friend, an ally, but he'll be back, we know that. In a funk, physically, emotionally sick over that. Great things will still happen for Kendall, I have no doubt. [RB] Jewel Hampton has been patiently waiting, has been training and preparing and this is an opportunity without question for Jewel to be a contributor and I'm very excited for that for Jewel."
What's your philosophy for having five quarterbacks in training camp? Does it allow you to do different things, give the wide receivers more work because you've got five different guys throwing to them, that type of thing?
"No. I wouldn't call it a philosophy, more so as good players. A great player in [QB Colin Kaepernick] Kap. And [QB] Blaine Gabbert, [QB] Josh Johnson, [QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson] Mac, they're NFL quarterbacks without question and assets for us to be on our team and the more that you can have the better. They're really playing well. Anybody who watched practice yesterday could attest to that I'm sure. I do like having the young player in as well, [QB] Kory Faulkner, and seeing what he can do and giving him an opportunity. He's been really good to be around and he's soaking it all in, taking it all in from some very good players that are at his position."
We often see them maybe during special teams off by themselves having a competition or something like that with the net yesterday. Is there something beyond just kind of comradery building with those types of exercises? How do you see them?
Yeah, the drills.
"Yeah. We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think it had an application to football. I also do think you see they're working at play, they're playing as their working at those drills. But, yes they do have football applications. That's the main reason for doing them."
What'd you see in DT Tank Carradine when he was engaging in pads yesterday with everybody in the team drills?
"I talked to him this morning. I thought there were some really good things. Along with [DT] Quinton Dial. I'm very, very pleased to see both those guys in pads, in real full-speed competition with the pads. I thought that Tank especially is even further along, some real heavy hands and strong. He's off to a strong start."
What have your impressions been of CB Chris Cook?
"Been good. He's working, as the corners are right now, there's a group with two experienced corners. [CB] Tramaine Brock and [CB] Chris Culliver definitely are playing at a very high level right out of the shoots. They're off to a very strong start, both of those players. Tramaine Brock really looks to have elevated his game. We saw it last season, we saw it in the offseason and he's off to a very, very strong start. And Chris Culliver's moving around exceptionally well. There is, right now, a different level with those two. Then I think with Chris Cook, [CB] Perrish Cox, [CB Kenneth] Acker and [CB] Dontae Johnson, they're all just working. They're working to assert themselves."
Those four guys you just mentioned are kind of competing to be that number one back-up on the outside?
"They're all competing for spots and roles, whether it be as a backup or a starter in the dime."
Tramaine Brock made such great strides in the last year. How good do you think he can be?
"He's somebody that works at it extremely hard. Talk about perfect attendance in the offseason. Not just this offseason, but that's three offseasons in a row with perfect attendance, and every day. He's a show up, work hard, listen, do what he says he's going to do type of football player. It may sound easy to do, but it's what he does and he does it very well. And he has a lot of talent. With all the players, you will be known by your talent, by your execution and by your effort. Those are the fruits, and he certainly does those at the highest level."
Is there any status with the team with T Alex Boone? Have you been able to communicate with him?
"No, haven't communicated since camp began."
Is that just a matter between his representatives and the front office?
"I think it's in the life cycle of - we're in camp. Our focus is on the 2014 season. I think you've heard some of the other players talk about it when you've asked them. They don't think it's their place to talk about another man's contract or situation and I think we're at the cycle where that's the stance we choose to take."
I think last year, when DT Glenn Dorsey was hurt or dealing with an injury, there was a thought of playing Quinton Dial at nose tackle. Seems like he's mostly been at end so far in camp. Is that where you see him playing this year more and can he play the nose tackle position, too, in a pinch?
"I think he can. [DT] Tony Jerod Eddie plays that nose and that end at a very high level as well. And they, Tony and [TE/DT] Demarcus Dobbs, both off to a very strong start yesterday. They keep improving and improving as football players. They arrived last year, no question about it and you see elevation again this year. Both of those players have been and continue to be ascending players."
What caught your eye yesterday seeing the guys in pads for the first time?
"A lot of things."
"Such as, it's great to see the guys, the fellas with the armor on. It's not just catching your eye but you hear it, too. There's sounds of plastic hitting, colliding. Those are great sights and sounds."
Were there any sounds that kind of made you perk up and see who it was and like what you heard as much as what you saw?
"I saw a lot of good things yesterday. Very pleased, very pleased with the practice yesterday."
Did you watch the tape of the O-line, D-line, pass-rush drills? Anything jump out at you there? The first one, the very first pass-rush seemed to have some fireworks to it.
"Yeah, go ahead. I feel you're on to something here, probably want me to fill in some way but we could probably save each other a lot of time by just asking me."
I just wanted to see if it caught your eye? (referring to the performance of DL Lawrence Okoye)
Is that impressive to see that from somebody who hasn't played football ...
"Ever played football before? Yeah."
"Absolutely. And talked to him earlier this morning, too. He's really playing with a lot better pad level, He's playing lower, and the bull rush, right now, is a real strength for him and he'll learn counters to that, but he's a very strong man with very, very long arms. He also had another collision with [T] Joe Staley and gave Joe everything he could handle, and Joe stepped up, there's no question about it. But it was good to see, good to see that kind of competition."
What about G Joe Looney in that drill? He looked pretty good there.
"He did, he did. Joe looked good in the pass-rush drill that you're referring too. He also had some ‘wow' moments during the practice. One in particular, I was like, ‘Wow.' He pulled, he was on a track, he was square, he delivered a blow. Good things."
You talk about young players elevating their game, what have you seen specifically in terms of improvement with TE Vance McDonald from Year 1 to Year 2? What's different this time around? What's the expectation for him?
"Our expectations are high. He's doing everything for the second time. Doing everything again and that's where we always think that a player can make those most growth in his entire career going from Year 1 to the start of Year 2. And he's done that. He has elevated his game."
Who's catching your eye out of the wide receiver group?
"A lot of them. A lot of them catching my eye. Very good, polished group yesterday as you could attest. I'm sure of that if you watched the practice."
Is it pleasing to see WR Anquan Boldin and WR Michael Crabtree working together, getting on the field at the same time so early in the season and working with QB Colin Kaepernick, grinding away and getting that chemistry down?
"Yeah, that's good to see as well as good to see the same thing with [WR] Brandon Lloyd with [WR] Stevie Johnson. Also felt like all of our receivers are playing at a very high level. Bodes well for us."
With T Anthony Davis, do you expect him to be able to start practicing soon and will that give you some flexibility to check out T Jonathan Martin at guard?
"It could. It's soon that Anthony is working his way back. Should be soon, can't be put an exact time on it."
Your impression of LB Shayne Skov?
"Yeah, thanks for bringing that up. I think Shayne is doing an excellent job, [LB] Chris Borland, [LB] Michael Wilhoite, [LB ] Nick Moody, that group, all vying for a starting spot for a backup role, a contributing role. I think Shayne's doing a great job and I got to say the same for [LB] Chase Thomas, another outside linebacker on our team. Both he and Shayne from Stanford, really acquitting themselves very well. Very pleased to see that. And I'm just going to naturally keep an eye on that. But pleased to report they're both doing a real good job."