San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was back in front of the media today. He updated us on LaMichael James's eventual return, and discussed the return game in general aside from James. He then got into some detail on specific players that was pretty interesting. He was asked about Brandon Lloyd, and proceeded to gush about him. Harbaugh is a big fan, and part of it comes from Lloyd's practice habits. They're interesting to say the least.
Later, Harbaugh was asked about Dontae Johnson, a player he tried to recruit to Stanford. He had a couple positive comments about Johnson and the other young cornerbacks. Finally, he got into some detail about Blaine Gabbert's development.
Since the last time we spoke to you, RB LaMichael James got injured. What can you tell us about his situation, when do you expect him back?
"Don't have a time table on it. I mean, trainers are predicting and LaMichael has a short amount of time predicted. He's had the injury before and we'll see. Right now, I'm hopeful and going with LaMichael's estimation."
And that would be to have him back for the regular season opener?
"Yes, and under LaMichael's estimation, sooner than that."
He's had the injury three times so far. Is there a device that he might be able to wear that can kind of keep that from happening?
"Yeah, I'm sure he'll wear a brace."
So then you go out and get RB Alfonso Smith. What does he bring to the table for you guys?
"We've played against him. He's a fine special teams player and more than competent, capable back. Thing that impressed me the most was that he came in in shape, ready to go. Looked serious about wanting a job, and going after it. Could tell that from his workout. He was working out a good amount of time but not the normal length that we would put a running back through a workout because it was obvious we were going to sign this guy."
Was there a competition there? Did you have multiple guys in?
"No. Not on the day Alfonso was here."
Is LB Aldon Smith here today?
He's in Los Angeles?
He's in Los Angeles for his meeting there?
"He's not here today."
You can't say where he is?
"No. Is that my responsibility to tell you where he is?"
You're the head coach of the football team.
"Yeah, OK. Well you seem to already know. He's going through a process."
Then there's a couple of places he could be. New York being one of them, Los Angeles being the other. He's in the latter.
"OK. I don't know if that was a question or a statement?"
Not a lot of experience at punt returning now with James out. How do you feel about DB Perrish Cox and WR Bruce Ellington in that role for it now?
"The role of punt returner, it's still being determined. Still determining who our best punt returners are. LaMichael James will be in that mix. Perrish Cox has been and will continue to be in that mix, as well as Bruce Ellington."
How has Bruce looked specifically?
"He's working at it. Yeah, he's working at it. Appears to have the whereabouts to do it. Wherewithal."
QB Colin Kaepernick talked about Bruce's mental toughness a little bit yesterday. Is that something that you need to have as a punt returner?
"I think you need that as a football player."
Now that we're in training camp, I know you've been asked about WR Brandon Lloyd before, but, does he show any signs of having had a year off from the game?
"No, he does not show signs. I guess the signs would be rust. But whatever signs those would be, there may be a list, but he doesn't show those. And similar to [WR] Anquan Boldin, last year I remember watching Anquan workout and practice, and if you didn't know who Anquan Boldin was, you'd say, ‘Well, OK, that's a young, rookie wide receiver that's spry and fighting for a job in the National Football League'. Brandon looks very similar to that to me. I would make that comparison. He looks young and spry."
Having had a year off and when he first came here, or before he came here, did you have to gauge or did you want to gauge his commitment and passion for the game?
"Brandon Lloyd and I, and I'll speak personally, and I hope he feels the same way, but we have made friends right off the bat and allies right off the bat. He's the kind of guy I connect with and I enjoy the heck out of him. He does this thing in meetings that I have not seen before. He'll be sitting in his chair watching the tape, and go through his route. And all of a sudden here comes a swim move, you know, or a slap of the arm and then sometimes he'll stand up and, you know, it's a jab step. It's in his mind how he's beating press as he takes a mental rep watching the tape. It's pretty much the whole meeting. He's talking to himself, there's self-talk during the meeting. Talk about full speed mentally and 100 percent engaged in the meeting, I mean, I've never seen a guy at any level go through a meeting like that. And it just makes me giggle and giddy to watch him do it. Wish I had seen that earlier in my career and could've adopted that into my meeting game. It's awesome, it's awesome. There's a slap, there's an arm over, there's a jab, you know, it's a thing to behold. Wish you could luck at it."
Does he have an area cordoned off so he can go through that?
"It's a good space where he's at the table. He's got his iPad and his book in front of him. And sometimes, you know, he'll stand up. And I just love it, love it."
Did you initially, when that first happened were you wondering what he was doing or did you immediately recognize?
"I was like, ‘Whoa, I like that. Whoa do I like that.' Have you young receivers seen this? This might be one of the neatest things I've ever seen. Yeah, just got it, just clicked right away. My second thought was, ‘Wish I had done that'. Guy's led the league in receiving. He's had some tremendous years for a reason. He's very talented, great effort and execution has always been there as a player. There's only three things you can be known for as a football player, and his are at the highest level."
You wanted to work with CB Dontae Johnson in college, now you have a chance with him on the practice fields. What's standing out and how's that experience of getting to work with him right now?
"Good, good. Coming along, just telling him, ‘Keep it going, keep it going, keep striving,' and he's doing that. I think both the young corners, all three of them, you know, I'd put DB Daryl Morris in that category as well, showing some very good things as well as CB Kenneth Acker. Very pleased with the seriousness about which they go about their job. As fate and coincidence would have it, now another, [T] Michael Philipp, another youngster that we recruited at Stanford, who was admitted at Stanford, and chose Oregon State over the Cardinal, who we now get to work with. Fate and coincidence."
Where's QB Blaine Gabbert and his development with this offense and what are you seeing from him on the field?
"Really, really good. He's showing all the signs of developing quite rapidly and executing very well, sharp in all mental facets, in terms of knowing all the plays, and he's come along. Colin is farther ahead by an amount where I would say it like this - Blaine is very smart and he knows the plays, he already has picked up many of the nuances. But Kap's at a different level. Where Colin's at a level of the highest level where he can auto correct, as you know, auto correcting in the texting or whatever. Even if a coach makes a mistake, its wrong in the script, the play is called into him wrong, he just auto corrects it and doesn't ask, ‘Hey, is that right or is that wrong?'. It's at the highest level. You just have never seen it, in my experience, like the way he does it right now. It's great with a capital G, at the highest level, and Blaine's coming along. I've always said, six months later you're going to be very far along in this system but not as far along as you will be after a year, and after two years you'll most likely be an expert in this system. That's it. Those are the differences right now."
How do you split up the reps for the quarterbacks in training camp, I mean, it seems like Colin doesn't get - some teams I've seen, the starter will get 50, 60 percent and everybody else kind of fights over the scraps. Looks like you guys keep it pretty even among those four quarterbacks.
"Colin's getting the greater share. I just have a plan, and I have a feel. I know what I want Blaine to get, I know what I want Colin to get, I know what I want the other two quarterbacks, to make sure they're getting what they need as well. Also, what they're good at. It's a plan and a feel."
What have you seen from RB Frank Gore that makes you think he can come out and be great another year and do it again?
"Past performance often times predicts future success. Frank has been one of the top backs in the National Football League and I see that continuing. Frank gets football. Frank understands football. Frank keeps himself in tremendous shape. When you're with him hourly, daily, over the course of three years, when I see the same and better each year, the way he takes care of himself, the way he gets and understands the game. Talked about it many times, this is a man who comes in at 6:00, 6:30 in the morning to do his cardio and then study the film and study the game. That's at the highest level. Also, make an early comparison to [RB] Carlos Hyde in that he gets football similar to Frank Gore. And these aren't my words, these are [Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman's, now, but I thought it was pretty astute that he said that. Carlos gets football, understands football, it's natural for him to understand the game, similar to Frank Gore. And we're seeing those things, and both are very good signs and bode well for us."
Do you have as many or more or fewer of the guys who are trying to be the first to get here and last to leave as opposed to this stage last year?
"I never compare or thought of comparing this year to last year, in that regard."
Is LB Nick Moody one of the guys that is often here 6:00, 6:30 range that you were just talking about?
"There's multiple. That was the morning that I mentioned that I walked through there just to see who was first. Just to see who was the first two - the gold medal winner, the silver medal winner. It was a tie for gold between Colin Kaepernick and Nick Moody that day."
Did you see that dedication from Moody throughout the offseason this year? Was he one of your?
"Perfect attendance guys?"
Yeah, perfect attendance guys.
"Yes, he was."
Are you on the medal stand every day? Are you first to arrive?
"[Laughter]. Every day? We've got some dedicated, committed coaches and players."