The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their three days of joint practices, and before heading back to Santa Clara, Jim Harbaugh spoke with the media. He was particularly exuberant about the success the team had with the practices, and the manner with which they were conducted. Harbaugh also had some positive comments about Aldon Smith, Vernon Davis, and Jimmie Ward. He talked about Davis quietly having a great camp, Aldon Smith taking his game to the highest level, and great things coming for Jimmie Ward. It's safe to say, Jim Harbaugh was in a good mood.
Speaking of Coach Harbaugh, I highly recommend checking out this mic'd up segment he did for the second day of practice. It is loaded with some great stuff. My favorite part might be when he introduces himself to Steve Smith, as though Smith doesn't know him.
Did it meet expectations as far as the work accomplished?
"Yes, and higher than that. Went better than expected for our football team. We got better. There's no question about it. I think it was even more so than what we thought. It all started with the two teams with the same mindset and that was to get better and to improve as a football team. I know we can say that for ourselves and I've heard [Ravens head coach] John [Harbaugh] say the same thing. And also a big ‘thank you' to the Ravens organization. A-plus-plus in terms of just treating us right. Everything from meeting rooms to food, the entire layout was top notch. You've got to understand a little bit, we're a professional football organization here of people that have very high standards for how we're treated. And not one complaint. Not one complaint. I mean, that's rare, that's rare to get. Not one complaint from anybody, which speaks volumes. That really says it all. And Ravens, first-class all the way."
Do you think that makes it more likely that you would want to do something like this in the future again, judging by how successful it was?
"Yes. We'd like to do it in February. That would be outstanding. But, yeah we've talked about it. Not to get out in front of our headlights, we'll do it next year possibly. But, we play each other next year and make that decision at the time next year if we do that and if not, possibly the year after. But, it was just really well done and hats off to the Ravens organization and John Harbaugh, who did a tremendous job. I was just so proud of him, just watching him fulfill his duties, and the way he runs his team and the way they are as a team, just the kind of football team that they are. Just a tight ship, you know it's impressive. I got some ideas too, a couple of ideas that I like that we'll bring back to our program as well. So, I could go on. This was great from so many pluses. Plus-plus-plus in so many areas for us. I felt like it was a chance for our team to be together for a week away from our home setting. Much like we've done on our East coast trips to Youngstown. For people who follow our team, it was very similar in that regard. We get to know a guy. We get to know a guy better and get to know each other as a team better."
That being said, traditionally you don't take an after the game road trip where you're away from your facility for about six, seven days. Do you get a sense the guys are anxious to get back to their regular confines and a sense of normalcy from that respect?
"I know from experience that when you do get back it's fresher. Everything around you is fresher. The facility, the practice fields, the meeting rooms. I'm sure guys are excited to see their families and get back. But, like I said, nobody's complained, not one bit. It's just really been head down and making sure that we get the work and get the most out of it."
What kind of report did you get on G Adam Snyder from yesterday's injury?
"Good. From all of the reports yesterday of all the guys we could talk about, we dodged bullets. You bring up another name and we dodge that bullet too. If I could think of a third, we dodged that one as well. It was a good day. We were moving targets yesterday."
What are the ideas that you picked up from your brother that you might take back to Santa Clara?
"I don't know. I don't have to say. I don't have to say. I can keep those cards close to my vest."
But, is it just running the day-to-day practices? Was it in that vein?
"He has a couple of good ideas, a couple of good ideas. If you make me say them right now then later I won't be able to use that and have the perception that it was our idea. So, please don't hold me to the fire on that one. But, yeah some really good things that they do that I liked."
What'd you think of Ravens QB Joe Flacco, seeing him up close? You've seen him before, but just seeing him during a week of practice?
"Top-notch. No question about it. I could go on and on. Everything's at a very high level. That's why I'm thinking about the weekend, the way we were treated, the way the practices went, everything was at the highest level. I can just sum it up in that phrase. It was at the highest level this weekend. We appreciated having the opportunity to be here."
What were your impressions with the kind of defense the Ravens have and the kind of defense that they had in Chicago?
"Good, really good. There were some real good schemes that they have and good practice for us. Some of their pick-stunts in their defensive line. The way they disguise with their secondary, with their linebackers is the highest level. And that's good for us, good for us to get that work and see those things happening at full speed on a football field. That's a heck-of-a team. There's no doubt about it. They're a first-class, quality football team."
You and John were often on opposite fields, one with the offense and one with the defense and what not, but what was it like coaching next to him when you were on the same field?
"It was great. He'd make a coaching point and I'd say, ‘oh that's a good coaching point.' Just proud. I was just proud to watch him do his thing and watch him coach."
LB Aldon Smith said he'd never come to training camp in better shape. Obviously, he was pretty good before. Have you noticed he might have reached another level during camp?
"He's had a heck-of-a week here. He's had a heck-of-a training camp. He's really ... yeah he's taken his game to the highest level."
Is that part of it, is it because he's in better conditioning, he has another year of experience, all of the above, anything you can put your finger on?
"I'll let it speak for itself. His play has been outstanding. I think if you talk to anybody here, he's at the highest level of that position."
You guys play some AFC teams this year, they play some NFC teams. Did that ever come into your head like you're making them better to beat teams that you're potentially competing with for playoffs spots?
Was that part of it when you were kind of concocting these practices, a reason for doing it?
"In a way. There's definitely some interests aligned. We don't play each other this year. They're an AFC team, we're an NFC team. Yeah, there's some interests there. But, mainly, and I could go through probably 10, 11 really good reasons to do this and why we did it. Mainly start off at the top is a chance to get the work, seeing a different guy. [DT] Tank Carradine's going against a different guard than he sees every day in practice. [QB] Colin Kaepernick's seeing that disguise in the secondary. Our offensive line - getting those pick stunts. The special teams, this is a wonderful thing for special teams. There's just so many guys that can run the length of the field so many times at full speed and then to have the two units, there is no look team anymore. Every team is playing their scheme and doing their fundamentals and techniques. It really shows up in the special teams and it really shows up offensively and defensively. There's no look team, there's no scout team. Everybody is playing and they're playing against new and different looks. So, if you really added up all the positives, there would be a lot more than we could talk about right now."
Just the fact that the ones are playing against the ones in all different kinds of situations that you don't ordinarily get in preseason games, is that the main takeaway from this? Just all the reps, ones versus ones, twos versus twos, etc.
"Another good point. You could really start stacking these, but yeah, ones against ones in a preseason game to get short yardage, to get goal line, to get red zone, to get two minute, two minute before the half, two minute at the end of the game, move the ball from midfield, field goals, punts. You don't get all those situations through the course of a preseason with your ones and to be able to get most all of them in a weekend is a tremendous advantage. And then to see the great players, the real players that are at the highest level in this game. Ravens - Joe Flacco and their receivers and [RB] Ray Rice and their line. Their two outside backers, [LB Terrell] Suggs and the way they can rush and the way they can cover. And then for the Ravens, they're seeing [TE] Vernon Davis, who is, by the way, Vernon Davis is quietly having a great camp. On his assignments. In great shape. Doing just one heck of a job. There's other examples. Colin Kaepernick, he's a unique style of quarterback that the Ravens get to see. Lot of plusses. Lots of benefits."
Did you get a chance to catch up with Ravens WR Steve Smith at all?
"I did, yeah. I had a chance to talk to Steve."
Did you talk about Panther days?
"We did. We did of course. Yeah, just a class group of guys. That's the way we look at our team, first-class group of individuals, talking about the players now. Getting to know some of the Ravens players in that way and for our players to get to know those guys. I thought it was very beneficial."
How did DB Jimmie Ward do?
"Jimmie Ward. Good. Coming along. Coming along every day. Competing everywhere. Competing in special teams. The guy is a first-class competitor. If he keeps doing that, can't help but great things happen to Jimmie Ward."