He thinks it’s been three or four months since he’s had consecutive days off from his head coaching responsibilities.
Jim Harbaugh however, took full advantage of his team’s Week 9 bye week by spending the full weekend with his wife and children. The 49ers head coach told reporters it was the first consecutive days away from the 49ers facility since the start of the season and that he made the most of that time, even making a trip to the toy store.
“It was good,” the 49ers coach said on Monday. “You hope that everybody had a chance to spend time with their family and take some time for themselves.
“Every now and then everyone needs to take a knee and sip a little water… We need everyone back full-strength for the second half of the campaign.”
Players won’t return to work officially until Tuesday, but the coaching staff, who also took the weekend off, returned to work to continue prep work for a Week 10 home contest against the St. Louis Rams.
Harbaugh also said there were several players who stayed at the facility to work out during the bye week.
“The usual suspects,” the 49ers coach said before singling out
And after a brief period apart, Harbaugh said he’s ready to have his entire team back in the Bay Area on Tuesday.
“Excited and looking forward to preparation this week, another division game,” Harbaugh said. “Getting our players back on the practice fields tomorrow should be good for us.”
Preparation will return somewhat to normal this week with San Francisco playing on a Sunday for the first time since Week 6.
As a result of a Thursday night game, a Monday night matchup and the bye weekend in consecutive weeks, Harbaugh said he’s been able to watch football games on Sunday over the last three weekends. The 49ers coach, however, wasn’t able to watch his team’s Week 10 opponent, who was also on a bye week.
Nonetheless, Harbaugh feels well-versed in the new-look Rams team led by respected veteran coach Jeff Fisher, who is in his first year with the team.
“The team’s playing very good football,” Harbaugh said of the 3-5 Rams. “I think it’s an improved team, seems like they’re doing a very good job.”
St. Louis is much healthier than 2011, a year that saw several key players lost to Injured Reserve. Furthermore, emerging signal-caller Sam Bradford (1,797 passing yards with eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions) was inactive for both 49ers wins between the teams a season ago.
“Personnel-wise,” Harbaugh began, “I think they’re a much healthier team than they were a year ago. There’s some things that are new schematically and some new personnel.”
St. Louis won two games in 2011 and matched that win total through four weeks of the 2012 campaign. The Rams, however, enter Sunday’s NFC West matchup with three consecutive losses on the year.
But with a new coaching staff, Harbaugh remains impressed with Bradford’s tools and the threat the Rams possess to the 49ers.
“He’s always been a pretty top-notch guy,” Harbaugh said of the former No. 1 overall draft pick. “We didn’t see him last year; it was inactive for both of our games we played against them… But he has all the things you look for from a top-notch quarterback in this league.”
Harbaugh pointed to Bradford’s pocket demeanor, technique and arm strength as factors in why the third-year player is considered to be an upper echelon talent.
When asked to discuss the strides Alex Smith has made in 2012, Harbaugh said his starting quarterback has continued to play accurate football.
The 49ers coach also pointed out Smith’s wide receivers who have stepped up their performance in recent weeks.
“The receivers, in particular, did a great job of running with the ball after the catch,” Harbaugh said of San Francisco’s impressive game against Arizona. “They did a great job of blocking for each other it was certainly one of the best we’ve had, in terms of yards after the catch receivers.”
The 49ers will need such performances like the ones they enjoyed in a 24-3 win over the Cardinals in order to keep a comfortable lead in the NFC West, which they now lead by 1.5 games over second-place Seattle (5-4).
Harbaugh called it “the second half of the campaign.”
To finish the campaign right, Harbaugh said the 49ers need to continue striving to get better.
“We feel like improvement will lead to wins and wins will lead to championships,” he said. “It’s an improvement equals success theory. I know it sounds simple, but so simple it might possibly work.”
If the theory works to Harbaugh’s liking, the 49ers coach could very well find himself involved in another championship parade down San Francisco’s Market Street.
After serving as the chauffeur for San Francisco Giants first basemen Brandon Belt’s parade convertible ride last Wednesday, Harbaugh was asked to sum up the day riding along with the World Champs.
“Great experience,” Harbaugh said, “Tremendous showing of support for the team. I know exactly how those Giants fans feel. It was a neat experience.”
Besides enjoying the surroundings, Harbaugh appreciated getting to know Belt much better.
The two discussed the Giants season and Lufkin, Texas, the football hotbed which also serves as Belt’s hometown.
Harbaugh said he’d visited the town several times during collegiate recruiting trips.
“Could live in Lufkin,” Harbaugh said, “a ‘Friday Night Lights’ kind of setting. The water tower has the high school emblem on it; it’s just a great sports town, a great football town.”
When it was relayed to Harbaugh that the Giants first basemen might’ve felt like the second-most popular person in the convertible, Harbaugh scoffed at such a notion.
“I did not get more claps than Brandon Belt, he’s exaggerating… erroneous,” Harbaugh said.
“Again, how else can I say it, job well-done. I’m so happy for their success.”
If the 49ers close their own 2012 campaign the right way, perhaps the roles might be reversed later this year.