Coach Jim Harbaugh addressed the media on Friday before the 49ers kicked off 2012 training camp.
Did you do anything different at the opening of camp this year with no lockout as opposed to a year ago when you didn’t really know these guys?
“Yes, we have a strategy that’s different from last year’s on a lot of levels.”
“Such as, we’ll have a plan and we’ll go into it the way we’re going into it and also have a feel too as we go. I think it’s important to have both those, a plan and a feel.”
Having not known those guys a year ago, is there less competition? Do you already know in your mind the guys who are going to be your key contributors?
“That’s what we’re here to find out. There’s a lot of work that’s done in the offseason but this is training camp now. We’ve reached a point where it was our goal in the entire offseason to get our best 90 football players to this point, to this day. From here, there’s going to be evaluation that’s going to move up, move down, move sideways as it relates to who the starters are going to be, who the contributors are going to be, who the role players are going to be, who makes the football team. But that’s going to play out over the next two to three weeks, then we start playing games. Then there will be decisions made as it relates to who makes the football team when we have to make those. Then we get into the games during the season and then it becomes obvious to everybody who our best players are.”
How limiting are the new rules about when you can spend time with players and when you can’t? How creative do you have to be about doing the job now in the offseason?
“Well, they’re exactly like they were last year, last training camp. How often you can spend…[cut off]
The lockout obviously…
“You want to go back and talk about the lockout?”
No, I’m just saying in the lockout you couldn’t spend any time at all.
“Right. So you’re asking me what the rules are, how much time you can spend with players?
If you’re a new coach for instance you get two extra weeks with your players, which seems like a pretty significant advantage. Now, aren’t there limitations about how much time you can spend with the players in training camp and before?
“Okay, you can easily research what those rules are. You’re asking me to cite all the rules of the CBA?
No, I’m just saying, in terms of you have to be creative in how you use your time. You can’t waste any time?
“No, you can’t waste any time, not a single minute. The same as last year in training camp, four hours on the field with the players, you can’t have two-a-days anymore, but you can go on the field twice. One of those practices has to be a walkthrough, the other can be full-speed, full-tempo. Pads can be put on, on the third day; the first two are in helmets. You could easily do the same research. I don’t think you need me to stand up here and talk about the rules.”
You mentioned a time or two about the discussion you had with WR
“Because I had never—when we first met? Are you referring back to that meeting?”
“I had never met Randy before. We talked about it at length, that conversation, what took place, and just two guys getting a feel for each other. I’m really pleased and happy that we have Randy Moss on our football team. He’s doing an outstanding job. And he’s been exceeding expectations, doing a great job.”
What did you mean when you told [Rich] Gannon that he [WR Randy Moss] was your best receiver? Just physically? Is it everything? Why is he your best receiver?
“The way that was reported was misunderstood. What I said, and I remember the conversation vividly, I was describing Randy having the fastest time in a specific drill on a specific day of the offseason OTAs. What we have here on this team, really we’ve got five guys who are number one receivers as we go into this camp. Like I said before, it will play out what the roles are, who the starters are, who the backups, the contributors. But, I feel really good about that. We’ve got five number ones, tied for first, five guys tied for first.”
Is it accurate that you asked Randy, he asked you, “What can I do for you coach,” and you said “Well, one thing you can do is be in the front row of all the team meetings and film sessions.” Is that correct?
“Yes, Randy’s been outstanding, and all of our guys have been. It’s a very focused group and we’ve talked about that quite a bit in the offseason. He’s been great and has picked up the system easily, and he’s doing a great job.”
A lot of these guys really revere him, especially the younger receivers. Do you see him having an effect on them and bringing them from the back of the room to the front of the room and trying to mimic all the things that he does?
“I think all of our tenured guys especially, and there’s other guys, the eight-year and the seven-year guys, the guys that have been around this league, there’s a lot of value that they bring to the younger players and Randy is a leader in that regard. The guys gravitate to him and they watch him. He’s been outstanding.”
“Yes, I would say it’s the guys you know, [WR]
If Randy is close or at the level that we’ve gotten to know him as we have throughout his career, what are you and [Offensive Coordinator] Greg [Roman] prepared to do as far as tailoring your attack to that sort of talent?
“Right, that goes back to the plan, the feel, and the scheme. So, it’s something that you can feel confident that we’re on top of.”
You added G
“Well, that we had great feel for him, I thought, when he visited here. And just really happy that we have him, that he’s healthy and he’s available, we get him right here at the start of training camp. And I loved his comments yesterday. When asked about competing, he said he wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t here to compete, so I thought that was spot on and take a man at his word. I’m excited to watch that unfold.”
What are some immediate things you have to get done in the next two days? Do you have any immediate goals?
“Yes, we’d love to be better today than we were yesterday. And then the second day, be better day two than we were day one, and it’s just so simple it just might work.”
When you took this job last year, did you find that most of the people, the veterans you had on this team, had that mindset that they just wanted to get better and better each day, that you didn’t have to push them in that direction?
“I think that’s something that resonates with us, with our team, finding a way to get a mile an hour faster, and chase any percent greater return. So yes, I would say that’s something that resonates with our team.”
Will Leonard be at right guard, competing with G/T
“Leonard, he’s told us and he’s talked about being comfortable at either spot and I think that’s something that would be valuable for our team, for him to be able to play both spots. He’s played a little more on the left side, but I think being prepared to do both would be great for him and us.”
You mentioned Leonard’s health. In March it sounds like he wasn’t medically cleared. Was that a reason you weren’t ready to sign him? But his foot checked out and he was kind of 100 percent ready to go?
“We should have done, is a very tried and true method. Would’ve, should’ve, that’s practically an undefeated method. We’re where we are now, Leonard’s here. We’re very excited about it, he’s excited about it. He’s come in in great shape. He’s healthy and as he said, he’s ready to compete and that’s something that, like I said, take a man at his word and it fires you up about that.”
I have another health related question. About a month ago, LB
“Right, Aldon passed the conditioning test yesterday and will practice full-go today.”
I know you don’t think much about other people’s expectations, but this is a team that went to the NFC title game last year and has been looked at as one of the Super Bowl favorites. Do you like that? Do you care about that? Do you want your players to think about that?
“We have great expectations. We’ve got big hopes. We’ve got big dreams. As it relates to expectations though, they are to go out and have a great practice this afternoon. We expect a great practice. And then, great expectations for tonight’s meetings. The other things are irrelevant at this point, other than you’ve got to find something to believe in, and then go to work at that. And we believe that what puts us in the best possible position, the most advantageous position to win, is preparation and hard work. So we’ll believe in that and go to work.”
Is this team better than it was at the end of last season? Do you think about stuff like that?
“That kind of goes back to the earlier thing, the better, the best, evaluations. This is day one. That’s what we’re here to find out, and it’ll all play out and everybody will know as the games get here and how good we are in those. But, right now it’s a race to get as good as we can possibly get with the group that we have here.”
Do you sense more confidence in your guys going into this camp than you did last year, obviously because of the success you had last year?
“You sense so many emotions the first day, the reporting day, the first day of practice, which is today. And they’re off-the-charts kind of emotions – extreme excitement, there’s nervousness, there’s anticipation, there’s angst. And how do I know that they have those emotions? Because I’ve got them, too. So, there are a lot of those emotions going on. I think the most important thing as we go out as it relates today, and having a great practice today, is that mind over the nerves because it’s a great attack on the emotions and the nerves on day one.”
What about confidence?
“We’ll find out. We’ll find out. That’s something I think that you gain as you prepare, and as you work. And I think that comes before anything else.”
Were you concerned with the two incidents off the field that Aldon Smith found himself in this offseason?
“I’ve talked to Aldon and those comments, that conversation is private. Aldon doesn’t need to re-read the same exact thing that I told him, quoted in your newspaper.”
How excited are you about the competition at quarterback with Alex and those three?
“How excited? Very excited. I’m very excited about the competition on this entire football team. Across the board, I think you’re going to see guys with the ability and the license to contribute to this football team and make a difference for this football team. I’m excited to watch it play out.”
When you bring in guys like WR
“Well, that experience is valuable. I don’t know how much or not, but those are members of our team now and they have been this entire offseason. We think we’re a better football team with those two men on our side and we’re excited about it.”
Have you had any conversations with those guys about the NFC title game?
“A few, yeah.”
Can you share maybe what those might be?
“No, those will remain private, too [laughs].”
How much of the mini-camp stuff and the offseason stuff has gone into deciding who the backup quarterback is? Does one of those two, or three guys have an edge right now? Or is it all going to be decided in the next few weeks?
“Really, really, really tied for second, all three of those guys are. I really felt that way coming out of the OTAs and the mini-camps. When we got to the end of the mini-camps, that’s really the way that we felt, the way I felt. But then you go from mini-camp to the start of training camp and things can change there. What they’re working on, specifically each guy, can change because they’re working on it over that little over a month’s time. So, now we’re back. Now we’re back day one practicing and it’s always exciting to see where that stands. So, really that order could change in the next six hours. But, I’ve got a feeling it’s one of those things that could go up, down, sideways. It’s going to be very fluid and it’s going to take some time to sort out in the preseason games to really analyze. But yes, very excited to watch it unfold.”
Can you say who’s going to get the first snap of the second unit today?
What was the most interesting thing for you having Randy Moss on your team? I’m sure you’ve heard about him before, but seeing him live is a little different?
“The most interesting thing to me is, and the most fun part, is out on the practice field. I get some joy being around Randy Moss out there. He’s got a knack for saying the right thing at the right time, the right joke at the right time. So, out there on the field.”