In year seven, the 6-foot, 255-pound outside linebacker suffered a season-ending injury in a 49ers preseason win over the Denver Broncos.
Haralson, 29, was placed on Injured Reserve. Jim Harbaugh, however, regretted the decision. Haralson made quick progress in his rehabilitation and could have been available late in the season if the 49ers coach had designated Haralson with the NFL’s injury exemption that designates a marquee player to return to practice after six weeks and games after eight weeks.
“I look back and think that I made a mistake on personally was probably not putting that tag on him, that exemption that he could have come back and played because he was healthy and ready to go probably mid-to-late December,” the 49ers coach said last month. “And to his credit, he always stayed engaged and stayed focused on helping his team.”
Harbaugh praised Haralson’s leadership and his unselfish attitude during a tough time in linebacker's career.
“Parys showed what kind of team player he was last year, what kind of leader he was,” Harbaugh said. “Throughout the season, (he was) engaged, helping all teammates at his position and on the defensive side of the ball.”
Haralson felt it was the right thing to do. The passionate player remained focused on doing anything possible to help the 49ers prepare each week. Haralson helped younger teammates in the meeting rooms and was an extra set of eyes for the defense at home and away games.
Haralson credited his helpful mentality to what he learned in his first two seasons in the league playing with veteran defensive tackle Bryant Young.
“When I came in I had B.Y. to help me,” Haralson shared. “Anytime a young guy has a question or you have a piece of advice that can help him, you’re willing to do that.”
Looking back on the team’s decision to place Haralson on IR, the 49ers linebacker has no issues with how it went down.
“We really didn’t know where I would be,” Haralson said. “I had never suffered torn triceps so I didn’t know about the rehab on it or how it would affect my strength or how long it would take to get back strength. That was one of those things that I would have loved to get a chance to play, I didn’t get to, but I was still able to be there for the team the whole time.”
Haralson added, “My mind never left football. I couldn’t do it physically, but I was still into it mentally.”
Haralson’s coaches missed having the tough-minded linebacker's presence on the field last season. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is looking forward to seeing how Haralson performs in training camp.
Haralson was a starter in 2011 and played primarily on base downs. He was a solid mentor for then rookie,
The veteran linebacker has been away from full contact since last August. Even so, Haralson is focused on showcasing that he can still impact the defense and there’s no drop in his performance as he enters his eighth season.
In Haralson’s view, each year presents a new challenge and another opportunity to prove your worth.
“You’re always looking to do that,” he said. “In this sport, you’re a competitor and you compete to make plays. I know what I’m able to do.”
Harbaugh remarked that the coaching staff recognize much of the same attributes that endeared Haralson to them when the staff came to San Francisco in 2011.
“There’s a life-giving energy when a 49er, a true team player like that is back out doing what he loves to do,” the 49ers coach said.
Haralson has put the season-ending injury behind him and has moved on to strengthening San Francisco’s defense in 2013.
“Anytime you can get back to what you love doing, it’s always a good thing,” the 49ers linebacker said. “You take things how they are. It’s unfortunate what happened last year, but being able to stay with the team and be around them, it’s what kept me into it.
“I feel like it helped me pick up where I left off.”