Days after the 49ers starting quarterback spoke publicly about supporting Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL prospect, Harbaugh shared similar feelings on the topic.
“I respect his honesty,” Harbaugh said of Sam, the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year. “I very much look forward to watching him compete like I do watching all those youngsters compete. I love watching them go through the process.”
Harbaugh said he believes Sam will be treated like any other 2014 NFL Draft hopeful.
“There is a process of trying out, making a team and contributing to a team,” Harbaugh added. “I very much look forward to it.”
San Francisco’s head coach, now entering his fourth season in the NFL, doesn’t foresee any locker room issues for Sam’s future club.
“I truly believe the NFL will handle it,” Harbaugh said. “I can’t speak for every single locker room, but I truly believe and many players have already commented on it – we will be welcoming.
“I truly believe that.” Harbaugh said he’s looked at Sam’s recent announcement from a different perspective, not just as a football coach.
“I put myself in other people’s shoes sometimes,” Harbaugh said. “So if I’m the father and that’s my son, Michael Sam, I would worry more about the media. I don’t know if they’ll allow him to go through the process, or if they’re going to try and make him their daily story.”
Harbaugh said he worries that Sam won’t be afforded the same opportunity to improve as any NFL newcomer. The 49ers coach said he hopes that Sam will have the space and privacy to focus on his craft.
“There is a news side to all of this,” Harbaugh said. “I hope that he gets to go through the process and it’s an enjoyable experience for him and he’s able to compete to the best of his ability.”
San Francisco appears to have depth at outside linebacker, Sam’s likely NFL position, but this won’t stop the 49ers from evaluating the senior pass-rusher, who posted 11.5 sacks in 2013.
Pass-rushers are a premium in the NFL. Harbaugh knows that all too well.
“You can never have enough good football players,” Harbaugh said.