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Transcript of Trent Baalke's NFL Combine Presser

Posted Feb 21, 2014

The 49ers general manager took to the podium to answer questions on his roster and draft plans.

On Frank Gore’s contract and whether the salaries devoted to the 49ers’ running backs are reasonable: “The simple answer is there’s no reason it can’t be. We’re in good shape from the cap’s standpoint, so the decision on that (is) there’s really no decision to be made. We can move forward exactly as is, if that’s what we choose to do.”

Have there been progress in talks with Anquan Boldin? “We’re just getting into that. We’ve always maintained that our No. 1 objective in the offseason is to take care of our own guys – to identify the guys we feel we need on our football team moving forward and then find a way to make it work and make it fit from a financial standpoint. It’s no different this season.”

Philosophy on keeping draft information close to the vest: “The local guys will tell you there’s a lot of advantages. I don’t know what advantage there would be in giving out information. So we try to keep as much information to ourselves as we can. It’s a unique process. Obviously, there’s a lot of information coming and going out, so yeah there are certain times there are smokescreens being made but the No. 1 thing I’ve learned is the less you say, the better off you are.”

How do you go about making sure there are not leaks? “We’re constantly evaluating what’s in the papers. And we have our PR department looking for those types of things and find out if it’s a team source that’s made a decision to let something out of the building. We address it. Our coaching staff, our personnel staff do a very good job of keeping things close to the vest and we’re hopeful we’ll continue to do that.”

Do you monitor social media of draft-eligible players? “We’re in that age of social media. We pay great deal of attention to it. Once we get the board narrowed down, we certainly don’t start with a vast number. When he narrow the board down over the next several weeks, we’ll start identifying the players that we want to run social media with and take a look at their accounts and how active they are and what they’re saying and what they’re doing, so we do address it.”

Are there certain things you look for? “There are, and I think we all know what we’re looking for – just how responsible they are in the use of it.”

On the importance of being strong in the middle, offensively and defensively: “I think you want to do that in every sport, right? Baseball tries to do it. Basketball tries to do it. I think football is no different. You want to take away the middle of the field and that’s the best way to do it, by having strength up the middle. So if you can do that in a game, you have a very good chance of winning, week in and week out. So we place a big emphasis on that.”

How much stock do GMs put on the trade value chart? “It’s the standard. Everybody uses it, so you have to understand it and take a look at it. You’re always trying to win, right? We’re in a competitive business, so you’re always trying to win the point battle. But sometimes it’s not worth it. Sometimes it makes sense to just disregard it and make the decision you think you need to make to get the player you want. The No. 1 one thing is targeting the players you want, identify those and find a way to go get them.”

On holding multiple draft-pick trade value charts: “We’re one of those teams that uses our own chart. There are other teams that use their own chart. There are several teams that use the same chart we do. You have to understand both of them because sometimes teams aren’t willing to talk to you on your chart, they’re only willing to go with the standard charts that’s been used and developed for a long time. There’s flexibility in it. But identifying the player is the critical thing. And finding a way to get them is the next stop.”

How do you replace Bowman? Who’s next man up?Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody are both on the football team and both have done a nice job. Nick, obviously, is a young guy, still developing at the linebacker position. And Michael Wilhoite is a guy who has stepped in and played well when called upon. We’re going to address that. We’re going to take a hard look to see if we need to infuse a little more competition into that position and the No. 1 thing regarding NaVorro is making sure he’s 100 percent before we bring him back. He’s not an individual – nor is any individual on our football team – that we want to rush back into action. When he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go. And if that’s mid-season or middle-to-late part of the season, whenever that is, that’s when we’re bringing him back to the field.”

On RBs being devalued: “I don’t want to answer for 31 other teams. I think when you look at it, I’ve maintained for a long time that that position has evolved a little bit. You see less and less of the bell-cow backs and more of the rotation system. There are certain teams, and we were one of them last year, that did predominantly use one back. But it’s getting harder and harder to find those guys. And it’s getting harder and harder for those guys to hold up at the NFL level.”

Is that function of more spread offenses in H.S. and college? “I think that’s certainly a factor in it.”

Has Frank Gore surprised you? “People always ask me that. There’s nothing Frank does that surprises me. I’ve never met an individual – a player, a coach, anybody – that’s been around the game of football that is as passionate about the game as Frank Gore. That’s what drives him. So nothing he does surprises us.”

On evaluating QBs: “It’s a tough position to play. So drafting it, getting it right, if anyone had the answer, they’d be doing it. It’s a tough position. There is so much that goes on from a mental standpoint, a physical standpoint, it’s just a very difficult position to play. Some have mastered. Some are at the level of trying to master it, and some never will master it. So it’s just a position that has changed over time. It was difficult from the beginning and it’s still difficult.”

What role does Jim Harbaugh play in evaluating the QB position? “Jim plays a big role in, not only the quarterback position, but we maintained, we’ve always worked hard together to try to identify the players at every position that fit our system, and that’s the most important thing is bringing guys who not only fit your system, but fit the DNA of the type of players you’re looking for.”

How has Jim’s role changed in this draft process through the years? “There’s been no change. We continue to work hard at it. What we’re trying to do is get it right for the 49ers. And the best way to get it right is for everybody to be on the same page and to work hard together and try to make the best

decisions that you can for the team and the organization as a whole. We’ll continue to do that. From that standpoint, nothing’s changed.”

With so much information out there, how do you keep from getting overloaded? “Have you ever read the book, “Blink”? Keep it simple. The first time you look at a player, you’re usually right. Your gut is usually right. Through the process, you gather more and more information and you watch more and more film. And sometimes the process is so long and it’s drawn out another two weeks that you end up talking yourself out of that first impression. So I always go back to the book “Blink.” And if you’ve read it, you understand where I’m coming from. And if you haven’t, you should. It’s a great book.”

On the importance of arm length of college prospects: “I like long arms. Last year’s draft should tell you that. Length’s important. It’s important in every sport. Aldon Smith, great leverage player because you can’t get to him. He’s 36-inch arm length. All of the guys last year on the D-line were 34 or more. I think it’s an important trait. It’s a trait that’s hard to find. If you look at this this year’s measurements, you’re not going to find many players in this year’s draft that are 34-plus arm length regardless of position. O-line, D-line, linebacker, so it is a trait we certainly look at.”

What did Eric Reid do at the Combine last year that stood out to you? “Nothing. I don’t mean that in a negative way. Eric was a young man we identified of film, and we’re film guys. What they do here, we gather the numbers like everybody else, but it still comes down to the film. What do they do on film? That remains the most important thing for us as evaluators and it’ll continue to be moving forward.”

Aldon Smith and his support system: “I just talked to Aldon yesterday, as a matter of fact. He’s in Vail. He’s having a good time away (from football). We keep in contact regularly. And we’ve got a great support system and Aldon has done an outstanding job of utilizing that support system and will continue to.”

Is Colt McCoy a guy you want back? “We’re in the process of addressing all of that with our free agents.”

On Quinton Patton: “Any time you get injured it takes away from your growth as a player. So it was a little bit of a rocky road for Quinton. But the amazing thing about him is how resilient he is and how much fun . . . . I talk about Frank and much he loves the game, and I think if you asked anyone on our football team, ‘Give me the top two or three guys that just love to play,’ Quinton’s name’s going to come up quite a bit. He loves being on the field. He loves practicing. He loves being in the building. He’s a great teammate. He’s a hard worker, so he’s going to bounce back from that. I think you saw toward the end of the year he already started to make a leap. And we’ve always maintained the most growth that takes places is between the year 1 and the year 2. And we’ll expect that to happen in Quinton’s case.”

Can Patton play inside and outside? “I think he can play inside and outside. He’s a very smart football player. He works very hard at the game, and his skill set translates inside and out.”

Do you have expectations for Tank Carradine and Corey Lemonier in their second year? “Tank’s in a good place. He really is. He’s worked awfully hard. Tank is pushing 290 pounds right now. He’s had a great offseason that really started at the beginning of this year. He got on the active for a little while then was put back down. He’s done an outstanding job. We expect big things from Tank.”

LaMichael James’ lack of playing time: “All I can say is it’s a crowded backfield. And with Frank having an awfully good football season. I think coach (Harbaugh) mentioned yesterday, A-plus-plus. Frank had that kind of year. And it’s tough. There are certain game plans where LaMichael was meant to play a little bit bigger role than he ended up playing, but that’s the game. Every game you go in with a plan and sometimes that plan changes based on what you’re seeing and what the other team is doing. So you got to be flexible. It’s up to LaMichael and it’s up to every play. We tell every one of our players this: ‘It’s up to you to earn time on the field.’ So it’s not as much about what he hasn’t been doing, it’s as much about what Frank has been doing.”

On TE Vance McDonald: “If you watched us play, you understand how complicated that position is, and how many different hats Vance had to wear this year as a rookie. It’s a very difficult thing. When you have as much volume as we have and he’s put in as many positions that he’s put in, it’s such a learning curve. It takes away from your physicality, your physical traits because you’re thinking your way through the game. So I think there’s going to be a big jump with Vance next year and what he’s able to bring to this football team. . . . The game is going to slow down for him. We felt very good about how he played this year and performed, especially when you consider all of things we were asking him to do.”

When you see an undrafted guy like Tramaine Brock sign a long-term deal, is that a rewarding process for the scouting department? “I think it’s more rewarding for the player. Really proud of the player. Tramaine is a young man who’s put in an awful lot of hard work into his craft and when I look at the development that he’s made as a player and as a person, how can you not be happy for that individual? So he’s earned everything that he’s gotten. He was a $500 free-agent signing after the draft. And it’s all on him because of the way he came in and worked at it.”