Coach Jim Harbaugh addresed the media on Thursday as his team prepares to travel to Atlanta for the NFC Championship.Have you had any interesting guests come in and talk to the team this week?**
Sometimes you do.
But not this time?
"[ESPN Sportscaster] Chris Berman was here yesterday, he said a few words to the team."
How do you feel about preparation to this point, compared to where it was a week ago?
"Yeah, it's been good."
DT Justin Smith said yesterday that he felt like after last year's game there was, maybe not a celebration, but the whole energy was different than now. After the game this week, the Packers win, there wasn't the celebration, it was moving on, very business-like. Have you sensed that too?
"Like I said, the preparation has been good. I'm not going to dissect or attempt to dissect the attitude of every single guy. We'll do what we always do and speak for myself. Pack a toothbrush and a great attitude and get ready to play a football game."
You always want your guys to get better. How have they improved since the last time you entered this game, the NFC Championship Game? What really stands out in your mind and where they've made their improvement over the last year?
"Well again, to list that whole list or to try to pick out one bullet point, don't really have that right now."
Your dad said he has given you and your brother great advice which was get ahead and stay ahead. Was that said to you through the years or is that a new one?
"No, he's said that one often, going back several years. He breaks it down Barney style. Great advice."
He doesn't really elaborate on that, as far as how you get ahead. You can interpret it as you will, is that right?
When you did first start really taking a look at Atlanta?
"In earnest, after they won the game."
So, how much time before? Just easy plans or before they beat Seattle at all?
"Yeah, there were computer breakdowns on all the possible teams that we could play if we could advance. That's a standard element of our preparation."
Was it a priority for you guys to kind of keep an eye towards the playoffs as far as your usage of RB Frank Gore?
"No, every week we were going into it as that game being the most important game. I wouldn't say there was an eye toward the playoffs on that specifically, with Frank."
How important is it for you, as you look at the whole season, to have him playing his best football and have him healthy and fresh at this time of the season?
"Well it's very exciting to hear. I know Frank has mentioned that a few times this week, a few times last week, that he feels great. Body feels great, his mind feels good, great attitude. It's a real positive for us."
Have you been happy with RB LaMichael James' performance in the offense and special teams since RB Kendall Hunter went down?
"Yeah, we're all happy with the way LaMichael has stepped in and has really given us a boost. It's been good."
As far as running the read-option, how much does it fall on the running backs to really sell the fake, that he's got the ball? Does LaMichael do a particularly good job at that?
"Yeah, I would say he does and all of our backs do. That's a fundamental part of the play."
Have you ever been fooled from your vantage point as to who has the ball on a particular play?
Your team tackles really well. What makes a good tackler? What are the elements of making a good tackler? A good football player who tackles?
"The list of all those things again. I'd say the one that stands out. That's probably an easier one to answer. Number one is contact courage. Seeing how fast they can get from point A to point B and go hit somebody."
LaMichael put a pretty big block on Packers LB Clay Matthews in the Green Bay game. I know that was something his rookie he's been working on. Can you trust him more now in those pass-blocking situations or run-blocking situations maybe than when he first started playing regularly?
"Yes. There's real good evidence there that LaMichael has good technique, contact courage as a blocker. He has proven that."
A lot of players talk about Frank's football IQ being a little different than most running backs. In your experience with him, what stands out in that regard with Frank?
"It's top shelf. Not to categorize it, but I know I've learned a lot from Frank as well as the other running backs on our team. He sees it, he sees the big picture, he sees the whole picture. He sees it slowed down and he's got a very quick mind. He's able to make quick minded decisions."
With all of the coaching vacancies just about full now, do you have mixed feelings that some of your assistants didn't get one of those jobs? Obviously, you're going to be happy that they're going to be coming back. What's your thought on them not filling any of those vacancies?
"You know how I feel. Any team would be lucky to have them as head coaches. That time will come. Very confident of that."
Do you have any stories from your playing career in Atlanta, remember games you've played in Atlanta? Any stories?
Did creating a gameplan for the Falcons take any more or less time than maybe other teams for the fact that you haven't faced then in your time here?
"As far as the amount of time in the day, you're using every minute that you can until you're just exhausted and have to just go to sleep. That's pretty much every week. They haven't created more hours in the day."
You might be more familiar with Seattle?
"Yeah, there's definitely that element there."
Did you sleep in the office this week?
"A little bit."