Harbaugh: Crabtree 'chomping at the bit'


Harbaugh: Crabtree 'chomping at the bit'

After another padded practice for the 49ers, head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media on Friday to discuss the team's progress. Harbaugh also addressed the Michael Crabtree's absence from training camp.

Jim Harbaugh: Hello. G Mike Iupati was excused from practice today, expecting their first child, his wife Ashley and Mike Iupati. Should come sometime today. Real excited about that. Our teams about to get stronger. Wish Mike and Ashley the best and our prayers are with them.

Q: In Iupatis place was G Leonard Davis, getting a little bit of action on both sides? What have you seen from him in his time with the team?

Its been good. Its all been positive. (Davis is) working extremely hard to get up to speed. He is right on track and done that. I think thats a product of being a veteran, being somebody who has been in systems and knows the game. Hes a physical presence. Probably the largest man Ive ever stood toe-to-toe and knee-to-knee with in my entire life is Leonard Davis.

Q: Youre getting a slimmed down version of Leonard Davis, arent you?

Yes we are. Yes we are. Thats what I hear. He looks great.

Q: Was this G Joe Looneys first time with team drills?

It was. He got action in there at guard, and some good. Its good to have him back on the field, good to have him back started. I think well have a lot to work with there.

Q: To the untrained eye, it looked like the defense was really on their game out there and dominated the offense. To the trained eye, did it look that way throughout?

It did. It certainly did, about every which way it could be dominated. It was an outstanding day for our defense. Turnovers, pass rush, communication was great. The way theyre playing together is at a very high level, both units, and the young guys as well, doing a fabulous job.

Q: Is that to be expected this time in training camp? Is it normal for the other training camps youve seen or is the defense even a little better than maybe some of the other defenses that youve seen at this point at training camp?

Id say its a function of today. I wouldnt call it a function of training camp. Its been very competitive out here. Its gone up, down. Theres been days where its been sideways. Its been good, gotten a lot of competitive reps, a lot of situations. Theres no doubt the defense got the best of it today.

Q: It looked like there was a lot more switching, not just Davis for Iupati, but a lot more switching on the offensive line. Was T Alex Boone working through something? Why was he not taking part in as many reps and also C Jonathan Goodwin, it appeared he sat out a lot at practice as well?

Boone got hit in the privates. Hes going to be fine.

Q: And Goodwin?

No, Goodwin worked for a good amount of time and then backed off some of his reps. That was a function of taking the edge off of him toward the latter half of practice.

Q: Randy Moss has been in every practice. It seems every cornerbacks had a different chance to go against him. Do you sense that those cornerbacks have embraced a new challenge in guarding him?

Yeah, like I said, its been very competitive, especially in that area. But, it hasnt been self-centered. Thats what Ive been most pleased about. Its been just good work, sharpening, straightening, using it to get better. I think thats a great asset for our team to have that on both sides of the ball.

Q: What do you mean by self-centered? That youre glad that the cornerbacks arent self-centered about guarding him or about covering him?

The way they work together. The way they work together. Its an angle of approach. Its an attitude to make our football team better. Its competitive but you dont see the chippiness, the grabbing jerseys and the cheap kind of shots. Thats been a real positive for us.

Q: Along those lines, with the replacement officials here, do you have any sense about, or thoughts on, starting the exhibition season and playing a few games with replacement officials and what have you seen from them on the practice field?

They went back to back, two good practices. (I) havent seen the film from todays practice, but sense after yesterdays practice it was very good. They saw everything I was able to see and more. Then today they were right on it. So, I think they had another good day today. But, its very beneficial for us to have the officials out here.

Q: Certainly another large human being who has slimmed down a little is RB Brandon Jacobs. Can you tell any difference? He said hes lost about 15 points since the spring. Can you tell any difference in his body and the way hes moving?

15 from the offseason? No, I havent noticed that in the way hes played. Hes been good since he got here, and very light on his feet for a big man. Since the pads have come on hes even more of a presence out there because hes got great size and instincts and the ability to run the ball between the tackles.

Q: Did you guys use the new helmet communication system today?

Q: How did that go over?

There were no glitches.

Q: What was a typical glitch or a problem you might have had last year or in previous seasons with the analog system that you guys used?

We never got the answer, but we had problems in a couple particular road games where it would shut off right in the middle of a play call. (It) happened multiple times in one particular game. I couldnt tell you what the problem was because I was never given a response to the question.

Q: Today can you tell that its just been a better system? A crisper system, just from the practice field while practicing?

No, I couldnt say that I could say one way or the other on that.

Q: When those plays were getting interrupted, how did they carry out?
We had to switch over to a hand signal system.

Q: WR Michael Crabtree hasnt played in an exhibition game since hes been with the 49ers. Hes missed a week of camp. How much does missing that week set him back?

The thing I feel for Michael, I know hes feeling too, is that he came in in such great shape. (He) looked fantastic and we feel like well get him back soon and we can pick right up. I dont think this is going to be a major bump in the road. I think its going to be a minor one. Hes chomping at the bit to get back out there, and I anticipate that happening soon.

Q: Do you think just because he and QB Alex Smith have had such a body of work during the off-season program that thatll be easier to pick up? That the one week isnt detrimental?

Both of them had fantastic off-seasons. Michael was lean, in shape, tip-top shape, moving extremely well. I dont anticipate any issues when he gets back.

Q: Based on what youve seen in the last couple of days, is there one area in particular youd like to see the offense step it up in?

Well talk about that with the offense. Theyll hear it from me. They dont need to read about it right now. Thats coming off a day where we took a step back. Every day has really been getting better and better and better and better from the beginning of camp. So to look at this practice as a whole, would be a mistake of training camp. Its been outstanding. Another thing weve got to do is handle it, move forward, learn from it, and I think we will. Thats the way this offensive unit has been since we got together. So (I) anticipate that we can handle it and make a positive out of it. And there were some positives. Not to say that there werent any. Theres another old adage, That its never as good as you think it was. Its never as bad as you think it was. I know there will be things that when we turn on the tape well be very pleased with. Well look at it, well address it and well move forward.

Q: Yesterday you talked to the team after practice and kept the twos out there. Was that a schedule thing that you planned to do that?


Q: DT Justin Smith, how great of a test does he present the offense, because it seems like today hes in mid-season form?

Hes a great player. Theres no question about it. Every team in the league would love to have Justin Smith on their team. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio made the comment that this is a great player. This is a strong man who plays with incredible leverage. But he plays like a guy thats fighting to make the roster. Thats a special combination, a rare combination. A great football player. Glad we have him on our team because I know theres 31 other teams that would love to have him.

Q: When you were playing, was the nickel, cornerback role as specialized as it seems to becoming today? It seems like its a real, almost a 12th position now.

It is. I forgot a lot of things from that long ago, but I dont remember it being like the position it is now. Its really, in a lot of ways, a starting position when teams are playing that nickel defense, 40, 50, 60 percent, sometimes even 70 percent of their snaps.

Q: Vic Fangio described it as sort of a quasi-linebacker. It could honestly almost be a linebacker playing it. Is that what you see as well, that theres got to be a lot of linebacker-like abilities from that player?

Yeah, you must be able to tackle because youre playing so close to the line of scrimmage. Hes got to be able to cover in tight spaces, and got to be able to cover slot receivers who are usually really quick, fast and can get open in a tight area of space themselves. Its a unique position and weve got guys that we feel good about playing it and it gives us options.

Q: Do you have a status report on TE Nate Byham?

No, not a status report. Hes got something that hes working through."

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense


What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine


49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.