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Coach's Notebook: Jan. 16

Posted Jan 16, 2014

In his second of three press conferences this week, Jim Harbaugh discussed the health of Ahmad Brooks and the improvement of Vance McDonald among other topics.

Will LB Ahmad Brooks be able to practice today? What’s his status?
“Feeling better today. Had a little bug.”

Was he able to go in the walk through?
“Yes.”

I know it was a penalty on Sunday, but seeing a 260-pound guy go over the line like he did, was that impressive to you, just his athleticism that he was able to show?
“Yes, very athletic.”

And what about him playing inside linebacker?
“Excited about it. He was very excited to play it. And you saw it build all through the week where [LB] Patrick [Willis], [LB] NaVorro [Bowman] were excited to have him back in there with them. And could see the scheme was really sound, was going to work. And therefore the guys were very fired up, and then when they got into that position, to execute it.”

If he plays, what kind of issues does Seahawks WR Percy Harvin present for you on Sunday?
“He’s a fantastic player, and they have many of those. We have a lot of respect for the Seattle wide receiver group. They’ve always been outstanding when they’ve played us, [Seahawks WR] Doug Baldwin and [Seahawks WR] Golden Tate and [Seahawks WR Jermaine] Kearse, etc. The two tight ends have been very good. We understand that’s a big task with those men.”

With LB Dan Skuta and DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, as well as TE/DT Demarcus Dobbs, did you use them more throughout the season rotating through the defensive line as you saw them improve? Is that something that happened throughout the season?
“Yes. That’s something that happened.”

And right now heading in, do you feel you can put them in more situations than you could during the regular season?
“Yes, yes. Their playtime increased because of merit. They handled their job and therefore you felt like we could give them more jobs, put them in more situations, more play time. That’s been a meritocracy in that regard, and they’ve done a nice job.”

How much better is your passing game with a healthy WR Michael Crabtree?
“How much? I don’t know the exact amount. But better, yes. Significantly.”

Can you describe his abilities as a player?
“Yes, well documented what we think of him as a football player. Outstanding in terms of all the things you want a receiver to be outstanding at. As we’ve said, who catches the ball better than Michael Crabtree? It’s A-plus, plus. And not just the low-hanging fruit of getting open and catching passes, but what he brings to our team in terms of blocking in the run game and toughness, and competitiveness. Just a real football player.”

How satisfying was it once Crabtree finally got back on the field for you to have WR Anquan Boldin and Crabtree both out there at last? It was an eight-month wait.
“First, on a personal level, that he was able to go through the grueling rehab and having to sit out for healing purposes, and then when he came back, you could just see at every juncture he was hitting right down the middle of the strike zone in terms of his healing. And you just watched the mental toughness, the physical toughness over that six-month period. And then when he got back on the field, then even a, ‘Wow, this is really going to be good for us.’ And just thankful to him. Thankful that he went through the grueling rehab, went through the toughness, and thankful that he was good. And thought that there would be a gap from where he was this year as to (where he was) before he got hurt. Thinking that maybe there were some balls he wouldn’t get to, maybe some catches he wouldn’t make, some tackles he wouldn’t break, some separation that he wouldn’t gain after coming back from a torn Achilles tendon. But, it was minor. You couldn’t really even tell the difference the first couple weeks, and then to where it is now. It’s as good or better. And what kind of human being is able to do that. It’s so rare. I can’t even compare it to anything else that I’ve ever seen. It’s that rare. Very thankful that he’s good and did what he did to get back and help his team.”

Do you have a quality as a coach that you’re most proud of?
“I don’t know if there’s one that I’m most proud of. Well, the thing I’m most proud of is being part of a great team. I think every human being has a desire to be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves, and be a part of a team effort, where people are striving to do something great. And to have found that, to be a part of that team, I can’t tell you how special that is and how much that means to me.”

How much better is TE Vance McDonald? It seemed like Week 2 there was an adjustment period offensively when you guys struggled executing. And Vance McDonald has turned into an asset blocking for the running game over the last two weeks. Can you talk about his evolution during his rookie year and the steps he’s taken since that Week 2 game?
“He’s been a contributor right from the beginning, by talent and by necessity. He has been the type of player that learns from mistakes. And he’s not an error repeater. We saw that very early on. So, when you go back and talk about what happened Week 2, or the first or third week of training camp, every step he’s made he’s either done it right, or he’s learned from what mistake he might have made. He’s a ‘do-stuff-right guy.’ And it’s shown up in his contribution.”

What can you tell us about what RB Frank Gore does for your offense when he’s able to run the ball well like he did the last time you met up with the Seahawks?
“He runs the football very effectively. Nobody does it better. He blocks in protection. And he catches the ball out of the backfield. Does everything that you’d want a back to do. And then he’s such a great example. Showers us with his attributes every day. The work ethic, the team attitude. Just a guy that says the right thing at the right time. That’s a pretty good list.”

Is it critical for him to be able to run the ball to be successful against Seattle?
“Yes, I would call that critical.”

So much was made of after S Eric Reid got that second concussion in the first Carolina game, on him maybe needing to make adjustments, or choosing where to hit a big guy.
“Yeah, I remember that.”

What strides have you seen from him? Or did he need to do anything?
“As we talked about it at that time, I think he got into a few situations, tackles, that the result was a concussion. I think he tweaked it only the way he could. ‘I was in this situation. I approached it this way. I didn’t like the result.’ So, a subtle change would have been made by him, just in the way he approached the next tackle in the same situation, I assume. I have some experience of knowing that’s the way the brain thinks and adjusts. Just a subtle adjustment that only he can make, really.”

Have you seen any of the younger wide receivers gravitate towards Anquan and look towards him as a leader? And can you kind of explain what Boldin brings to the locker room as a whole?
“Yes, we talked about that yesterday. He’s just a valuable, valuable player in all regards. Any young player that didn’t look at Anquan Boldin and watch the way he practices, the way he plays, the way he approaches the pre-practice warm up for instance. Every rep that he takes, you as a coach you say, ‘Don’t go in, let somebody else take this rep.’ You’ve got to pull him out of rep situations sometimes. So, any young receiver that’s watching that, or any football player, or any coach would be impressed. ‘That’s the way I should practice, or approach every day.’”

Has he exceeded expectations from when you guys brought him in?
“Well, yes, because you hear about a guy, and my brother told me exactly how he would be, and sometimes it sounds too good to be true. But, this is a case where it really was that good.”

Can CB Perrish Cox offer you any insight that you didn’t really know about Seattle from his time with them, any nuances?
“A few. A few nuances. Yeah, a few insights.”