SANTA CLARA Jim Harbaugh will admittedly do anything in his power to give his team a competitive edge, including holding off on announcing a starting quarterback until its absolutely necessary.
This week, though, the St. Louis Rams will likely know mid-week whether or not they have to prepare for Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick on Sunday. Harbaugh said in his day-after press conference that the decision would likely be made public on Wednesday.
The reason? Well let him explain.
Well say who that quarterback is probably Wednesday. The biggest reason is, so our players arent pressured by the media with who is it? and everybody hammering them for the information. I think in my mind, thats the direction well go, Harbaugh said.
Kaepernick made his second straight start and performed admirably in the 31-21 win against New Orleans on Sunday, throwing for 231 yards on 16-for-25 passing with one touchdown and one interception. Smith, who suffered a concussion on Nov. 11 against St. Louis but has since been cleared to play, acted as the backup, although thats not a word Harbaugh prefers to use when describing either of his field generals.
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Alex Smith is our starting quarterback. Hes not done anything to lose that job. In fact, hes played at a very high level. Also, Colin Kaepernick, you cant categorize him as a backup quarterback because hes started games and played very well in those games, Harbaugh said. So, in a unique situation, you have two quarterbacks that are playing at a very high level. Ones your captain and your starting quarterback; the other has played great football in the last three games. Both have a hot hand.
There have been suggestions made that Smith, who led San Francisco to a 6-2 mark before getting hurt, should be more outspoken in his desire to play. Fox analyst and former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said as much during Sundays game broadcast.
That kind of chatter doesnt sit well with Harbaugh, who considers Smith a team-first kind of guy.
The so-called subject matter experts, that talk about Smith should be making a fuss about it, or a stink about it, he shouldnt be that accommodating, is sending a completely wrong message out there to me or a young athlete thats out there, or high school athlete or quarterback when their coach or their team is trying to tell them its about the team or its about all working together.
That really gets me upset. Thats not what our two guys are about. They are great team guys and great example guys. And, we need them both.
The last time the 49ers and Rams met, just two weeks ago, the game ended in an unfulfilling 24-24 tie. Does San Francisco have some unfinished business with its division rival?
Harbaugh doesnt view it that way, calling it new business.
The new business is this game, this most important game because its our next game. Its just that hard, focus on that, he said. Its not about unfinished business, its about new business. New business is getting prepared to travel well, prepare to practice well and prepare to go there and do what it takes to be victorious.
With Kyle Williams out for the year and Kendall Hunter's status uncertain, there could be some fresh legs seeing more action for the Niners, including wide receiver A.J. Jenkins and running back LaMichael James.
To both those youngsters credit, and others who have been working extremely hard for their opportunity, we feel good and excited that a couple of those youngsters will get that opportunity, Harbaugh said.
The head coach considered the win over New Orleans one of the most physical games of the season.
It was a hard-hitting game. It took a toll, he said.
How did Harbaugh know that his defense was ready to go all-out against the previously surging Saints?
It wasnt the two defensive touchdowns, but something much more fundamental.
You tackle. In this game, like the Bears game, there might have been one missed tackle or there might have been two. In the Bears game we had one missed tackle, Harbaugh said, referring to his teams 32-7 win over Chicago on Nov. 19.
Also, there were no missed tackles that allowed yards after the catch. Every time we had a chance to contact a receiver after he caught the ball there were no yards after the catch. Thats huge.
San Francisco is second in the league in team defense, allowing just 278.4 yards-per-game.