Jim Harbaugh's unguarded moment


Jim Harbaugh's unguarded moment

Three days later, it's an image I still can't get out of my mind.Jim Harbaugh, for the first time since becoming 49ers coach a year earlier, unexpectedly revealed a part of himself he had gone to great lengths to hide.He tried as best he could to obscure the pain of the 49ers' gut-wrenching overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game a day earlier.
But at the end of his 22-minute press conference on Monday, his eyes reddened and watered. He wiped his right eye, and then he abruptly exited the podium.

The snapshot in my mind that I'll remember about the end of the 49ers' season won't be Kyle Williams in the locker room accepting words of encouragement from teammates, coaches and others.
RELATED: Kyle Williams -- the day after
It won't be Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes and his teammates celebrating on the field while a stunned Candlestick Park crowd fell silent.My lasting memory will be Harbaugh's brief emotional moment a day later that went unnoticed by many at his season-ending press conference.From my from seat, less than 10 feet from where Harbaugh stood, it was obvious that a simple question prompted Harbaugh to lapse into unspoken introspection.How did you spend your time after the game? What did you do last night?Harbaugh paused. And then he tried his best to deflect the question and change the subject as his eyes told that the true answer would reveal more than he was willing to share."Is it just California that everybody just wants to know how you feel? Care about what you thought, what you did, how you felt, how your pinky feels," Harbaugh said, trying to turn light-hearted. "Is that just a California thing? Back where I come from, nobody really cares. In my opinion, it is a California thing."Actually, it's a human thing.People are emotionally attached to their team. Part of the media's job is to bring the people on the TV sets to life for the general public. People want to root for individuals with whom they can relate.Harbaugh does not want to "peel back the onion," as he likes to say, for fear that he'll show weakness. He often speaks of the "mighty men" in the 49ers' locker room. Perhaps Harbaugh believes the leader of these mighty men must be the mightiest of them all."This team's not defeated by any stretch of the imagination," Harbaugh said just minutes after the 49ers' season-ending loss. "A man can be destroyed, but he can't be defeated as long as this team knows that there's hope."Harbaugh borrowed the thought from Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Harbaugh is a football coach, but there's a lot more there, too. A week earlier, he spoke of Candlestick Park as a fortress, a clear reference to the work of Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey.When speaking about the advantages of practicing in the same weather that the 49ers might play in Sunday at Candlestick Park, Harbaugh said, "Admiral Bull Halsey once said, 'If you're going to fight in the North Atlantic, then you've got to prepare in the North Atlantic.'"(It's difficult to pin down exactly whom first used that quote, but it has been attributed to Admiral Chester Nimitz.)As the season wore on, Harbaugh became more relaxed around the handful of media members who were around his team every day, though you might not have seen any evidence of it when he was standing in front of the group answering questions.Harbaugh began making regular stops inside the locker room to make small talk with reporters during the second half of the season. There was another time early in the season when Harbaugh broke out of coach mode around the media. It was the day the 49ers were leaving Youngstown, Ohio, en route to Philadelphia for their Week 4 game. Three reporters who cover the team shared with Harbaugh their plan to spend that Friday in Gettysburg.Harbaugh seemed genuinely excited to share his thoughts, in great detail, when asked if he had any advice on what to see and what to do. Harbaugh and his family visited the Civil War battlefield several months earlier. A few days later, he followed up with questions of his own about the reporters' visit.We've seen a lot of emotion from Harbaugh this season. He gets excited on the sideline. He gets upset. He can be defiant, stubborn. He's fiercely loyal to his players. And it's difficult to find anything he did wrong during his first year as 49ers head coach.After all, he took over a poorly coached 6-10 team, assembled a strong staff, put a plan into place during the lockout, managed to get the players to completely buy into his program, and he changed the culture inside the 49ers building.The 49ers were a couple mistakes away from playing in the Super Bowl. As a player, he experienced it. As quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, he got tantalizingly close to the Super Bowl, only to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-16, in the AFC Championship Game in January of 1996. Harbaugh, as well as anyone, knows how difficult it is to get this far.It was an emotional loss for players and for fans of the team, to be sure.After the game, Harbaugh tried to hide his own emotions. He made his rounds inside the locker room to inform all the players of a final team meeting set for 1 p.m. the next day. He tried to handle it with a business-as-usual approach.But that evening, Harbaugh spent time with his family. A day later, his eyes told a story about the pain of the defeat. It's a story he did not want to share with the public.Still, there was something there. He showed the human side -- if for just a brief moment. And it made me feel something about Jim Harbaugh that I had not felt since I began covering him.Maybe it is just a California thing.

New York Giants release kicker Josh Brown

New York Giants release kicker Josh Brown

The New York Giants released placekicker Josh Brown, the team announced on Tuesday.

The NFL suspended Brown for the season opener in Dallas for violating the League’s Personal Conduct Policy.  That suspension was based on his May 22, 2015 arrest on domestic violence charges, which were dismissed approximately five days after the arrest.

Brown served his suspension, returned to the Giants on September 12, and subsequently participated in five games. 

Last Wednesday, approximately 24 hours before the Giants were to depart for London, new information was released by authorities in Washington State.  The new materials disclosed a history of alleged domestic violence by Brown.  On Thursday, the Giants announced Brown would not accompany the team to London, where they played the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. 

Last Friday, the NFL, at the Giants request and citing the documents released two days earlier, placed Brown on the Commissioner Exempt List. 

Today, the Giants released Brown.

“We believed we did the right thing at every juncture in our relationship with Josh,” said team president John Mara. “Our beliefs, our judgments and our decisions were misguided.  We accept that responsibility.

“We hope that Josh will continue to dedicate himself to rehabilitation, and to becoming a better person and father.  We will continue to support him in his efforts to continue counseling, and we hope that Josh and his family can find peace and a positive resolution.

“We have great respect and feel strongly about our support for the good people who work tirelessly and unconditionally to aid the victims of domestic violence and who bring awareness to the issue. We have been partners with My Sisters’ Place (a domestic violence shelter and advocate based in Westchester, New York) for nearly 20 years. The leadership of that organization has provided invaluable insight as we have considered our decisions in this matter.  We value and respect their opinion, and we look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”

Statement from Josh Brown:
"The road to rehabilitation is a journey and a constant modification of a way of life.  My journey will continue forever as a person determined to leave a positive legacy and I embrace the opportunities to show and speak about what has helped me to be that man.  I am sorry that my past has called into question the character or integrity of The New York Giants, Mr. Mara or any of those who have supported me along the way.  In the coming days and weeks I plan on telling more of the pain I had caused and the measures taken to get help so I may be the voice of change and not a statistic.  In the interim I am cooperating with the Giants and the NFL. Thank you to everyone that has supported me, I will not let you down."

New York Giants media services

49ers players get week break, while coaches search for answers

49ers players get week break, while coaches search for answers

SANTA CLARA -- In the early afternoon Monday after the 49ers’ day-after-game meetings concluded, the players were excused for the next seven days.

Coach Chip Kelly opted to give the 49ers a week break, rather than going through a couple days of practices before providing the players with a mandatory four consecutive days off during the bye week.

The 49ers on Sunday dropped to 1-6 on the season with a 34-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But there will be no extra practices to attempt to sharpen their performance.

“They’ve been at it since July 31st,” Kelly said. “They haven’t had more than one day off in a row. So I think at this point in time that’s what our whole MO has always been.

“They’ll meet with our strength and conditioning coaches. They have their lifting programs in terms of what they can do and what they have to do. And I think at this point in time we need to heal up. I think it’s a good break for them to do what they need to do and that’s the way I’ve always done it and our teams have been fresh coming out of the bye week.”

While the players will be off for a week, Kelly said the coaching staff will continue to work through Friday in an attempt to identify areas in which they can improve and snap out of their six-game losing streak on Nov. 6 against the New Orleans Saints at Levi’s Stadium.

“We’ve got a lot of self-scout that we have set aside,” Kelly said. “We’ll be in here all week kind of looking at what we’ve done in the first seven games, what have our opponents done to us in the first seven games relative to what we thought going into the game based on the break downs. Did they change?

“If they were 60-percent pressure going into our game and they were only 30-percent pressure in our game, trying to delve into how people are defending us. How are people attacking us from an offensive standpoint in terms of attacking our defense and what their tendencies were going into the game and then what actually transpired in the game. So we’ve got a lot of film work and a lot of studying to do here during this week.”

Kelly reiterated on Monday that he is not looking at leaving the 49ers after this season. He said he has not heard from any schools with coaching openings or potential openings. Kelly said he has tried to remain focused on his job through the longest losing streak he has ever experienced as a coach.

“No one’s happy, so I don’t know if the word’s anguish, but I mean obviously you try to keep it consistent in terms of your approach to everything that you do,” Kelly said. “I don’t think being consistent and being even-keeled means that it doesn’t bother you or that you’re not frustrated in terms of what’s gone on.”

Kelly said the 49ers have the talent to win games. When asked why the coaches have not been able to extract more victories, Kelly placed the blame for the team’s poor play on himself and his staff.

“That’s on us,” Kelly said. “I agree 100-percent in terms of what you’re saying. But our job is to put our players in position to make plays and we’re not doing a good enough job of that right now.”