Jim Harbaugh’s press conferences always start with an opening statement. Sometimes it’s a little bit about the current state of what the team is doing (usually words like “preparing” and “working” are featured prominently), sometimes it’s as short as “Hello.”
Today at noon at the San Francisco 49ers’ facility, Harbaugh started off by naming player after player who contributed in Sunday’s 30-22 win over the Green Bay Packers. Harbaugh named 13 players in all, including most of the defense, David Akers, Alex Smith and Frank Gore. Over the span of a few more questions, Harbaugh also gave mention to the wide receivers, Alex Boone and Leonard Davis.
The end of the press conference was focused on the postgame handshake with Jim Schwartz, a change in subjects which was probably inevitable. There’s a reason why the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions are facing off on Sunday night, and the Harbaugh/Schwartz conflict in the aftermath of the 49ers’ win at Ford Field ranks top on the list as to reasons why NBC chose to televise this game.
Harbaugh — who had to know the questions were coming — knocked each handshake-related query to the side, similar to the way Justin Smith sheds blockers. Here’s the exchange between reporters and Harbaugh, but I recommend watching the video below. As someone who was sitting in the press conference (I asked a non-Schwartz question earlier about the 49ers’ containment of Aaron Rodgers), I found the whole thing quite entertaining.
Here’s Detroit again, a year on from the handshake kerfuffle, what’s your view of that whole thing? It’s going to come up this week, I saw it on TV, a clip of it already. What’s your approach to all of that and what’s your view of that a year on?
“Our approach with the mini-controversies are really to give them the attention that they deserve, which isn’t much. Now, people that will use that to promote this game or any other game I think are really missing the point. The game is just so much bigger. As a rule of thumb, I have too much respect for the men who play this game, on both sides. And too much respect for the game to give it anything less than what it deserves.”
In hindsight on that, I’m wondering, do you think that did anything to just further fire up the locker room and bond you guys together? It could easily be looked at as just a total distraction, but it seemed like the guys in the media that week really digged it. I remember having a coach get into it with another coach when I was playing as a kid, and it fires you up a little. Could it have a positive effect or something like that?
“I really think it’s just a mini-controversy, that’s completely irrelevant. To put it next to the game itself is missing the point, in my opinion. I don’t know that I really have any more that I could possibly add to it.”
Last year when you guys started getting on a roll you talked a lot about making it suck for yourself, getting up early, those types of things. After a big win like this, is that something you have to remind the guys again, or is that engrained in the team’s DNA?
“We’ll see what we can do about that. But, professional guys that love to play, love to practice, love to study. My dad told me a great story this morning about Mohammed Ali that I can’t wait to share with the fellas, and it’s something along those lines.”
Don’t take this, but last year you told us you were going to change your handshake approach. Not trying to harp on this.
“Again, out of respect for the game.”
Ok, ok, but you had a little fun with us and said that you were going to change your approach. That’s all I was going to ask you, if you had done so?
“There’s nothing I can possibly add.”
What’s your feeling about post-game sportsmanship, in general, philosophically?
“Philosophically I know what you’re trying to do.”
No, I’m opening a question?
“I know exactly what the open question is. I hear what you’re saying, now is not the time to address it. I can’t possibly add any more to that topic.”
Another funny exchange occurred when Bay Area media veteran Art Spander asked Harbaugh what he thinks about how people — mainly east coast media — “seem to belittle Alex.” Harbaugh’s reaction brought laughter from everyone in the room.