LaMichael James 49ers

Jim Harbaugh’s press conference was scheduled for noon. So when the clock hit 12:20, we started wondering if he was in a conference room somewhere with Trent Baalke, ironing out the details on a trade.

When stepped to the podium, I asked him a couple minutes into the presser whether there was anything to report with the trade deadline less than an hour away.

“No,” Harbaugh said. “Nothing to report.”

Later, when asked whether he lets himself think about how the offense could expand and change with Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham returning at some point in the not-too-distant future, Harbaugh talked about something that could give us a clue as to the 49ers’ strategy at the deadline: make do with the players already on the roster.

“We’ve really just been focused on what we have this week. And those being the best available players. And they’re all doing a fine job,” said Harbaugh, who then mentioned a player who’s been in the news quite a lot lately due to inactivity.

“How we could use them differently. Get LaMichael in the mix. I want to get that going. He’s just too good of a football player not to be playing.”

Interesting. Frank Gore is playing too well to spend much time on the bench (his blocking has been phenomenal lately), and Kendall Hunter just ran for 84 yards on nine carries against Jacksonville. On the other hand, Kyle Williams is coming off his worst day as a returner this season. So I asked Harbaugh whether James would be used on offense, special teams or both.

“Both of those. Yeah, both of those areas,” was Harbaugh’s response.

Since the regular beat writers were still either flying back from London resting, I was able to get three questions in for the first time during a Harbaugh press conference. The third?

Has there been a receiver behind Anquan Boldin — Marlon Moore, Kyle Williams, Jon Baldwin, who’s asserted themselves over the last couple weeks?

“Yes. At various times they’ve all shown that they’re capable and asserted themselves,” he said.

What does that mean? Usually when Harbaugh has nice things to say about specific players, he’s quick to praise. The fact that he brushed aside the question shortly after bringing up the need for James to get more playing time doesn’t bode well for any of them — Williams in particular. Not that James will be installed as a WR2 or WR3 anytime soon, but with Anthony Dixon subbing in for Williams as a returner in the second half on Sunday it stands to reason that James will be returning kicks as soon as Week 10 against Carolina.

Then again, the 49ers could announce a trade five minutes after this posts gets published that renders everything written and said earlier completely moot. At the time of publication, the only trade of note was the Patriots sending a fifth rounder to the Eagles for Isaac Sopoaga and a sixth round pick.

More Harbaugh notes

— Harbaugh on Colin Kaepernick:

“He’s done a phenomenal job in all regards. Talked many times about his different qualities. Shower with him every day,” said Harbaugh (I did a double-take when he said that).

“And he keeps getting better. Seems like it’s weekly now, game after game of just consistently really good. Yeah, plus-plus.”

***Update (2.5 hours after initial post went live)***

Here’s what the 49ers’ transcript from today’s press conference looks like:

It’s been nearly a year since QB Colin Kaepernick took over, I guess we’re a couple weeks from that mark. Looking back on that decision, maybe, was it a tough one on you and do you realize now how that was the right decision, everything he’s given you over the past year?

“He’s done a phenomenal job in all regards. Talked many times about his different qualities, showered him every day. And he keeps getting better every, it seems like it’s weekly now, game after game and just consistently really good. So, yeah plus-plus.”

Here is how it looked/sounded:


— When asked about the areas where the 49ers have improved over the team’s five-game winning streak, Harbaugh focused mostly on penalties:

“Playing very good team defense. Special teams is really rolling. Offensively, doing a great job reducing the pre-snap penalties and the during-snap penalties and the post-snap penalties. And have done that very well defensively, really almost eliminating them. That’s been great that we’ve taken that stride. Same with the special teams. Really a dramatic improvement in terms of playing disciplined, sound technique football. So that’s a great job by the fellas in that regard.”

In the 49ers’ first four games, the fellas were penalized 39 times for 339 yards. In the four games since: 16 penalties for 129 yards.

— “We had an ‘opportunity practice’ today and Tank Carradine was here. By that, I think we’ll make him the first guy activated to the 53,” Harbaugh said with a smile. “He’s still coming along. Getting the feel back playing 11-on-11 in football. But it’s coming.

— “What did we eat? A little bit of everything, had some of the fish and chips,” Harbaugh said in a response to what he consumed while in London. Then he paused and said, “I don’t remember what I ate. Food. Sustenance.”