Coach Jim Harbaugh followed the San Francisco 49ers' successful two-game trip to the Eastern time zone with a revealing media session Monday.
A few highlights and interpretations:
Coach in coach: Harbaugh drives home a blue-collar mindset in a variety of ways. One includes giving up his first-class seat on the team plane. Center Jonathan Goodwin sat there on the trip back from Philadelphia. Harbaugh isn't all that removed from his playing days, having played his final game in 2001, with San Diego. Retired players tend to miss the camaraderie as much as anything. Sitting among players on the team plane probably recaptures some of that.
More blue-collar feel: Harbaugh revealed to players his own father's mantra when the family was living in cramped quarters during Harbaugh's formative years. "Who's got it better than us," the elder Harbaugh would ask. "Nobody," Harbaugh and his brother would respond. The message, Harbaugh said, was that those from humble roots have advantages over the long term because they're forced to work harder. His own dreams of becoming a major-league shortstop came to mind. Harbaugh: "I had a glove. I had baseball diamonds to play on. Kids down in the Dominican Republic were making gloves out of milk cartons. I didn’t stand a chance to be a major-league shortstop. Those guys had to overcome so much more that made them better players in the long run. So we just try to find ways to make it harder on ourselves. How can we make things suck more?"
Driver training: The analogies continued when a reporter asked whether Harbaugh was governing the 49ers' offense the way a protective parent might initially prohibit children from driving on freeways. Harbaugh: "Well, I can only speak for myself. My parents let me drive on the highway right away when I was 16, and probably two months later I got in an accident. I can only speak for that driving record. Maybe your parents were a little wiser. We’re doing everything we can."
On Colin Kaepernick: Harbaugh was coy over plans for the rookie backup quarterback, who appeared in the game briefly Sunday. He did say the team is working on packages utilizing Kaepernick.
Too much positivity: Harbaugh eventually tired of the positive line of questioning, something I cannot recall happening to a 49ers coach in recent seasons. He quoted a college coach who told him to kick admirers in the shins when they say too many nice things about him. "We'd rather prefer that all that is written is written against us," he said. A reporter replied with, "You suck." Harbaugh thanked him and said, "When honey words or praise are flowered upon us, we begin to feel exposed before our enemies." The us-against-the-world mentality works best when it's true.
Stars of the game: Harbaugh singled out Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Ray McDonald for their play against the Eagles, noting that Ahmad Brooks has been strong overall through four games. He said Bowman "stood out big time" against the Eagles. Bowman has stood out overall this season.
I've been booked for the 49ers' game against Tampa Bay since last week. Plans for Week 6 included a trip to Green Bay to see the Rams, but with St. Louis winless and the 49ers visiting Detroit on the same day, those plans will likely change.