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Five things we learned at combine: 49ers

First-year San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Tomsula met with the media on Thursday at the NFL combine. Here’s what we learned:

  1. They will remain a 3-4 defense: Not exactly earth-shattering news, given that their personnel that made them so successful two, three and four years ago demands it, but there had been speculation of a switch to a 4-3 scheme. Chris Borland, it was reasoned, could man the middle with NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis going outside and Aldon Smith and Aaron Lynch becoming defensive ends. Alas, Tomsula likes what he has at his disposal. “The schematics on defense, the 3-4, our personnel is set for that and we’ll continue that way.” That means that if Bowman (knee) and Willis (toe) are fully recovered, Borland becomes more of an accessory than a starter.

  2. Tomsula is tight with Justin Smith: But not so tight he knows what Smith is going to do in regard to playing or retiring. Tomsula, who has been Smith’s position coach the entirety of his Niners stay, acknowledged that Smith has been around the facility but has yet to make a decision and that, really, this is an annual affair with Smith, though not in a negative way. Tomsula said he would “shoot the baloney” with Smith, a five-time Pro Bowl selection in his 14-year career, after the combine. “He has earned the right to make his decision on his terms, but we’ve said that the last three or four years. … He’s just had an unbelievable career.”

  3. The Niners are in contract talks with RB Frank Gore and WR Michael Crabtree: “That’s going on right now,” Tomsula said, echoing general manager Trent Baalke’s claim Wednesday that his main goal was to take care of Niners’ free agents they want to retain first. But, as Tomsula said, “I don’t have the checkbook.” Gore went on his Instagram account last week to wonder if the Niners truly wanted him back in Santa Clara and Tomsula said he was a Gore fan. But there is increased speculation that the Indianapolis Colts could become players for Gore’s services after 10 years with the Niners. Crabtree? Tomsula said he “absolutely” wanted the wideout to return.

  4. Tomsula takes “credit” for his 19-man staff: Wednesday, Baalke told Bay Area reporters off to the side of the podium that Tomsula chose his widely-panned staff of assistants with input and advice, of course, from the front office. On Thursday, Tomsula said he did not bring the entire staff with him to the combine because he wanted them back in Santa Clara studying up on the Niners’ current personnel. “I take full responsibility for the results of the coaching staff and the team and the game-day results,” he said. As he should.

  5. Tomsula was more comfortable at the mike: A month and four days after his disastrous introductory news conference in which he struggled to formulate clear thoughts on his vision as the 19th head coach in franchise history, Tomsula was much more comfortable at the podium. Even Tomsula acknowledged his shortcomings. “We’ll try this again,” he joked. “I didn’t do a good job. … When I’m up here, I have to watch my manners and watch my language and try to make sure that I’m nice and polite, so that’s what I’ve got to get better at.” So consider this a victory, of sorts. Does winning the presser mean the Niners will win games? No more than losing a presser means they are doomed to lose games.