An already bizarre 49ers training camp grew decidedly weirder this morning when No. 2 running back Glen Coffee sat down with Mike Singletary and told the coach he no longer wanted to play football. Singletary said he didn't try to persuade Coffee, a third-round pick last season, to change his mind. Now the 49ers suddenly find themselves with two former high-round draft picks, Coffee and Kentwan Balmer, who may never play for the team again.
"This has been a tough decision for me, but at this time in my life I feel it's best for me that I move on from football," Coffee said in a statement passed out by the 49ers as the team walked off the field for its morning practice. "I appreciate what the 49ers, my teammates and coaches have done for me, and I wish them a blessed season and all the best in the future."
Coffee participated in the team's Thursday morning practice but did not show up for the afternoon session. Singletary said the 49ers finally got a hold of him Thursday night, and the two met in the morning. Singletary said Coffee's decision came "out of the blue." Singletary said he appreciated Coffee's honesty. "If someone wants to leave and you try to talk them out of it, chances are you'll have to talk them out of it again," Singletary said.
Singletary called Coffee "an exceptional young man," and all indications are that Coffee was dedicated to being Frank Gore's primary backup this season. He was around the team's facility all offseason, and he packed on more than 10 pounds of muscle so that his frame would better suit his physical, straight-ahead style. Teammate Michael Robinson also said he had no idea this decision was coming. "Glen is a good friend of mine," said Robinson, who spoke briefly with Coffee last night. "I feel bad. I feel like I'm losing a brother."
Robinson will immediately step in as the No. 2 running back, but the 49ers are hoping that sixth-round pick Anthony Dixon improves to the point where he can take that role. Dixon played in a more wide-open offense in college, and he's slowly picking up the nuances of the NFL game, especially pass protection. "He's a ways away," Singletary said. "He's got a lot of work to do."
Coffee's decision comes on the heels of an ongoing dispute between Singletary and Kentwan Balmer, who has been unexcused from practice all week. The team has begun fining Balmer, a former first-round pick, for his absence and are pursuing a portion of his signing bonus. Singletary met with Balmer Wednesday night, but he said the situation remains unchanged. "If Balmer wanted to be back, he'd be back," Singletary said.
Here's the transcript from what Singletary said about Coffee:
"Good morning. Obviously, you guys were reading the statement about Glen Coffee. Glen informed us this morning of his intent to no longer play the game of football. I respect that, I appreciate everything that he's done for the 49ers and whatever the issues are, I'm not going to go into all of the other stuff. You will have to talk to Glen about that. But, I appreciate his honesty and I appreciate him not coming out here and going through the motions. The thing that we're trying to do with the 49ers, we're trying to find 53 men that love the game of football and that's going to help us get where we need to go. So as far as Glen Coffee is concerned, I think that Trent Baalke and the personnel staff will look around, see what's out there, see what's available, and go from there. Other than that I have no further information and you'll have to talk to him if you need anything else."
On whether the announcement came out of the blue:
"Yes it did."
On Coffee's performance in camp:
"He was having a fine camp, he did. He was having a fine camp."
On whether he tried to convince Coffee to stay:
"No, no. You can't. The one thing I learned a long time ago is that if someone wants to leave and you try to bring them back, talk them out of it, chances are you are going to have to try and talk them out of it again. That would be disrespectful to the guys out here. We have guys out here that really want to be here and I'm looking high and low to try and find those 53 that really love being here. And that's what the game is all about. So, that's where I'm at."
On whether he had a sense of this in the past:
"I did not."
On his initial reaction:
"My initial reaction was, 'Glen, are you sure about this?' He said, yes sir, I've given it a lot of thought, and I said okay. If that's where you are, then I respect that and I appreciate your honesty. I appreciate the character that you have to come and let us know so that we can move forward and not put us in a situation where we have to go scramble and do something that we didn't want to do."
On whether he understood Coffee's reasons:
On when the conversation happened:
On whether the conversation was face-to-face:
On what Coffee's reasons are:
"Sir, I think I just said I don't want to go into all the other stuff. I have no idea, other than all the things I just told you, I have no idea. I didn't want to go into a conversation about why. I'm not going to do that. He is a man, and the last thing that I'm going to do is disrespect him and try to drag something out. He made a decision and all I asked him was if he was sure, if he had thought about the decision. He said yes, I have thought about it for a long time. That's when I said, well you know what, I appreciate the honesty, I appreciate the thought process, and the character that you have to come and tell me."
On whether Coffee showed up to practice on Thursday:
On the team reaction to his absence:
"We did what any organization would try and do - find out if everything is okay, you try to find him, and I think maybe sometime last night we were able to find him."
On Coffee's demeanor this morning:
"I just thought that I know he felt bad. His demeanor was, I really hate to do this, I really hate to lay this on you coach. I love my teammates and I love what we're doing, but since college, my heart hasn't been in it. Matter of fact, I came out early because my heart wasn't in it. And so it's just one of those things, and knowing Glen Coffee, he really felt awful, and I'm thinking that he was thinking that I was really going to be upset with him, and that was not the case."
On his offseason and camp progress and whether Coffee was doing all things necessary to be a good football player:
"Well yes, but that doesn't matter. I think right now, yes, all the questions that you guys asked, did it surprise you, yes. Did you think he was having a good camp, yes. He's the guy that's what you want, an incredible young man. But, he has made that decision and that's his decision."
On whether Coffee was healthy:
"Oh yeah. Absolutely."
On RB Anthony Dixon's role now that Coffee has left:
"He's going to step into the same role. He and Coffee were competing to see who that backup guy was going to be. And right now, it really forces Dixon to grow up really quick. It's one of those things where he is going to take more snaps; he's going to get more of the workload. He's really going to have to step it up in terms of his learning progression and his learning of things. He's going to have to grow up real quick."
On whether RB Michael Robinson is the number two guy in terms of depth:
"I would say right now we are just going to go through this process and see what we come up with in the personnel department and just go forward with that and let things continue to work themselves out."
On whether the roster spot opens up immediately:
"Well to me, Dixon just steps into that spot. In terms of what we do with Glen Coffee's spot, I think that we really have to look at what's available. We really have to look at what's there and I'm not going to say anything else about the roster spot. We'll just have to see what happens."
On the player's reaction to this announcement:
"The players, we had our best practice of training camp yesterday. Today the guys are excited. We are ready to go play football. I'm excited about the opportunity that Anthony Dixon has. Am I a little sad about the fact that Coffee is not here? Yes I am, and the reason why, more of his character than as a football player. He's an exceptional young man and I hold him in very high regard. I really appreciate that it must have been a very difficult decision for him. So, I think more about him than I think about our team. I'd love to have him on our team but at the same time I really do want 53 guys that really want to be here and want to contribute to a championship team."
On whether Coffee knows what he wants to do with his life:
"I have no idea."
On how close Dixon is to being ready to play consistently in the NFL:
"He's a ways away. He's got a lot of work to do in every area. From just being able to hit the hole, knowing when to dance a little bit, knowing when to hit at full speed, knowing when to make a cut, knowing exactly where that guard is going to - how close that guard is going to be off the center- and how quickly he has to make a decision, how much time he has to hit a hole, the protections. That's a whole other world for a young guy, the protections. You really begin to look at the quarterback situation and think, right now, you really have to be careful about his progression in terms of Anthony Dixon, what he knows and what he doesn't know. So, it's just going to be one of those things where we really have to pour a lot into him right now and hopefully he can handle it. But thankfully, it's early."
On potentially transitioning FB Jehuu Caulcrick to a running back:
"He's a fullback right now and I think he's working real hard to be a good fullback, and I think we're going to leave it there."
On where the situation with DT Kentwan Balmer stands:
"Same: It hasn't changed. It hasn't changed."
On whether they have discussed how long QB Alex Smith and the potential starters will play against Indianapolis:
"No, we have to think about it. We have to talk about it, evaluate the week and once again talk to our trainers and doctors and look at the health side of it as well. So, those are just things that we still have to talk about."
On whether Blamer has indicated he wants to come back:
"If Balmer wanted to be back, he'd be back."
On whether Coffee leaving affects RB Frank Gore's playing time for Sunday:
"It doesn't affect it, not one way, not one iota. No."
-- Matt Barrows