49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

May 16, 2011
Harbaugh: 49ers have lockout contingency plans

Somewhere in an alternate universe, an alternate you is reading a newspaper story detailing the 49ers rookie minicamp, which concluded Sunday afternoon. Maybe Colin Kaepernick uncorked a pass that sailed 85 yards. Perhaps another rookie quarterback, Adam Froman, also looked sharp throwing the ball. Maybe a few young veterans - Taylor Mays, Thaddeus Gibson, etc. - were invited to get a jump on the playbook. Maybe new free agent signee Nnamdi Asomugha stopped by to chat with reporters. Maybe James Durbin is still on Idol and that creepy Scotty McCreery was booted instead.

Unfortunately, the real you is stuck in a tedious, ongoing lockout that wiped away the rookie minicamp. The real you is left reading stories about how Kaepernick, instead of throwing passes to Ronald Johnson, is recovering from surgery on his left leg. McCreey is still holding his microphone as if it's a jazz flute. Real life stinks.


The rookie minicamp is the first known practice session that has been cancelled because of the lockout, and it's a reminder of what's at stake, especially for the 49ers. The team has a new coaching staff. It will be installing a new offense and defense. And it could be missing key elements at quarterback, center and nose tackle - Alex Smith, David Baas and Aubrayo Franklin are unrestricted free agents - when the offseason finally gets underway. Of all the NFL teams, the 49ers perhaps would be most maligned by a prolonged work stoppage.

Before the draft, I asked Jim Harbaugh about the learning curve that, in a normal year, he would have begun tackling in March. "There's a learning curve," he said. "The goal will be to make it learnable and likable. We'll be better one month after Day 1 and we'll be better six months after one month. We'll be better 12 months after six months. So there's a curve."

Harbaugh said that the 49ers coaches have created several contingency plans based on how long they have between the end of the lockout and the first regular-season game. He said it ranged from 10 days to several months. Once the lockout is over, the 49ers will roll with one of their plans.

Of course, longer is better. New Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has said he needs a minimum of three weeks to prepare his team before full contact begins. Harbaugh was asked recently on PFT Live about Garrett's comments and his own bare-minimum needs.

"You're going to have what you have," Harbaugh said. "Three weeks is a possibility, is a number. To me, more is more. I'd rather have more. But you could be dealing with three weeks. You could be dealing with whatever you have. So, it's unchartered waters, that's for sure."

The 8th Circuit Court agreed to an expedited appeals hearing on the lockout, which will begin June 3. The court could rule as early as mid June. If the three-judge panel sides with the players, the lockout will be lifted and teams can get to work. A ruling in the league's favor, however, would continue the lockout. The 8th Circuit Court is considered more friendly to management and big business than the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis that ruled in the players' favor last month.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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