When Jim Harbaugh decides to make an unprompted comment, you'd better have your notebook and pen ready. Because it promises to contain some charged language.
Harbaugh was not scheduled to talk to the media today. But as offensive coordinator Greg Roman was at the podium, Harbaugh sat in the back eating his lunch. When Roman stepped down, Harbaugh stepped forward and launched into a passionate defense of first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins, the subject of some critical comments during the spring sessions.
"For those scribes, pundits, so-called experts who have gone as far to say that he's going to be a bust - just stop," Harbaugh said. " I recommend that. They're making themselves look more clueless than they already did. I'll go on record: A.J. is going to be an outstanding football player."
Jenkins was one of several rookies who arrived for the team's very first rookie minicamp in May out of shape. When Harbaugh was asked specifically about how Jenkins looked at the time, he said, "The group of receivers looked good today. Out of shape -- that's the bad news," Harbaugh said. "The good news is that it's a very talented group of those young receivers. You can tell that right away. The bad news is we've got to get them in shape. I don't know exactly what all these guys were doing for the last six months."
Today Harbaugh said he was talking about the group of rookies as a whole. "And I said they would eventually get there," he said as far as their conditioning. "And they are there. And A.J. Jenkins specifically - his conditioning is tip top."
Indeed, Jenkins has shown improvement since May, and he turned in a nice catch to end yesterday's training camp practice. Just about every reporter who was on hand Saturday made note of how Jenkins looked.
Still, Harbaugh felt a need to defend his rookie. "There are these so-called experts who are making these comments, and there's going to be an I-told-you-so," Harbaugh said. "I foresee that happening."
Harbaugh, of course, went off the script two months ago when he insisted that the 49ers were not pursuing then free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning back in March. He said any reports to the contrary were "phony" and that the team always had backed Alex Smith.
Asked how he felt about his coach defending one of his players, Joe Staley, the de facto captain of the offensive line, said he loved it. "This is a very close-knit team," he said. "And it starts with the head coach. ... And we love that."
General manager Trent Baalke today declined to talk specifically about Michael Crabtree's latest injury but said it had nothing to do with the broken foot that kept Crabtree out of action last offseason and slowed him at the beginning of the regular season. "Absolutely not," Baalke said. Said Baalke, "He's working hard at it (rehabilitating), and the progress looks good."
Crabtree broke his left foot in June 2011; he appeared to hurt his right ankle in Friday's practice. ***Update*** Crabtree in fact had black tape on on his calf Sunday. He was not limping.
-- Matt Barrows