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August 21, 2013
Feisty Harbaugh comes to A.J. Jenkins' defense ... again


For the second time in 13 months, Jim Harbaugh - with zero prompting - defended A.J. Jenkins against a perceived media horde that has been criticizing his former player. Harbaugh was asked whether Jonathan Baldwin, the receiver for whom Jenkins was traded on Monday, could be a starter by Week 1. The answer eventually led to this:

"I know a lot of people have been making some sport of A.J. and Jonathan and my comments and that type of thing," Harbaugh said. "And I really feel the same as I did a year ago when I made those comments. That I don't think it's fair to bully or label a young player. Though I fully understand that people are entitled to their opinion and their perspective.

"However, I prefer that the criticism," Harbaugh continued, his voice rising. "... I would appreciate if the criticism is directed toward me. I'm responsible and I certainly accept that. Actually, I welcome it."

In July last year, Harbaugh stepped to the podium and launched into a passionate defense of Jenkins in which he called out the "scribes, pundits and so-called experts" who had been criticizing the then-49ers rookie. At the time, Harbaugh said anyone who called Jenkins a bust "should just stop. I recommend that because 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."

Harbaugh wasn't finished: "I'm going to keep track of some of these names of the so-called experts who are making these comments and there's going to be an 'I told you so.' I foresee that happening."

Harbaugh has held two press conferences since Jenkins was traded to the Chiefs, and none of the "so-called experts" had asked him about his scolding from a year ago until he brought it up himself today.

Asked today if he regretted his spirited defense from 2012, Harbaugh said, "Like I just said, of course I'm going to defend a young player when I believe he's being bullied or labeled, before even his first practice."

You thought Jenkins was being bullied? "Yes, and labeled," Harbaugh said.

Asked what he's "responsible" for regarding Jenkins, Harbaugh replied: "I'm responsible. I'm responsible for helping pick the draft picks and fully responsible for coaching the players up. So I willingly accept those responsibilities."

Later in the locker room, quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he and his teammates appreciated their coach's backing. "I think it's great when the coach is going to take your side, the players' side, and do whatever he can to make you comfortable and be successful on the field."

-- 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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