Jim Harbaugh vows to stay the course with 49ers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Jim Harbaugh isn't budging, even if his new broken tooth offers a symbolic glimpse into the story of his disappointing year.
No wavering when it comes to his coaching future, thoughts about his bosses in the San Francisco front office, or even whether the 49ers have fallen too far to have hope of a 2014 recovery.
After two straight demoralizing defeats in which the Niners have managed only 16 total points, Harbaugh's future is the hottest topic around his team. And that's a far cry from the coach's first three seasons when San Francisco was playoff bound and poised for a deep postseason run - as in three straight NFC championship game appearances.
Still, Harbaugh spent his regular Monday media session defending quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the effort of his players a day after a 24-13 loss at Oakland that gave the Raiders just their second victory of the season and put a major damper on San Francisco's playoff hopes as the team dropped to 7-6.
''Colin's our quarterback,'' Harbaugh said. ''When you talk about a professional, he is that. He's given every ounce of energy that he has.''
Other topics strayed far from the field. Harbaugh's smile Sunday revealed a chipped left front tooth. He said Monday it happened Saturday night ''on a piece of meat ... a $2 steak.''
That tooth was knocked out in his last playoff game as a pro, a 42-14 loss by his Colts to the Steelers in the wild-card round in December 1996.
Harbaugh's smile was on display when he came out of the tunnel at the Oakland Coliseum and hustled right up to Raiders owner Mark Davis, considered a potential suitor for Harbaugh's services in 2015 given Oakland could have a vacancy. Tony Sparano was named interim coach when Davis fired Dennis Allen in late September.
''Just said hello,'' said Harbaugh, who noted he knows Davis ''a little bit from when I coached at the Raiders.''
The 49ers are preparing for a second meeting with the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks in 17 days when they travel to Seattle this weekend looking to bounce back from that embarrassing 19-3 loss on Thanksgiving night.
''You take great love and pride in being a professional. That's every day, that's every week, that's every game, that's every play, until the whistle blows,'' Harbaugh said. ''You take pride in snapping on the film the next day and showing you're playing with every ounce of effort that you have because of the love of the game and the pride you have in being an NFL football professional. ... The effort's there.''
Harbaugh wouldn't discuss an NFL Network report that the University of Michigan, his alma mater, had reached out to him about its head coach vacancy.
''As I've said, as a principle I don't talk about any other job other than the one that I have,'' Harbaugh said.
When asked whether he is satisfied with the professionalism throughout the franchise, including those working above him, Harbaugh answered only with, ''We're a team.''
CEO Jed York chose not to post anything critical on Twitter this time, as he did Thanksgiving night when he wrote: ''This performance wasn't acceptable. I apologize for that.''
On Monday, fans supporting Harbaugh were tweeting at York's account with ''EXTEND HARBAUGH'' and ''We got ya back Coach!''
Harbaugh is winding up the fourth season of a $25 million, five-year contract he signed in January 2011. Even before the season began with a Super Bowl on everybody's mind there were questions whether this would be it for Harbaugh, who hasn't received an extension - or made it clear he even wants one, for that matter.
Harbaugh didn't offer any hints into linebacker Ahmad Brooks' status for this week. His streak of consecutive starts ended at 60 on Sunday, when he was benched and didn't play at all after missing a defensive meeting last week.
''He was in a backup role this last game and we'll address that this week,'' Harbaugh said.
There won't be any changes to the coaching staff this week to shake things up, Harbaugh said.
As far as his own future, he insisted once again that he is most concerned about winning and taking care of his players the rest of the way.
''I've answered this question many times, even recently. So you know exactly what my priorities are,'' he said. ''I get this from the Marines. Leaders eat last.''
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