Since taking the reins as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Jim Harbaugh has been everything the team's ownership and fans could've hoped for. He's turned what was a mediocre team into a legitimate Super Bowl contender overnight.
He's done so by supporting his players relentlessly and bringing a virtually unrivaled passion, work ethic and dedication to the 49ers' locker room.
But on Thursday, his players must've had a little trouble focusing on the practice field as they wondered why their head coach wasn't on the field with them, preparing for their big Week 11 game against the Bears.
As CBS Sports' Jerrell Richardson reported, the 49ers were surprised about Harbaugh's absence, because he puts his team above all else.
Coach Harbaugh is as dedicated as any coach in the league. When he and his wife had their first child on September 4, he only missed an afternoon walk through, so for him to miss an entire practice is a big deal. Due to chest pains and an irregular heart beat, Harbaugh was taken to the hospital Wednesday for what is being reported as a “minor” procedure. With no real details as to what was done, and with the team saying that they expect Harbaugh back at the facility Friday, there is nothing to do but hope and wait.
The team is already facing the possibility of being without starting quarterback Alex Smith. Along with this, the health concerns Harbaugh has encountered are more than enough to distract even the most well-oiled football machine.
However, if his players have learned anything from Harbaugh, they'll play one of their best games of the season against the Bears on Monday night.
That's because the 49ers know that their coach is one of the toughest men in the game, and that the last thing he'd want is for his health concerns to negatively impact their performance on the field.
On Thursday, after learning of the reason behind Harbaugh's absence, linebacker Patrick Willis told Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee that there was no doubt in his mind that his coach would bounce back, and that the team's focus wouldn't be affected.
Coach Harbaugh, like he always tells us, he's tougher than a two-dollar steak. We know he's going to be alright. We've got a bunch of great coaches here that are going to keep everything on track, and we're going to practice today as if he was here.
If anything, the 49ers will use Harbaugh's scary situation as something to rally around, because they must recognize how much of himself the second-year coach pours into his job on a daily basis.
He's changed the culture of the entire organization, making the team one of the hardest to play against in professional football, and his work ethic and dedication has obviously rubbed off on his players.
There's no doubt that Harbaugh will be back on the field as soon as he's healthy enough to do so, but until then, his players know the best thing they can do for their coach is to keep piling up the wins, and continue in their quest to bring the Super Bowl back to San Francisco.