The word is out: The San Francisco 49ers are operating at a different pace this year. Workouts during training camp at the team’s headquarters in Santa Clara carried on at a fast-paced clip, coaches scurrying the field as they hollered instructions and comments, players always on the move. More plays, more running, more everything; the activity level is definitely higher, and so are the team’s spirits.
New coach Jim Harbaugh was in the middle of it all. From telling a tight end who just dropped a sideline throw on how to frame his hands in order to make a catch, to running after another player like a pursuing defender, Harbaugh’s presence powers the upbeat practices.
Said All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis, “It’s being fast on every play. It’s beating the clock, and getting the conditioning in as well. Everything we do is moving at a fast tempo.”
Whether talking with the team or local media, Harbaugh has an intense gaze. He rarely blinks, his gaze unwavering as if he wants to look through the question to find how the answer can be framed within the recent experience of trying to shape 90 players and about a dozen coaches into a winning professional organization.
It’s a level of attention one would expect from a first-year law student in class before a storied professor. There’s no joshing like Rex Ryan of the Jets, no indifferent dismissal a la Bill Parcells. Harbaugh receives questions and expresses himself. If he disagrees, he says so, but doesn’t launch into reasons why for the difference of opinion.
After three weeks of camp, he got a first-hand look of not just an NFL team—he’s been an assistant—but his NFL team.
Here are the six things that stood out about the 2011 San Francisco 49ers training camp.
Note: The 49ers ended camp on Aug. 18, and Ted Johnson attended to get insight into the team from Jim Harbaugh and team.