49ers' Harbaugh still defends Jenkins

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 - 8:24 am

At the end of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's news conference Wednesday, someone asked what seemed like an innocuous question: Could new wide receiver Jon Baldwin possibly win a starting job before the season begins Sept. 8.

Harbaugh began to answer. "Anything's possible," he said.

But a few sentences later he had launched into another spirited defense of A.J. Jenkins – or rather a defense of his original defense of Jenkins – whom the 49ers traded to Kansas City for Baldwin on Monday.

"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."

On July 29 last year, though he wasn't scheduled to address the media, Harbaugh stepped to the podium and reprimanded the "scribes, pundits and so-called experts" who had been criticizing Jenkins, the team's first-round pick.

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 news conferences since Jenkins was traded to the Chiefs, and no one had asked him about his scolding from a year ago until he brought it up Wednesday.

Asked if he regretted last year's diatribe, 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."

Bullied? "Yes, and labeled," he said.

Harbaugh is a former player, and his attacks and vehement defenses likely are meant more for the 49ers' locker room than they are the public.

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," Kaepernick said.

Harbaugh said he planned to play Baldwin in Sunday's preseason game against Minnesota.

Jenkins received more snaps in the first two preseason games – 77 – the most among receivers. Harbaugh said he'd like to see Baldwin and relative newcomers Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins get some of those snaps Sunday.

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320. Follow him on Twitter @mattbarrows.

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