Grudges? Payback? Settling a family debt?
Nah, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday, he’s too busy worrying about the Ravens’ rough start to be preoccupied with how or why the 49ers parted ways with his little brother Jim following the 2014 season.
“That’s really very much irrelevant to what we’re trying to accomplish,” Harbaugh said in a conference call. “We’ve got our hands full with what we’re trying to do as a football team right now to even think about any of that stuff.”
In Santa Clara, former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith was in front of his locker, deeply engrossed in an exchange of text messages. Smack talk? Trash texting? Hate mail from his former teammates?
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“No, (Ravens running back) Justin Forsett asked me for tickets, but then he changed his mind,” Smith said.
1-4 Record for both 49ers and Ravens this season
There’s far more similarity than animosity between the teams who play Sunday, right down to their 1-4 starts.
Their records largely are because of the attrition each team suffered since they played in the Super Bowl just 32 months ago. Only six 49ers who started that game remain with the team. For the Ravens, the turnover is even more jarring: Just four players who were part of their winning Super Bowl squad still are on the roster.
Two who departed are Smith and fellow wideout Anquan Boldin, also now with the 49ers.
“The NFL’s a revolving door,” Smith said. “Each and every off-day – I guess here it’s Tuesday – they’re working out someone to come take your spot. So that’s how it goes. It’s a business, and there’s going to be a lot of turnover whether it’s age or retirement or free agency or whatever.”
John Harbaugh has a good reason to resent the 49ers’ front office. But the teams’ general managers, San Francisco’s Trent Baalke and Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome, have a strong business relationship.
The 49ers and Ravens scrimmaged for three days – with nary a fight – outside Baltimore during training camp in 2014. And the 49ers have had a predilection for Ravens personnel for the past decade. Former head coaches Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary both were assistants in Baltimore before joining the 49ers.
There’s also been a steady stream of players who have gone from wearing purple to 49ers red over the past 10 years, from defensive linemen Marques Douglas and Aubrayo Franklin to Boldin and Smith. Before the season, Baalke traded for backup Ravens center Nick Easton, who later was traded to Minnesota.
While the 49ers are off to a stumbling start, their former coach, Jim Harbaugh, has led the University of Michigan to a 5-1 record, with three consecutive shutouts. Michigan, 5-7 last year, is ranked No. 12 by The Associated Press, and John was on the sideline for the Wolverines’ 28-0 win at Maryland two weeks ago.
Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers went 13-3 in his first season with the team, so his quick success is not unprecedented. But his brother said he was a bit surprised by the way the Wolverines have been winning.
“This last one, against Northwestern, I can’t say that I thought they were going to win like that against a top-15 team,” John said of Michigan’s 38-0 romp Saturday.
He insisted his brother is not thinking about his departure from the 49ers and neither is he.
“Life moves on, you know?” John Harbaugh said. “I’ve said this before many times: Jim loved his time there, he loved the players, he loved the fans, he loved being a 49er and they had four great years and, you know, everybody moves on to the next thing in life.
“Once you kind of realize all that, it’s bigger than worrying about anything besides that. That’s how he feels about it. He feels great about it. I feel great about it for him. Other than that, I’m not involved in that at all, never was.”