A culture change doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. However, it certainly doesn’t mean he isn’t going to try his hardest to change things around by the time September rolls around.
Senior linebacker James Ross III has felt the physical and mental transformation already. Harbaugh preaches toughness. He beats it into you to the point where you can recite his teachings in your sleep.
An example of Harbaugh’s teachings comes in the shape of a reward, more specifically an article of clothing like a t-shirt. The players in the spring received a “play 60” shirt upon completion of 60 hours of practice.
Unfortunately, Ross wasn’t able to earn one.
“No I didn’t (earn a t-shirt) because I ended up getting banged up,” Ross said. “The guys who got them were very, very proud of what they earned because it meant a lot. Especially with those grueling practices, those four hour practices. It was tough and those t-shirts mean a lot to those guys.”
A t-shirt may seem silly at face value but the idea of not receiving one eats away at Ross. If you’re spending your day in the tub, you can’t make the club. That is something Harbaugh has instilled into his team.
“That’s a big thing,” Ross said. “(Harbaugh) kind of talked about there are three types of guys. You got the guy who does it right and plays, you got the guy who’s hurt, and the guy who is not so good. The two guys who look alike are the guys that are hurt and (the ones that) are not so good. They’re kind of like the same thing. So if you have all this potential, but you’re hurt and you can’t use it, you look like just the guy who doesn’t have a lot of potential. In order for you to prove what you can do, you have to play.”
Of course, injuries are sometimes unavoidable in sports. Especially with a game like football. The natural aches and pains of the everyday football player is inevitable.
Don’t use that as an excuse to try and miss time around Harbaugh, Ross says, because he’ll have nothing of it.
“That was definitely established from the get go,” Ross said. “He doesn’t accept those type of ‘being hurt’ or aches and pains. If you’re going to be out, you have to be significantly out.”
What exactly constitutes missing time?
“Broken leg I guess,” Ross said with a laugh. “Maybe not. Maybe he’ll put it back.”
Perhaps a bit excessive, one might say. But Harbaugh has a valuable lesson for his players to learn. If you have to miss time, work as hard as you can to get back out there. Don’t let the aches and pains hold you back mentally from success.
“He talked about (how) if you have an expected time to be out, cut that in half and come back anyway,” Ross said. “I’m like that’s impossible. He knows it impossible. His whole metaphor is just don’t have those aches and pains pull you out of something like this.”