Fans of the San Francisco 49ers got a rare opportunity to toss a few questions at rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke on Tuesday night during a telephone call-in "Fan Forum." Fans signed up for the event during the past week.
There were no trade secrets or draft strategies given away by Harbaugh and Baalke, but as a goodwill gesture, it was impressive to see the two men interact with fans and offer their views about the team's future.
Although only about a dozen callers were given a chance to ask questions during the one-hour session, more than 4,000 calls were logged. TV broadcaster Jim Fonzi served as host, and media members will allowed to listen in.
Clearly, the honeymoon between Harbaugh and Baalke still exists. And the first-year coach conceded he's still excited every day he walks into the team's Santa Clara, Calif., facility.
"I get chills walking into this place," Harbaugh said. "There's five Lombardi Trophies staring at you when you walk in. The bar is set very high."
We'll touch on a few subjects they addressed.
On a possible trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Kevin Kolb: Baalke said the team is prevented from discussing a player who's still under contract to another team, and of course, no deals are going to occur until there's a new collective bargaining agreement. But, he said, "we're going to pursue all available opportunities to improve the (QB) position, whether it's through free agency, trade or draft."
On the type of defense the 49ers will play: Harbaugh said the team will use a variety of schemes within the 3-4. "Are we going to be a blitz type of team? Absolutely," he said. "It'll be creative and it'll be what suits our personnel best. I think you'll be impressed."
On the role of running back Frank Gore: Clearly, Harbaugh has the same feeling that his predecessor, Mike Singletary, had regarding Gore. Gore doesn't want to be taken out of games. The question, Harbaugh said, is "can he have great production by coming off the field at times? I think (Anthony) Dixon did a tremendous job last year. His productivity and growth will be elevated this year. So I think he'll be able to take some of those carries. Frank might not want to hear that." Still, it won't be too often that Gore isn't on the field given his pass-catching ability.
On the possibility that quarterback Alex Smith, who is a free agent, might be able to help the team: Harbaugh said, "Alex is still in it." Of course, Smith would have to agree to come back, although it's more likely he'll want to see what kind of interest other teams have and if they're willing to allow him to compete for a starting job.
On whether the Niners will draft for need or will choose the best available player: Baalke said, "Obviously, when the best player available is clearly the best player on the board, it's tough to turn a player like that down. You don't get better by passing on good football players and taking players who aren't as highly rated. But you also have to address needs as you go through the draft."
Harbaugh, on making the transition from college to NFL coach: "I understand the magnitude of the NFL as a player and an assistant coach. I know how competitive it is and how hard you have to work. I can promise you this: I'm going to work at it every day. I think about it when I'm home, I think about it right before I go to sleep, and I think about it the minute I wake up. I know I have to be good."