SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jim Harbaugh insists he doesn't remember the story, but Greg Roman does.
It happened in 2001, when Harbaugh was playing his final season in the NFL and Roman was an assistant offensive line coach with the Carolina Panthers.
"Jim doesn't remember this," Roman said Wednesday during a get-together between the San Francisco 49ers new coordinators and local media, "but one day at practice Jim was warming up and he said, ‘You know what? When I'm a head coach some day, I'm going to hire you.'
"I said, ‘What?' And then I started thinking about it and thinking about his father (Jack Harbaugh, longtime college coach). Jim was a gym rat. When I first met him, he was always around the facility. He'd be sitting in the special teams coach's office on the floor as the coach broke down opponent film. He was a football guy all the way.
"You don't see guys doing that. I've never seen it before or since."
How fitting they should wind up here, Harbaugh as the 49ers new head coach, Roman as his offensive coordinator. Work has already begun toward next season, but unless there's a new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players, it's going to stop March 4.
That's going to make it difficult for the Niners coaching staff, which has done little more than look at film and set a calendar for offseason workouts. Some coaches have met a few of their players, but there hasn't been much else done in the way of preparation.
And it would definitely put the 49ers behind other teams that have veteran staffs and working playbooks.
"We really haven't thought about that," Roman said. "We're preparing as if we're going to have an offseason. If it doesn't (happen), we'll adapt. We'll get excited about the challenge it presents and go from there."
The challenges are going to be difficult. If a work stoppage occurs, the business of football will grind to a halt. Players will be barred from their facilities; coaches won't be permitted to interact with players; offseason workouts will be postponed.
"We're not going to have any contact with the players in a football sense," Roman said. "That's my understanding of it, at least right now, and we really haven't up to this point. We're too busy dotting I's and crossing T's. You don't want to give players information that's not fully concrete, so we'll just take that as it goes."
Roman, who worked on Harbaugh's staff at Stanford the past two seasons, also addressed several other topics.
On quarterback Alex Smith, who will be a free agent in March: "I think Alex does a lot of things really well, and I don't have a crystal ball so I don't know what's going to happen. But I think we all see that he's gotten very strong in certain areas. We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out. It's a pretty fluid situation."
On how he and Harbaugh will handle the play-calling since Harbaugh has said he plans to call most of the plays during games: "Jim's the head coach and however Jim sees things getting done I will work with that 100 percent, 100 miles an hour. To get into specifics on that, I think we have a very good working relationship, and I try to think along with him, think around him and bounce ideas off and think ahead and whatnot. I think that's one of my jobs." Roman also said he'll work in the coaches' box during games and Harbaugh will be on the field.
On whether he's viewed video of former 49ers coach Bill Walsh installing the West Coast offense: "I went to Home Depot last night and got an axe and a pick, and I'm ready to dig for them. But yes, we are on the trail. We're going to probably get some pizzas one night as an offensive staff and just start rolling through them. … They're around. We don't have our hands on them yet, though. We're in the process of getting them."
On working with another former Niners coach, George Seifert, in Carolina: "I learned a tremendous amount from coach Seifert. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for George as a coach and a person. A very, very intelligent coach, very outside-the-box thinker, very hard worker. I learned a lot. All the Bill Walsh installation tapes, I've seen them. I watched them back in the ‘90s several times and I have the old '94 playbook and the '93 playbook. A lot of history with that through George and I was very fortunate to have been exposed to it."
On whether he and Harbaugh will script their first series of offensive plays, as Walsh used to do: "We do script, but we can get off the script if need be. We can change the order of the script. We'll definitely have some priorities laid out and contingency plans available."