When Harbaugh got to the podium, he said he was there to talk about Jenkins, then delivered the following statement: "A.J. Jenkins was an outstanding football player before he got here. His progress has been very, very good and exceeded expectations. For those scribes, pundits, so-called experts who have gone as far as to say that he's going to be a bust, you know, they should just stop. They're making themselves look more clueless than they already did."
Jenkins has been the target of criticism from local and national media since the 49ers used their first-round pick on the Illinois WR in April.
Initial criticism stemmed from the team's rookie minicamp on May 11, when Harbaugh said the "whole group of receivers really looked out of shape."
Conditioning is no longer an issue, according to Harbaugh.
"I didn't say A.J. specifically [was out of shape], I said the 'group of rookies,' and I said they would eventually get there and they are there," he said. "They are there and A.J. Jenkins, specifically, his conditioning is tip-top. "
The timing of Harbaugh's defense of Jenkins can be considered somewhat surprising considering in his first press conference of training camp on Friday, he was very complimentary of the team's group of receivers. He indicated the team has five guys tied for first on the receiver depth chart, but did not include Jenkins among the group, which was made up of Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn Jr., and Kyle Williams.
Those comments could be construed to mean Jenkins doesn't have an immediate role waiting for him and Harbaugh didn't say anything to contradict that Sunday.
When asked about Jenkins' prospects this year, Harbaugh said: "I expect him to have a great practice today. He's had two outstanding practices since he's been here at camp and has seen consistent, steady improvements every time he's come out here to the field or in a meeting."
Jenkins caught 90 passes for 1,2776 yards and 8 TDs in his senior year for the Illini and was the fourth receiver picked in the first round of the NFL Draft.
"I'm going to keep track of some of these names of these so-called experts who are making these comments and there's going to be an I-told-you-so," Harbaugh said. "I foresee that happening."