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49ers coach Jim Harbaugh defends rookie WR A.J. Jenkins, calls critics 'clueless'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Harbaugh has Jenkins' back. (Getty Images)

Jim Harbaugh has taken the media to task yet again. Unsolicited, the 49ers coach stood in front of reporters Sunday to deliver this message regarding 2012 first-rounder A.J. Jenkins, the wide receiver out of Illinois:

"Jenkins was an outstanding football player when he got here," Harbaugh said according to CSNBayArea.com's Matt Maiocco. "His progress has been very, very good, and exceeded expectations.

"For those -- the scribes, pundits, so-called experts -- who have gone so far as to say that he's going to be a bust, should just stop. I recommend that because they're making themselves look more clueless than they already did."

We have no issue with Harbaugh defending his players (particularly those who have yet to suit up for a preseason game), and it's something he's done regularly since arriving in San Francisco in early 2011. But here's the thing: by drawing attention to it only exacerbates the fan and media scrutiny. Plus, Harbaugh's track record on what constitutes clueless or silly isn't the best.

In May, he told reporters that "There's a perception out there and it's an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning." Never mind that Harbaugh flew to North Carolina to work Manning out, or that the 49ers only signed Alex Smith after Manning informed Harbaugh that he planned to sign with the Broncos. 


As for Jenkins, we wrote last month that he didn't look sharp in the shorts and t-shirts portion of offseason workouts, but that wasn't indicative of any long-term issues. At the time, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat's Grant Cohn described the rookie as "one of the worst wide receivers on the field for most of minicamp," adding "He had trouble staying on his feet all three days, which was odd considering it was a non-contact minicamp."

That's also not an indictment on Jenkins' abilities as an NFL wideout, just observations based on several practices. No matter, Harbaugh wants to make clear that Jenkins is fine.

"I'll go on record," he said Sunday. "A.J. is going to be an outstanding football player. So far in camp and what he's done in the offseason has led us to believe nothing but he'll be an outstanding football player in the National Football League."

Maiocco notes that Harbaugh didn't specify which reports led to his diatribe against the media but we suspect it was done for one simple reason: to reassure the rookie that his coach has his back. In that sense, it's perfectly reasonable even if we've seen this before from Harbaugh.

"And, yeah, I'm going to keep track of some of these names of so-called experts who were making these comments," the coach said. "And there's going to be an 'I told you so.' I foresee that happening."

So we have that to look forward to. In the meantime, any pressure Jenkins may or may not be feeling should be assuaged by the re-emergence of Randy Moss, and the additions of Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham to the offense.

Ultimately, the 49ers' collective success will be measured by one thing: wins. And unless the NFL starts awarding points for staunchly defending your players publicly, Harbaugh could probably find better uses for his time.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

 
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