No Harbaugh drama, according to players
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jonathan Martin paused as he walked through the 49ers locker room, looked up at a television and saw ESPN reporting on Jim Harbaugh’s questioned stature with players.
A crowd didn’t gather to watch with Martin, as only a few were arriving for meetings, but Martin joined an increasing line of players to throw support behind the fourth-year coach.
“He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around,” said Martin, who had played for Harbaugh at Stanford before reuniting with him this season in the NFL.
Harbaugh’s hold on the locker room emerged as a hot topic following Sunday’s report by the NFL Network’s Deion Sanders that players want him ousted.
“Even though he might be cheesy at times with slogans and sayings, his enthusiasm rubs off on players,” Martin said. “And his record speaks for itself.”
When the 49ers (2-2) snapped a two-game losing streak Sunday, Harbaugh offered his traditional victory cry in the locker room, and he didn’t stand alone as he asked players: “Who’s got it better than us?”
The 49ers are vying for their fourth consecutive playoff run in as many seasons under Harbaugh, whose extension talks are tabled until after this penultimate season of his contract.
“Everything’s great,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “I mean, we play, he coaches. We can’t really control anything else.”
Whether Harbaugh still controls the locker room has been called into question over the past month by NFL Network reporters, including Sanders, who tried clarifying Monday on Twitter that his longtime friend Michael Crabtree was not his source regarding discontent with Harbaugh.
Crabtree weighed in Tuesday morning on Twitter: “I don’t know what people are talking about with Mr Deion… But we good over here!”
Harbaugh was apprised of Crabtree’s tweet during his Tuesday appearance on KNBR 680-AM, to which Harbaugh replied: “It sounds good, and I think players should feel real good about what they accomplished this past Sunday.”
Punter Andy Lee has seen his share of coaching drama as the 49ers’ longest-tenured player dating back to 2004, but none yet with Harbaugh.
“I don’t see that anywhere in this locker room,” Lee said. “From my point of view, everything is normal.”
Martin endured one of the all-time locker room crises last season with the Miami Dolphins, amid a bullying scandal. He expressed surprise that people, including his parents, are asking him about possible 49ers’ discord, to which he’s replied: “I haven’t seen any of that.”
Linebacker Michael Wilhoite, who joined the 49ers practice squad in 2011, said the locker room indeed respects Harbaugh.
“His attitude is the attitude we take,” Wilhoite said. “That toughness, that grind, that grit — it’s been bred in us since I first got here.
“It was known we were going to be tough. It was known we were going to have a callous that we had built up. It was known that we were very physical, we ran the ball, we stopped the run, we played good football and we were disciplined.”
Wilhoite admitted that the 49ers strayed from those principles the first couple weeks of the season. That’s reflected by their NFL-high 46 penalties, as well as their back-to-back losses before Sunday’s comeback win over the Eagles.