Harbaugh Defends Departed WR Jenkins
A.J. Jenkins has a fresh start in KC.
A.J. Jenkins has a fresh start in KC.
Associated Press
Posted Aug 21, 2013

A.J. Jenkins no longer is in a San Francisco 49ers uniform after being dealt to Kansas City. Coach Jim Harbaugh is still coming to the defense of his former receiver.

Jim Harbaugh took the opportunity Wednesday to again criticize those who delivered a negative take on A.J. Jenkins, the 2012 first-round pick who underachieved in his one-plus season with San Francisco.

Asked a question Wednesday about Jon Baldwin, the receiver the 49ers acquired from the Chiefs on Monday for Jenkins, Harbaugh weaved Jenkins into the discussion unsolicited.

"I don't think it's fair to bully or label a young player, though I fully understand that people are entitled to their opinion and perspective," Harbaugh said. "However, I prefer the criticism — I'd appreciate if the criticism — is directed toward me. I'm responsible, and I certainly accept it. Actually, welcome it."

Jenkins, the 30th overall pick in 2012, appeared in just three games last season and didn't make a single catch. With the Achilles tendon injury to No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree, he was viewed as a leading candidate to start this season opposite Anquan Boldin.

But Jenkins hardly distinguished himself through the early portion of training camp and two exhibition games.

Harbaugh was asked to clarify what he felt responsible for in relation to the media criticism directed at Jenkins.

"I'm responsible for helping pick the draft picks, fully responsible for coaching the players up, and I willingly accept those responsibilities," Harbaugh said.

In July 2012, Harbaugh called out as "clueless" those who predicted Jenkins would be a bust before he even played in a preseason game.

Referencing the fact Baldwin, a 2011 first-round choice of the Chiefs, has been labeled an underachiever, Harbaugh said: "I know a lot of people have kind of made some sport of A.J. and Jonathan, and my comments and that type of thing. I feel the same as I did a year ago when I made those comments."

The 49ers have some important decisions to make at receiver in advance of their Sept. 8 season opener against Green Bay. They're still trying to identify the No. 2 wideout alongside Boldin; Marlon Moore and Kyle Williams appear to be front-runners. Moore, a fourth-year veteran signed as a free agent in the offseason, in particular has helped his cause. He's started the first two exhibitions and has earned Harbaugh's praise.

"There's the physical and the mentality, you need both," Harbaugh said. "He's definitely a talented player physically, also tough mentally. Those things are a very good combination."

Moore said he's simply trying to prove he deserves playing time.

"Complacency is death, man," Moore said. "The moment you think you have a spot or any kind of position, that's when your output declines."

Harbaugh mentioned Austin Collie, Lavelle Hawkins and Baldwin as receivers who could take over some snaps Jenkins was getting in preseason games. Veteran Mario Manningham is on the physically unable to perform list and will miss much of the regular season.

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