Niners rounding into form 

click to enlarge Slippery: Running back Kendall Hunter has made a solid impression, and had 46 yards on six carries against the Texans. - US PRESSWIRE FILE PHOTO
  • us presswire file photo
  • Slippery: Running back Kendall Hunter has made a solid impression, and had 46 yards on six carries against the Texans.

"Maybe," is how he initially responded when asked if he would prepare more for this weekend’s preseason game as opposed to the two prior exhibition contests.

"Maybe a little more. Maybe exactly the same. Be pretty close to what we’ve done for the last two. That’s the actual answer," he continued, before rephrasing.

"Maybe just a little more, but maybe exactly the same as the first two," Harbaugh said, again, this time laughing. "I’m not trying to be funny, either."

But despite Saturday’s 20-9 road loss to the Houston Texans, the second-year coach had reason to chuckle.

For one, the injuries sustained to two of his notable running backs in Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James — both of whom were carted off the field in Houston — weren’t as serious as first suspected.

The rookie James is expected to return before the veteran Jacobs.

"Brandon for the [season] opener is possible," Harbaugh said after Sunday’s MRI revealed no serious damage to Jacob’s wounded left knee. "Again, we just have to see how the treatment goes, how the body responds."

Harbaugh’s team was unable to break though for a scoring touchdown a week after disallowing one, but some positives were noted.

"In several areas, the thing we’ve got to keep striving for is zero defects when it comes to turnovers, mental errors, penalties," Harbaugh said. "That’s striving for perfection. Zero defects in those areas. Things that are very correctable. Get the feeling that we’re a well-oiled machine, that’s what we want to accomplish over these next couple weeks before we get to our opener."

Two of Harbaugh’s players — among others — who already appear poised for September are the other pair of explosive running backs in Frank Gore and second-year man Kendall Hunter. The former has proven a formidable force over seven seasons, while the latter entered the offseason eager to make his mark.

And thus far, Hunter has done that.

"You could tell from the first year to this year, that he grew a lot," Gore said of Hunter, who rushed for 46 yards on six carries in Houston. "It’s his second year in the offense. He knows what he’s doing now. He’s not thinking, he’s just playing football — what he’s good at."

Just playing football is something that Gore, likewise, is good at. Despite his brief exhibition touches, Gore looks like the back who set San Francisco’s all-time leading rushing record last year.

"He’s a beast," Isaac Sopoaga said of Gore, both teammates since 2005. "I love Frank ... he’s a gangster on the field."

"We wanna win," Gore added. "We got a taste of last year. It felt good. And we wanna keep that taste in our mouths."

It isn’t often that Jim Harbaugh caters to humor, but the 49ers coach did that Monday — albeit unintentionally.


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