Columnist questions Jim Harbaugh's account of Michael Crabtree interview

San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami has taken 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to task for his account of an interview Kawakami, and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ann Killion, had with receiver Michael Crabtree following Sunday's overtime win for San Francisco.

Crabtree made the biggest play of the game against the Saints to help send the game into overtime, a long reception that set up the game-tying field goal. Despite making that play, the reporters described Crabtree as being displeased, with the receiver saying, "Third down. I’m a third-down receiver. I mean, I’m like the third option. So I come in and I do my job." Of course, the play was on fourth down, but still, the point was made.

Harbaugh was apparently standing near the interview, which lasted only 30 seconds. Harbaugh, on Monday after the original Mercury News sidebar on Crabtree was published, felt the need to address the situation.

"After the game, WR Michael Crabtree had some quotes to some of our colleagues that were there about that he now considers himself just a third-down back and he seemed to express some dissatisfaction with that perhaps. Will you address that with him and what is your response to that?

“Well, my response is, and I was there, I caught the tail end of it, I didn’t catch all of it, so I don’t have it all verbatim, but I did see the two reporters that were talking to him and here was my view of the battlefield as I walked up to it: There’s Michael Crabtree catching a 4th-down-and-10 play, where he comes open, Colin hits him with the long pass.

"Great catch. Sets up a chance for us to kick a field goal to tie the game and togo into overtime. And again, I just caught the end of it, but what I heard the two reporters asking him was, ‘You don’t seem like you’re getting the ball as much. Are you not part of the offense? Why aren’t you getting the ball? You dropped some balls.’ Again, I didn’t see the whole thing, but I felt a little defensive for Michael. Here’s a guy who makes a great play and now he’s answering this question or that question. Maybe I might’ve gotten a little defensive too.”

The only problem, according to Kawakami, is he has audio of the interview and claims that none of these questions were asked by he and Killion. They've maintained that Crabtree said these things unprompted, with Kawakami writing a transcript of what took place.

"-Q: Your reception was the moment of the game.

"-CRABTREE: Third down. I’m a third-down receiver. I mean, I’m like the third option. So I come in and I do my job.

"-Q: That was fourth down, I think.

"-CRABTREE: Fourth down. I guess when they need me, you know, I guess that’s when I play.

"I know you all count stats–look that up.

"-Q: You weren’t on the field all the time.

"-CRABTREE: No, no, no. Do what I’m supposed to do, you know?

"-Q: Did you see Kaepernick… were you moving–looking with him?"

That's the extent of the interview with Crabtree ending it then. Kawakami even offered to play the tape for the 49ers but they have reportedly refused.

If anything, it signals the ever-mounting between Harbaugh and his team. Despite the fact that Harbaugh has built a winner in San Francisco, it seems his schtick has worn thin throughout the franchise. At the same time, there's something to be said about Crabtree being upset about his role on offense despite coming up with a huge play. Football is a team game and Crabtree, like the other 52 players on the roster, are needed to buy in, whether they get a lot of playing time or not. Crabtree is in a contract year, so not being an every-down receiver could be weighing on him mentally.

However, assuming Kawakami's version of events is correct, there's absolutely no reason for Harbaugh to make up a separate story. There are much better ways to handle situations like this that don't involve lying to reporters, especially those that can easily combat those tales.

Follow me on Twitter: @JasonHButt

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