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Sunday, August 12, 2012
Harbaugh and the not-quite-naked truth

By Mike Sando

SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh could be grateful on quite a few fronts Sunday.

Harbaugh was grateful to see what the team said were 32,000 people turn out for Fan Fest at Candlestick Park, roughly four times the turnout from the same event last year.

There was relatively good news for the 49ers on the injury front, something for which a coach is always grateful. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith might miss only about a week with the hip bruise he suffered Friday night. And the initial diagnosis for tight end Delanie Walker, who left practice with an injured knee Sunday, suggested the team likely "dodged a bullet" in terms of the injury's severity.

Most significantly, though, Harbaugh was grateful for the discovery made when a shirtless man ran past security onto the field and made his way directly toward the head coach.

"Glad he was clothed," Harbaugh said. "Glad he wasn't naked."

Police subdued the man after what looked like a brief staredown between coach and trespasser.

"He called me 'coach,' " Harbaugh said, "but I didn't say anything."

Fans flowed into the parking lots outside Candlestick hours before the event began. Some tailgated. Concessions opened early. A lone Dallas Cowboys fan stood out in the sea of 49ers red. But when he taunted the crowd, a 49ers fan revoked the man's hat and chucked it (other fans returned it). Chants of "Cowboys suck" arose.

Players and coaches interacted with fans memorably.

Receiver Randy Moss stood near the stands and played catch with fans, making sure one youngster in particular made a catch without interference from overzealous adults.

Middle linebacker Patrick Willis fitted his shoulder pads and jersey over a child barely tall enough to walk with the equipment draped over him. Harbaugh signed autographs for at least a half-hour, as did players.

Fans chanted for their favorite players, including for quarterback Alex Smith, who saluted them as he jogged off the field. Left tackle Joe Staley danced for the crowd while "Hood Rich Anthem" blared over the speakers.

The crowd roared when Michael Crabtree beat Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers to catch a deep pass from Smith. Crabtree waited until the last moment before raising his hands just high enough to make the catch.

Walker's injury while blocking provided a scare. He watched most of practice with a wrap holding an ice pack on his elevated knee.

When the offense scored at one point, Harbaugh "rewarded" that group by having them run. The idea was that the winning team earned the right to get better, the coach explained.

The 49ers will return to their headquarters in Santa Clara for practices beginning Monday (I'll be there through Tuesday).

"We'll grind this week," Harbaugh said. "This will be a good, hard-working football week for our team. We'll see if we can make the most of it."