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Jim Harbaugh knows legacy at stake

By Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News Published: January 8, 2013

To the contrary, Harbaugh said. His body has never felt so nonrobust. He hates that he hasn't been able to maintain better overall fitness. He said the “stress” and the time-consuming nature of his job have made it more difficult to do so. It was a rare candid moment from someone who doesn't usually open the door about his inner thoughts.

Also, lest we forget, Harbaugh did have a medical hiccup with an irregular heartbeat less than two months ago. He returned to the job quickly after undergoing what was termed a “minor procedure.” Harbaugh said he underwent a “cardiovert.” You might want to do an Internet search on that term. The procedure's description does not sound minor. It involves strong drugs and electric shocks.

None of that has stopped Harbaugh from approaching this postseason with (you guessed it) enthusiasm unknown to mankind. And while it is difficult to imagine his outward self-confidence ever wobbling, Harbaugh has spoken several times after losses this season about going back and re-evaluating philosophies and strategies.

On some level, then, Harbaugh must be wondering along with the rest of us whether the critical choices he made from September through December will play out in the best possible way during January. As his heart issue proves, the man is human and vulnerable.

Not that he would ever own up to that publicly. Harbaugh's media sessions will continue to be Theatre Of The Opaque. Monday, he spoke about how Kaepernick has improved steadily throughout the season, although his worst game happened barely two weeks ago and he finished the season with a worse passer rating (98.3) than the man he replaced, Smith (104.1). On another matter, Harbaugh said it was possible both Akers and his potential kicking replacement, Billy Cundiff, could dress for Saturday's game. Uh, right.

Tony La Russa, the former A's and Cardinals manager, was interviewed recently about Harbaugh by staff writer Cam Inman. Harbaugh and La Russa are friends. And La Russa seems to get a kick out of Harbaugh's method of, ahem, public relations.

“I love the way he does press conferences,” La Russa said. “He's not there for the fans to say, ‘Oh, what a great personality.' He's there for his players to say, ‘I trust that guy and he's there for us.' ”& I really admire him.“

Followers of the 49ers generally do the same. However, for any NFL coach, admiration can be fleeting. Harbaugh's legend will grow again over the next few weeks. But which way?

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