INDIANAPOLIS -- San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh found time to meet up with his brother John on Wednesday, just one of three times every year he counts on the brief but valuable family session.
Over lunch at Shula's Steakhouse two blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium before the official start to the Scouting Combine, the brothers had a rare shift away from their football-focused lives and schedule before the NFL guides their paths to cross again -- at the NFL owners meetings in Florida next month.
Jim Harbaugh agreed that the success of the Seattle Seahawks keeps the 49ers focused and eager to get back to their usual business.
"It's obvious," said Harbaugh. "A-plus-plus."
Pro Bowl quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn't take many breaks since the NFC Championship game loss at Seattle. The very next day, his car was already at the Santa Clara facility when Harbaugh pulled into the player lot early in the morning.
"He was already there working out. He's down in Florida working out again," Harbaugh said. "I never have any questions about Colin Kaepernick's work ethic and desire to be great. He's already pretty darn good. He'll find a way to get a mile-per-hour faster. That's just the way that he trains. The way that he thinks."
That constant and depth at running back are the foundation of the San Francisco offense. Harbaugh said he isn't questioning what running back Frank Gore might have left. Gore, injured against the Seahawks in January, rushed for 1,178 yards (276 carries) in his 10th season. He turns 31 in May, and the 49ers' healthy stock of running backs might allow San Francisco to go in a new direction.
"I thought Frank was once again Frank Gore -- a-plus, plus," said Harbaugh. "Played all the games. Our other running backs. Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Anthony Dixon, I'm very excited about all of those players and Marcus Lattimore getting into the mix."
Keeping the defense sound up the middle might not be as easily accomplished.
All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman required reconstructive knee surgery after tearing multiple knee ligaments on a goal-line play in the NFC Championship game in January. Strong safety Donte Whitner is a free agent and could follow Dashon Goldson out the door. That would leave 2013 rookie Eric Reid to hold down the deep middle in a rising division.
"Just like in baseball, you want to be good up the middle," Harbaugh said. "You want to be built that way on defense. It's the core of your unit, whether defensively or offensively."
Much like Lattimore, who spent the 2013 season rehabbing from two leg injuries in the past three seasons, the 49ers could get a major boost from defensive end Tank Carradine.
"Expectations will be very high. Tank had a procedure done after the season that took out a mass of scar tissue. He wasn't able to straighten out his leg before that. They took that out," Harbaugh said. "He looks like a different guy now since that procedure. Just what we saw when he did practice with our football team, now with this procedure done, I'm even more excited."