SANTA CLARA -- A year after he vehemently defended A.J. Jenkins, coach Jim Harbaugh tried selling Jenkins' trade Monday to the Kansas City Chiefs as a "fresh start," for both Jenkins and fellow wideout Jonathan Baldwin, whom the Chiefs dealt in return.

Harbaugh declined to detail why Jenkins fell so out of favor in a year's time, but a nearly blank stat sheet spoke volumes. Jenkins had no receptions as a rookie, and only one catch this exhibition season while playing more snaps (77) than any other wideout.

"A.J. is a very talented player. He has never been an issue or a problem with teammates," Harbaugh said in an unscheduled appearance in the press tent. "He competes. He works very hard. There's no reason both these guys can end up having a great career."

Of course, Harbaugh infamously offered a hyperbolic defense of Jenkins at the start of last year's training camp, also in an impromptu visit before the media.More...

"For those -- the scribes, pundits, so-called experts -- who have gone so far as to say that he's going to be a bust, should just stop," Harbaugh said a year ago. "I recommend that because they're making themselves look more clueless than they already did. I'll go on record: A.J. is going to be an outstanding football player."

On Monday, Harbaugh said Jenkins still could evolve into a top-flight player, referring to the transformation Cris Carter had when he left the Philadelphia Eagles and turned into a Hall of Fame wideout with the Minnesota Vikings.

Harbaugh even cited his evolution from the Chicago Bears to the Indianapolis Colts in 1994.

"A.J., the why and that kind of thing, I'll just speak from personal experience: I was projected by a team, sent to another team and with the next team, my signature years came," Harbaugh said. "It can be a real positive. That's what everybody hopes for in this situation."

Baldwin washed out with the Chiefs two years after he was their first-round draft pick. But he's been on Harbaugh's radar since his junior year of high school in Alaquippa, Pa. "I've known about Jonathan Baldwin since he was a junior in high school , and more so my brother-in-law Tom Crean was at Marquette (basketball) at the time and heavily recruited Jonathan at the time," Harbaugh said. "It was the only non-football school Jonathan was considering. In the end, he decided to go to Pitt. He was Tom's No. 1 basketball recruit that year."

Baldwin has just under two weeks to make an impression on the 49ers' ever-suspect receiving corps. Is that enough time? "We'll do the best we possibly can," said Harbaugh, opting to delay further analysis until both players pass their physicals to make the trade official.

Even though a hamstring strain sidelined Jenkins the second week of training camp, Harbaugh expected him to pass that physical, along with Baldwin.

For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.