SANTA CLARA -- Jim Harbaugh bristled at every one of my questions about Aldon Smith on Friday, which is fair but also symbolizes the 49ers' entire flustered approach to the Smith conundrum.

They just don't have answers about their troubled star. They have anger, they have frustration, but they don't have real answers.

Harbaugh is usually quite good at coming up with logical retorts and reasons for everything he does, but he literally has none right now.

The 49ers have had several days to digest the news that Smith pleaded no contest to three felony weapon charges and one misdemeanor and is facing sentencing on July 25 -- two days after the scheduled start of training camp.

They don't know, legally, if Smith will be in jail or not after that. This is 100-percent true and not up to them.

But the football part of this is entirely their call. So: Is Smith a full-fledged member of this team through the start of training camp and past July 25?

"I'm not going to get into speculating on what's going to happen, what could happen, what will happen," Harbaugh said at the 49ers' rookie minicamp. "There's nothing really further that I can add to this line of questioning.

"You can take bamboo shoots and stick 'em under my fingernails and there still wouldn't be any more I could add further to this discussion."

OK, Harbaugh getting upset with my line of questioning is nothing new and not a problem.


Advertisement

He accused me of staring in a mirror and practicing one of these questions, which was not true; I think I'm pretty good at coming up with questions in the moment.

But this was not a creative trick question, in the wake of Smith's problems (and Chris Culliver's own problems):

What standard of accountability -- if any -- do the 49ers hold their players to?

"It's part of a legal process," Harbaugh said. "I am not an attorney or a judge. I'm a football coach. So I will let that go through the legal process. There's nothing more that I can add to it. At this time."

That's not an answer. That's a dodge of a rationalization of a tired excuse.

Oh well. This is all part of a normal coach-columnist relationship, if both of us are doing our jobs correctly.

Note to his fans, frothing at me for being mean: Harbaugh is a tough, smart guy and he can handle this, or at least he should be able to.

During this push-pull, there was a tiny glimmer of information offered: Harbaugh isn't guaranteeing Smith will enter camp with the team.

To the general point, Harbaugh infamously said he wanted his players to be "above reproach" last year when he was asked about several Seattle Seahawks players who were involved with PED problems.

So I asked him Friday: Addressing this on a legal level, are all of your players above reproach right now?

"No, we've got some things we've got to resolve," Harbaugh said. "But we are in a process -- and always are in a process of striving to be above reproach, yes."

It's more than clear: All the 49ers want is Smith to play for them and they are trying to figure it out from there, even as he gets deeper and deeper into legal trouble.

General manager Trent Baalke has vociferously defended Smith throughout, and Harbaugh noted Friday that Smith is participating in the offseason program.

They have more than coddled him -- for instance, playing Smith all 70 defensive snaps against the Indianapolis Colts last season only two days after his DUI arrest.

So is he the 49ers starting right outside linebacker now, as he was in the Colts game?

"We're too early to tell who the starters are right now," Harbaugh said.

More Harbaugh: "I want our players to strive to be above reproach in all regards. And I can't imagine that anybody would tell anybody any differently.

"I can't imagine -- if it were you, or I, or anybody else here would want their youngsters to strive for anything less. Certainly wouldn't promote that they strive to be below reproach."

Another question: Is there any negative for a team to have players in trouble?

"There's a process that he's taking care of individually, that is his accountability, just like all of us," Harbaugh said. "Anything that we do -- if we do things right, there's going to be consequences. If we do things wrong, there's going to be consequences for that. All of our actions, there's consequences, good or bad."

Harbaugh was agitated and barking his words out (so was I), but this last part was right on the money.

All actions have consequences -- for a player, a team, for everybody involved -- and right now, the 49ers have no answers for their own actions. Actually, for their inaction.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.

INSIDE
Aldon Smith is in good standing with Jim Harbaugh, 49ers. PAGE 3