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Jim Harbaugh: AJ Jenkins was bullied by media

AJ-Jenkins-NinersThe San Francisco 49ers drafted former Illinois wide receiver AJ Jenkins in the first round of the NFL Draft last year, and the selection never panned out. Jenkins never caught a pass in a regular season game for the Niners and was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday for receiver Jon Baldwin.

At this point, it is safe to label Jenkins a draft bust. Last year during training camp, Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh blasted the media for criticizing Jenkins when he was not performing well in practice. In retrospect, it appears the writers and reporters were accurate with their assessment of Jenkins. Despite that, Harbaugh continued to defend the 23-year-old after trading him.

“I know a lot of people made sport of AJ and Jonathan and my comments and that type of thing,” he said Wednesday, per Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “And I really feel the same as I did a year ago when I made those comments. I don’t think it’s fair to bully or label a young player. I fully understand people are entitled to their opinion and their perspective, however, I refer the criticism — or appreciate — if the criticism is directed toward me. I’m responsible and I certainly accept it.”

Obviously, Harbaugh and the entire San Francisco organization are disappointed that they spent a first-round pick on a player who never worked out. But as Harbaugh has shown us in the past with his animated defense of Alex Smith, he is rarely ever going to throw a player under the bus.

“I’m responsible. I’m responsible for helping pick the draft picks and fully responsible for coaching the players up,” he said. “So I willingly accept those responsibilities.”

Baldwin, also a first-round pick in 2011, caught 41 passes for 579 yards and two touchdowns during his two seasons with the Chiefs. A change of scenery could benefit both players.

H/T Around the League

Jim Harbaugh blasts media for criticizing rookie A.J. Jenkins

The 49ers are going to try to establish a better passing game this season, and first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins is expected to be a significant part of the plan. By adding Jenkins, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, San Francisco is hoping their offense can become more dynamic and Alex Smith can be more effective throwing the ball. However, there has been some indication that Jenkins has not impressed in offseason workouts. The San Francisco media hasn’t exactly been blasting the rookie, but apparently they have said enough to infuriate Jim Harbaugh.

“For those scribes, pundits or so-called experts who’ve gone as far to say he’s going to be a bust, they should just stop,” the Niners coach said Sunday according to the San Jose Mercury News. “I recommend that because they’re making themselves look clueless, more than they already did. A.J. is going to be outstanding.

“I’m going to keep track of these names of so-called experts who are making these comments. And there’s going to be an ‘I-told-you-so.’ I foresee that happening.”

For his part, Jenkins said he has “no hard feelings” toward anyone who has said negative things about him and that he embraces criticism. Harbaugh has never been shy about defending his players, as evidenced by the comments he made about Smith last season and the way he denied that the Niners ever pursued Peyton Manning. In all likelihood this is just a way for Harbaugh to give an important rookie some confidence heading into the season.