Michael Crabtree missed the entire offseason and the first six weeks of the regular season last year. But when he finally came in from the cold, he didn't spend any time waiting on the bench. Mike Singletary's reasoning then was that the team drafted Crabtree with the No. 10 overall pick because of his talent and that talent ought to be on the field. Crabtree rewarded Singletary with five catches for 56 yards in his first game, and he finished the season averaging 13 yards per catch.
Singletary struck a similar tone earlier this week at the 49ers "state of the franchise" event, saying that he would push to get his young, talented players on the field. That push would come against assistants, who typically prefer veteran players because they are more trustworthy and less risky.
Said Singletary: "I think my job is to make sure that the coaching staff understands the level of detail that we have to get to and make sure that we challenge our players to get there. Find a way to get there and not sit back and say, 'Well, this guy's too young, this guy's too immature, this guy's ...' No, I don't want to hear that. Let's figure out a way to make it work."
The coach presumably was talking about the team's two first-round picks, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, and perhaps second-round pick Taylor Mays. Singletary heaped great praise on Mays - and perhaps put a little pressure on him as well - when he said he wanted the safety to be an intimidating presence like Ronnie Lott was a quarter century ago. The other rookie who could get significant playing time this year is Kyle Williams, who has a chance of being the primary punt returner.
It's hard to see Singletary getting much resistance from offensive line coach Mike Solari whose blessing, after all, was critical to the 49ers drafting two linemen within six picks. Solari said earlier this year that on-field work will be critical in getting Davis and Iupati up to speed. "The most important thing is to get them on the grass," Solari said. "The classroom's important, without a doubt. But the most important thing is to get them on the field. The most important thing is to work with them so they can execute." (Which is why getting them signed quickly is imperative).
Singletary might have a tougher argument for Mays. Secondary coach Johnnie Lynn told me in June that there was no need to rush Mays along because there was good depth ahead of him. Mays began spring practices with the No. 3 defense but had moved up to the No. 2 unit by the time OTAs ended. It will be interesting to see where he's playing in Monday's first practice.
One more interesting rookie note. I wonder if sixth-round running back Anthony Dixon might see a fair amount of action this year. A source recently told me that the 49ers tried to move Glen Coffee on draft day. If that's the case, it's an indication the 49ers were unimpressed when Coffee filled in for Frank Gore last season. Coffee averaged 2.7 yards a carry on 83 attempts, most of which came when Gore missed nearly three games with an ankle aprain. Coffee, who added 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason, is the No. 2 tailback as of now.
-- Matt Barrows