The foot injury that kept Michael Crabtree out of player-run practices in June is more serious than previously believed, and the 49ers' top wideout could miss four to six weeks of training camp and the preseason, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
That's why the 49ers were in the running for veteran wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who was traded from Cincinnati to New England earlier today. The 49ers will continue to pursue a veteran receiver on the free-agent market who could perhaps start opposite Josh Morgan when the season begins. As first reported by CSN Bay Area, the 49ers are one of several teams pursuing Chargers free-agent receiver Malcolm Floyd.
The exact nature of the injury is not known. The 49ers will place Crabtree on the physically-unable-to-perform list to begin training camp. Also to be placed on the PUP list are rookie fullback Bruce Miller and wideout Dominique Zeigler, who is recovering from an ACL tear suffered last year. Miller's injury is not known at this point.
Players who begin training camp on the PUP list can be moved to the active roster at any time. If a player begins the regular season on the PUP list, however, he must sit out his team's first six games.
Crabtree, who had surgery to correct a stress fracture in his left foot early in 2009, reinjured that foot on June 6, the first day of a player-run minicamp. At the time, Morgan said that Crabtree was sore from wearing new cleats on San Jose State's artificial surface playing field.
Crabtree attended the classroom portions of the next three sessions, but he did not join teammates for practice. When the offensive players assembled again at the end of the month, Crabtree went through warmups with his teammates but did not take part in full practices. Crabtree avoided the media after those sessions, riding in a golf cart to a parking lot and then getting in his car.
The injury threatens to knock Crabtree out of the preseason for a third straight year. He missed the exhibition season his rookie year due to a lengthy contract dispute that ended up lasting 71 days. Last summer Crabtree hurt his neck when he landed awkwardly in the end zone in training camp and sat out all four preseason games.
That time off was blamed in large part for the poor timing that Crabtree and quarterback Alex Smith had early last season. Smith threw nine interceptions in the first five games, many of them on attempts to Crabtree. Crabtree rallied as the season went on, and he finished with 55 catches for 741 yards and six touchdowns.
This year, the 49ers expect Crabtree to take off in Jim Harbaugh's West Coast offense, which appears well-suited for his skills. In an interview earlier this year, incoming receivers coach John Morton said he expected the 49ers to set up Crabtree for a "phenomenal" season by getting the ball into his hands as quickly as possible.
"And there are certain routes that do that," he said. "It's quick routes or it's slants or shallow crosses and things where you get the ball in their hand real fast and let them use their God-given ability. I don't think they've had a chance to really do that yet from what I've seen on tape. I don't think I've seen a slant here run ever since ... since Terrell Owens left."
Unless the 49ers sign a veteran, Morgan is likely to be the No. 1 receiver in training camp with Ted Ginn as the No. 2. Other candidates include Kyle Williams, Kevin Jurovich and rookie Ronald Johnson. Another wideout, Dominique Zeigler, is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last season.
-- Matt Barrows