Jim Harbaugh said Sunday that "it's possible" receiver Michael Crabtree, recovering from a broken foot, could return to practice this week. However, Crabtree is still unlikely to play in Thursday's preseason finale against the Chargers and his status for the regular-season opener Sept. 11 also is unknown.
According to a source, Crabtree fractured his left foot during a player-run practice at San Jose on June 6. Crabtree had surgery on the foot prior to the start of training camp and was placed on the physically unable to perform list. He is still on the PUP list. The nature of Crabtree's injury previously had not been revealed.
Crabtree already has suffered a stress fracture to the same foot. That injury was discovered during the scouting combine in February 2009. Crabtree had surgery the following month during which a screw was inserted into the foot. It's not known whether the recent surgery also included the insertion of a screw.
The 49ers drafted Crabtree 10th overall in April of 2009. He missed the team's minicamps and OTAs in May and June that year while he recovered from that injury. He would have been able to take part in training camp, which began in late July that season, but he and the 49ers had a lengthy contract dispute and he did not join the team until October that year.
Despite the late start, Crabtree had an impressive rookie season, starting 11 games, catching 48 passes for 625 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
Harbaugh does not discuss injuries and Crabtree's timeline is unknown. He is no longer wearing the orthopedic boot he was in at the start of training camp, and he has been increasing his workout sessions with the training staff.
Asked today whether Crabtree could return to practice this week, Harbaugh said, "We'll see. It's possible." The 49ers, however, are unlikely to rush Crabtree back into action, especially after he had the same injury occur to the same foot in the span of 2 ½ years. Harbaugh declined to say last week whether Crabtree would wear a specially-made shoe or other protection when he does return to practice.
"I won't go into what he's going to do to protect it," Harbaugh said. "That's really in the doctors' hands and the trainers' hands, exactly what his rehab program is, his timeline for coming back."
By all accounts, Crabtree has been an active participant in team meetings and in classroom work for the receivers, and he attends practices after his work with trainers is complete. Said Harbaugh: "He's been outstanding with his participation in the meetings. His understanding and knowledge of what we're trying to do is very good."
-- Matt Barrows