In 2009 Michael Crabtree missed 71 days before joining the 49ers. Still, coaches put him in the starting lineup for their next game, and the then-rookie delivered, catching five passes for 56 yards against the Houston Texans.
Crabtree referenced that quick turnaround today in his first media session since June 6. Wednesday was his first full practice since breaking a bone in his foot at what Crabtree called "the little Alex Smith camp" at San Jose State, but he said getting up to speed quickly is something he's used to. He also was a Week 1 starter last year despite missing all four preseason games with a neck injury.
"I've been here before," Crabtree said. "It's nothing new to me. Like I said, I just got to take on that challenge and go out and do my best."
This year's scenario, however, has a few notable differences than the two previous seasons. While Crabtree's 2010 neck injury kept him out of the preseason games, he was able to practice during the latter part of the preseason and was in game shape heading into the regular season. He also was in good shape in 2009, having worked out extensively on his own before rejoining the team in October. Crabtree signed his contract during the bye week that year and had more than a week to get up to speed.
This year Crabtree is recovering from an injury to the same foot in which a stress fracture was discovered in February of 2009. He only recently resumed running and he indicated that he wasn't at full speed on Wednesday. "Yesterday, I had a little slow day," he said. "The first day of practice. So I'm ready. Today, I'm focused. It feels like a game, so I'm nervous."
Another factor is that the 49ers may not feel as hard-pressed to rush him into the line up as they were in previous years. In 2009 then-coach Mike Singletary said that it was clear that Crabtree was better than any wide receiver the 49ers had on the team at that time and that they needed him to help out the passing game.
The depth at the position is better than it was in 2009. The team added Braylon Edwards in the offseason, and coaches have raved about how Ted Ginn - who is going into his contract year - has played this offseason.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman today said that he and his staff likely would carve out playing time for each of those receivers as well as Joshua Morgan. "Because they're all practicing so well and dialed in, they all need to play because they're really good players and they deserve to play," Roman said. "So it's just up to us throughout the week to kind of segment things for different guys."
Does that include Crabtree?
"We hope," Roman said. "... That's the hope. He's a very gifted individual. So we hope he can be out there."
Crabtree indicated the latest foot injury was not as severe as the one that was detected in 2009. Crabtree had surgery in March of that year during which a pin was inserted into the foot. There was no pin this time, Crabtree said, and his recovery time also has been shorter than it was in 2009.
Crabtree said he will wear a specially molded shoe this year to protect the foot. "My Jordan cleats are going to be real big for me this year," Crabtree said. "They're going to be pretty sweet, too."
-- Matt Barrows