A marijuana case involving a Bengals starting receiver could give another Jim Harbaugh protégé a big role Sunday against his old coach. Cincinnati's Jerome Simpson, who has eight catches for 180 yards over two games, missed Thursday's and today's practice in relation to a shipment of pot that arrived at his house earlier this week from Eureka, Ca. Simpson is listed as questionable on Cincinnati's injury report.
Simpson has not been charged, but there is a possibility that Simpson will not play Sunday. If that's the case, it's the third time this season the 49ers have managed to avoid one of their opponent's top receivers. Seattle's Sidney Rice (labrum) missed Week 1 and Dallas' Dez Bryant (thigh) was out Week 2.
If Simpson is missing Sunday, the Bengals starters, according to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, would be Andre Caldwell, who already was in an elevated role because of an ACL tear to Jordan Shipley.
And if Caldwell starts, that likely would make Ryan Whalen, who played at Stanford, the No. 3 receiver, according to Reedy. Whalen, a sixth-round pick in the draft, has been inactive for the Bengals' first two games but he drew praise from coaches this summer for his route-running ability.
Harbaugh and his staff faced another familiar face in Week 1 in rookie Doug Baldwin, who also played at Stanford last year and who served as Seattle's No. 3 receiver. Baldwin ended up being targeted more than any other Seahawks pass catcher in that game and finished with four catches for 83 yards and a 55-yard touchdown.
For the 49ers, meanwhile, Michael Crabtree (foot) has been limited in practice this week. However, he's been noticeably more spry than he was last week. My sense is that Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn will start at wideout and that Crabtree and Kyle Williams will be sprinkled in throughout Sunday's game.
-- Matt Barrows