Michael Crabtree on Tuesday joined his teammates at practice, the first session the 49ers wide receiver has taken part in since tearing his right Achilles' tendon on May 21. That Crabtree was cleared for practice triggers a 21-day window for adding him to the 53-man roster, which could put him back on the field for the team's Dec. 1 game against the Rams, and perhaps more significant, give him a warm up for the following week's rematch with the Seahawks.
Crabtree completely tore his Achilles' tendon during a spring OTA session and started the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. The 49ers had until Nov. 19 to clear him for practice, but they felt Crabtree had made enough progress to do so two weeks early.
Today marks 24 weeks since Crabtree suffered the Achilles' tear, which in the past required at least a year of rehabilitation but one from which players lately have been able to return in six months.
The 49ers passing attack ranks last in the NFL in averaging 190 yards per game. That's due largely to the fact that San Francisco has raced out to large first-half leads in recent weeks and because it has the top-ranked rushing attack in the league (153 yards a game). But the 49ers also could use help at wide receiver, a position at which no other player aside from Anquan Boldin has made an impact this season.
The 49ers activated one previously injured receiver, Mario Manningham, on Monday. Now it seems as if they could get their top wideout, Crabtree, back in time for the pivotal, Dec. 8 showdown with division-leading Seattle. The Seahawks, who have not had their bye yet, lead the 49ers by 1 1/2 games.
Crabtree has looked sharp while working out with trainers and strength coaches in recent weeks. Now he'll work on rebuilding his confidence. "When you're a running back or a receiver, you've got to stick that foot in the dirt," general manager Trent Baalke said of returning from an Achilles' injury. "And you've got to do it at the velocity these guys have to do it at -- now the mind starts playing with you. So getting that confidence back (is critical)."
Crabtree also will work on reestablishing his rapport with starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The duo had excellent chemistry in Kaepernick's 10 starts last year. Crabtree had 61 catches for 880 yards and eight touchdowns in those games. Crabtree finished the regular season with 1,105 receiving yards and became the first 49ers pass catcher to surpass the 1,000-yard mark since Terrell Owens did it in 2003.
-- Matt Barrows