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November 27, 2013
Crabtree conundrum: Rams must prepare for WR whether he plays or not


Maybe there's value in being vague and opaque in your press conferences, after all. Jim Harbaugh has hinted, but hasn't said for certain, that Michael Crabtree will make his 2013 debut against the Rams after coming back from Achilles' surgery. And that means that St. Louis must spend a lot of time this week preparing for Crabtree whether he gets on the field or not.

"Well, we're expecting him to play," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said on a conference call. "So obviously, you go back and look before the injury and what he did for them. And we're familiar with that. We have respect for his ability."

When the 49ers traded for Anquan Boldin in March, they envisioned an offense with two, tough-minded wide receivers who could out-wrestle defensive backs for balls and who would instill confidence in quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Crabtree's injury in May thwarted those plans, and it severely altered and hindered the 49ers' passing attack. It still ranks last in the NFL, even after a bounce-back effort Monday against the Redskins. Crabtree's return, however, promises to give the 49ers two legitimate targets on the outside for the first time this season and will significantly affect how defenses line up against them.

That's Fisher's - a former defensive back and former defensive backs coach - challenge this week. And he acknowledged that projecting how Crabtree's return will change San Francisco's offense will take up a lot of meeting and practice time this week.

"It's hard for us to predict how the 49ers offense and their staff is going to utilize him this week," Fisher said. "But we have to be prepared for everything."

Dr. Fisher's advice for Crabtree? Take all the time you need.

Said Fisher: "We hope that he maybe would wait another week. But it just gives the offense another weapon and it creates problems for you offensively."

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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