The soreness is gone, the Achilles' is strong and when Michael Crabtree watches himself on film, he looks, well, like Michael Crabtree.
"That's what made me feel comfortable," the 49ers receiver said today. "Just practicing every day, feeling the ground with my foot and getting ready to play."
Crabtree practiced in full throughout the week and isn't even listed on the team's injury report this week. Asked if Crabtree would make his 2013 debut Sunday against the Rams, Jim Harbaugh said, "looks that way."
It's been six months since Crabtree, the team's leading receiver in 2012, suffered a complete rupture of his right Achilles' tendon, and the 49ers passing game has suffered without him. It ranks last in the NFL in average yards per game and just two 49ers - Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis - have caught touchdown passes.
Furthermore, with few threats in the passing game, defenses have been able to stack the line of scrimmage against Frank Gore and the running game. Gore has averaged just 3.6 yards a carry in the last five games.
Along with Boldin, a fully healthy Crabtree would give the 49ers two wide receivers known for their toughness and for catching passes in traffic. On Thursday, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said the 49ers were likely to ease Crabtree back into the offense but would let the circumstances - how the receiver feels, etc. - dictate exactly how much he plays.
Crabtree said he felt "great" during practice this week and said he looked forward to playing alongside his teammates, including Boldin. "I don't want to hype anything up," he said. "I just want to go play ball like I do every Sunday, when I'm out there. It's going to be good to be out there with everybody, back out there with my offensive line, they are some of my favorite guys - the D-line, Cowboy and some of them."
"It's really going to be great with Anquan, though, somebody you looked up to when you were younger," he said. "Now I get to play beside him. Last year I had Randy Moss. This year it's Anquan. Every year they're giving me somebody."
Cornerback Tarell Brown, who had to spend a night in a New Orleans hospital after suffering a rib injury Nov. 17, said he is making progress but is very unlikely to play Sunday against the Rams. He said a Saints lineman hit him in the side at the end of a running play in the second quarter.
Asked if he had suffered bruised ribs, Brown said it was "more than bruised ribs" and that he also had what he called internal injuries.
He said he had a hard time taking deep breaths and only resumed running on Thursday. But he also said he's making progress and was in far less pain than he was when he finally returned to the Bay Area accompanied by a team doctor. "It was painful," he said. "Worst flight ever."
-- Matt Barrows