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Crabtree Makes Offseason Strides

Posted May 1, 2012

Time flies in the National Football League, just ask Michael Crabtree.

Now entering his fourth season as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, Crabtree’s starting to look like an elder statesman with a light beard growing in on his 24-year-old face.

The No. 10 overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft has been a consistent attendee of the team’s offseason strength program, but with the program now in the midst of its “Football School” phase, the 6-foot-1, 214-pound wideout’s biggest talents are starting to shine brightest.

Left foot issues which have hampered the young receiver’s early career seem to be a thing of the past. Crabtree said he’s feeling the best he ever has during the offseason of his NFL career.

“I’m taking care of my body and that’s from growing up,” Crabtree told 49ers.com on Tuesday. “You learn how to take care of your body better.”

With his legs under him, Crabtree was arguably the most impressive receiver in the 49ers pass-catching drills which included a gauntlet-like receiving drill seen every year at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Back in 2009, Crabtree missed out on the combine due to a fracture in his left foot. However, running the gauntlet on Tuesday gave Crabtree a little peace of mind.

“That was cool,” explained the 49ers wide receiver who led the team with 72 catches and 874 receiving yards in 2011, both career highs. “It felt like something I missed at the combine.

“That’s why I wished I would’ve done the combine, the gauntlet, the routes and the 40.”

Crabtree’s strong offseason work doesn’t surprise general manager Trent Baalke, who told Sirius XM radio this week that Crabtree’s skill sets are “going to shine even brighter this year because he’s going to have a full offseason.”

Jim Harbaugh spoke in a similar vein when addressing Crabtree’s offseason outlook back in February at the 2012 Scouting Combine.

“You get better at football by practicing football, much like you don't get to Carnegie Hall without a lot of practice,” Harbaugh said from the halls of Lucas Oil Stadium. “For him to have a benefit of an offseason and OTAs and training camp like he's never had, he's got an opportunity to have that offseason this year which he has not had – and not of his own doing. Looking forward to making the most of that this year.”

“He’s been working tirelessly,” Baalke also told Sirius XM. “He’s been involved with the entire process this offseason up to this point and plans on being here throughout. We’re excited about that group.”

So is Crabtree, who applauded the 49ers front office for adding key play-makers like Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins. The 49ers were low on receivers as they entered postseason play, a fact not lost on the 49ers top returning receiver.

“You need depth at wide receiver with guys getting hurt, guys getting hit, guys running a lot. That’s football. It’s not a guarantee you’ll play healthy the whole season,” Crabtree said. “You’ve always got to have depth at receiver. All those guys, they’re good guys.”

In addition to the incoming receivers, the 49ers have returners Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Brett Swain, Joe Hastings and John Matthews on the roster.

Crabtree likes the depth the position group has now, but couldn’t hold back his excitement when discussing his working relationship with Moss.

“That’s my dude,” Crabtree said, pausing as he looked down at Moss on the other end of the locker room. “He was one of my favorite receivers of all-time. I gravitate more towards players like Randy, those younger guys played in a time with a lot of different coverages.”

Crabtree said all he wanted to do is “take notes, learn, and get better” from working with a respected veteran like Moss.

Additional perimeter weapons could benefit Crabtree’s already strong production. Through four seasons, Crabtree has played in 42 games, catching 175 passes for 2,240 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. The young wideout came on strong in the final weeks of the 2011 regular season, hauling in a 41-yard pass to set up a Week 16 game-winning field goal, followed by a two-touchdown game in a Week 17 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Following his late-season heroics, Crabtree posted five catches for 28 yards and one touchdown in two postseason contests, but knows there’s more production in bigger games on the way. Still, he doesn’t want to say too much.

“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’m feeling amazing,” Crabtree said. “I feel like I can do anything I want to do right now.”

Crabtree’s actively pursuing ways to give back to the community, too.

In addition to two football camps he plans to put on in Dallas and Lubbock, Tex., in the month of June, Crabtree plans on giving back to his old high school and will give away multiple scholarships in his hometown community.

But until he releases information later on such projects through his @KingCrab15 Twitter account, Crabtree will keep his head down and continue to work with 49ers teammates.

“We’re all in this together,” Crabtree said. “I’m just looking at it like we’re all getting better every day, out here throwing and running routes with Alex (Smith) and the rest of the quarterbacks.

“These are good guys to be around.”

With that in mind, Crabtree can’t help but look forward to the upcoming season. Besides having big goals on the field, new custom-fitted Jordan football cleats are being made for him prior to the 2012 season.

“It’s going to be some craziness this year,” said Crabtree, who bit his tongue before letting out any more details on his new footwear. “It’s going to be an exciting season.”

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