In fact, the 49ers third-year wide receiver told 49ers.com last February he was dedicating himself in the offseason to becoming one of the league’s best wideouts.
“I plan on going hard, super hard this year,” Crabtree said in response to a question from a 49ers fan. “Not just this offseason, I’m going all out this year.”
By all accounts, Crabtree was on his way to fulfilling his goal, until he suffered a setback. The 6-foot-1, 214-pound wideout worked so diligently this offseason, he injured his left foot at player-organized workouts held in the beginning of July.
X-rays showed that Crabtree needed surgery on his left foot, the same one that caused him to miss training camp as a rookie. There wasn’t a pin inserted, Crabtree revealed on Thursday, but the injury kept him from practicing or playing in preseason games.
It was tough news initially for Crabtree, but not anything that could derail him from his original, “super hard” statement.
Since the injury, Crabtree, who has 103 receptions for 1,366 yards and 8 touchdowns in 27 career games, has impressed coaches and teammates with strong study habits in meetings and in the film room.
“Our meetings are very interactive, and he’s very much a part of those meetings,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said on Aug. 15. “John Morton, our receivers coach, is very thorough. Whether you’re injured, hurt, first-team, third-team, he always gets these guys prepared. So, I think Michael is right where he needs to be mentally.”
Physically, it appears Crabtree is just about where he needs to be, too.
Crabtree was honest in assessing where he is in comparison to his teammates, who have competed in four preseason contests and a month of practice sessions, many of which lasted three hours a piece.
“I’m sure I have a ways to go. But right now as far as the basics, I pretty much have that down,” Crabtree said. “I’m there every day, taking notes. It’s pretty different when you get on the field and you have to run those plays. You mess up here and there, but that’s what practice is for.”
For the first time of the Jim Harbaugh era, Crabtree practiced fully with his 49ers teammates on Wednesday.
The following day, the third-year receiver’s status remained a hot topic, which it has been for the entire offseason. Frustrated with the injury that sidelined him for the preseason, Crabtree declined to do any interviews in camp. In his mind, Crabtree didn’t want to overshadow his teammates.
But now that Crabtree is back on the field working to play this Sunday against Seattle, he was happy to answer questions in front of his locker.
“I’m excited to be out here. It’s been a long time coming -- being hurt, injured,” Crabtree said. “I can’t wait to get back out there. Yesterday was a very exciting day. I was kind of overwhelmed by everything.”
Crabtree said he’s comfortable playing all the wideout positions in the new-look 49ers offense, which is important given the team’s depth on the perimeter.
Though he hasn’t quite been able to truly push the starters listed on the depth chart (
So far, he likes what he’s seen.
“All our guys are doing good. Teddy (Ginn), it’s probably the best I’ve seen Teddy. Josh is a very smart guy -- very good. Braylon is a big guy. We just have to wait until Sunday and see how it all plays out. Right now, we’re all just having fun playing football.”
Crabtree will be ready for whatever role the 49ers coaching staff has for him against the Seahawks.
And in order to keep his foot secure, Crabtree said he’s been fitted for a custom, molded cleat made by the Jordan Brand.
“My Jordan cleats are going to be real big for me this year,” Crabtree said with a grin. “They're pretty sweet, too. Be on the lookout for them.”
Crabtree’s cleats won’t be available in stores by Sunday, but the 49ers are hopeful the wide receiver himself will be seen prominently.
“We hope... That's the hope,” Roman said. “He's a very gifted individual. So we hope he can be out there.”