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Michael Crabtree Sharpens Focus

Posted Aug 15, 2012

Michael Crabtree has enjoyed himself while competing on the San Francisco 49ers practice fields. After missing a brief period of time to start training camp, the fourth-year wideout’s even more content now that he’s able to tally winning efforts from his one-on-one matchups against Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Both players said the friendly rivalry is good-natured.

“I’ve been in competition with Carlos since I started camp,” Crabtree said. “I’ve got a little tab on my locker, of how many days I won, how many he lost. So I’m keeping tabs. I’m winning right now. I’ll try to keep it like that.”

Last season’s 49ers leader in receptions is also fairly confident he’s going to win each day.

“I write it down before I go out, so I say I won already,” Crabtree said with a grin. “It’s all fun and games.”

Considering the way Crabtree’s been performing at camp, fun is definitely an appropriate word to describe the way offense feels about his production.

“Mike’s having a really good camp,” remarked offensive coordinator Greg Roman. “He’s really dialed in to what we’re doing. He had that little issue that he was working through, so it’s great to have him back out there.”

Dialed in, certainly, but perhaps the best word to describe Crabtree is focused.

Following his 72-catch, 874-yard season, Crabtree has concentrated on improving his all-around play.

The 6-foot-1, 214-pound wideout’s attention to detail is undeniable.

“Sometimes he could be running across the field,” Rogers began to describe, “the ball comes, he can catch it and still be looking the other direction to make another move. They teach you to look the ball all the way in, but Crabtree has the hands and the focus.”

So how does Crabtree make tough catches look so effortless?

“It’s really focus,” he said. “Most of the drops come from not focusing, not seeing the ball. If you can’t see the ball, you can’t catch it. You take your eye off the ball; you’re not going to catch it. It’s just focus.”

Jim Harbaugh previously said Crabtree had the best hands he’s ever seen. Rogers said he understood what his head coach meant, and more importantly, he agreed.

“When coach talks about hands, he’s talking about hands – strictly hands – not all these body catches,” said Rogers, who recorded six interceptions last season. “Snag any ball, that’s basically what it is.”

Crabtree’s been able to make more explosive plays this offseason thanks to his improved physique. Harbaugh has said he looks leaner, Rogers thinks he looks faster. Crabtree, however, said it’s the result of gaining muscle and spending time with the 49ers strength staff led by Mark Uyeyama.

In addition to physically feeling better, Rogers sees Crabtree’s understanding of the game continuing to grow.

“He understands defenses a lot better – what he’s got to do to get open,” Rogers detailed. “Instead of running a 10-yard route, he may cut it off at 8, knowing we might be sitting at 10 yards. A younger guy might just run the route exactly with how it’s supposed to be on paper.

“Crabtree, he’s got a quick step and we’ve always known him to have hands. Any time you get the ball to his center area, nine times out of 10 he’s going to catch the ball.”

That said, Rogers is eager to see what the 49ers passing game can accomplish in 2012.

“It’s going to be an exciting to see those guys line up, him on one side, and I don’t know who on the other,” Rogers said. “Somebody’s going to be open; somebody’s going to win their matchup.”

Roman, however, doesn’t care who his starting wideouts are when the team begins the regular season on Sept. 9 in Green Bay or even when the team makes its next preseason appearance this Saturday night in Houston. In his mind, anyone who plays is considered a starter because they’re trusted to execute his play call.

Crabtree made his preseason debut last Friday night and is likely to start against the Texans, the team he faced in his regular season debut back in 2009.

“I’ve grown a lot,” the former first-round pick said. “Just really going on my fourth year, that’s crazy. Each year I get better and better, stronger and stronger.

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