SANTA CLARA – When Michael Crabtree speaks to the media – he rarely does, but on Wednesday he did – he’s detached, like he’s watching himself talk. He keeps an ironic distance from the interview. It always seems like he has another private thought and you’d love to know what it is, but he’ll only give you 25 percent. He looks at you through sleepy, mysterious eyes. These are all very good qualities for a professional athlete to have.
Today, I asked Crabtree what excites him about his role in the 49ers’ offense, and here’s what he said: “Everything. It’s football. Every day I come out here I’m looking to do something new, not the same old routes I’ve been doing. I’m really just trying to fit in with the rest of the guys and have fun and make some plays.”
I asked offensive coordinator Greg Roman the same question – what excites him about having Crabtree in the offense? Here’s how Roman responded: “A lot of things. Mike’s a very sure-handed guy, he’s got really good size, he’s and extremely good runner after the catch. I think he’s a really good all-around player. When we needed some big plays last year, he sure stepped up. The one in Seattle really comes to mind.”
Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers spoke at the podium, too, so I asked him what made Michael Crabtree tough to cover. Here’s what Rogers said: “No. 1, his speed is much better. He recognizes defenses better and what he has to do. Instead of running a 10-yard route, he may cut it off at 8 knowing we’re already sitting at 10 yards. Things like that. A younger guy may run the route exactly how it’s supposed to be on paper.
“Crabtree’s got a quick step, and we’ve always known him to have hands, so anytime the ball gets in his area, nine times out of 10 he’s going to catch it. I think dealing with all the talk about bringing in new receivers: ‘We’ve got to get more receivers. Our receivers didn’t show up in the playoffs.’ Our receiving corps took that to heart. They can get the job done and they’re going to work to not have an output like they did last year.”
In the preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings, Crabtree caught one pass for 3 yards. Last season he caught 72 passes for 874 in the regular season, but only 5 catches for 28 yards in two playoffs games.