Crabtree starts camp far behind other 49ers wideouts

We could not believe he was still there?


You hear just about every team in the league say something similar to those disingenuous words after making their selection in the first round. And while the 49ers probably could believe Michael Crabtree would still be available with the No. 10 overall pick, they had every reason to be surprised.

Question: Do you anticipate Crabtree making a major contribution this year, i.e. 50 or more catches, 6 or more TDs? (John L.)


Answer: My crystal ball is a bit murky on this one. After all, Crabtree has yet to run a route at full speed and catch a pass on the 49ers’ practice field after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in March.


In speaking with the 49ers this week, his recovery is coming along nicely and he is expected – barring some late setback – to be on the practice field Saturday, Aug. 1, when the 49ers have their first practice of training camp.


The 49ers have a balanced group of receivers. They have at least seven legitimate NFL receivers on the team, including Crabtree. He might be in for a rude awakening when training camp rolls around because he’ll have to quickly prove he’s a disciplined route-runner after working in the spread offense at Texas Tech. He won’t be allowed to take any short cuts when it comes to applying the teachings of receivers coach Jerry Sullivan during training camp.


I would not expect Crabtree to put up huge numbers as a rookie. In fact, there has not been much production out of a 49ers wide receivers since . . . well, since Terrell Owens (and Jeff Garcia) left town.


2004: Cedrick Wilson, 47 catches, 641 yards, three TDs

2005: Brandon Lloyd, 48 catches, 733 yards, five TDs

2006: Arnaz Battle, 59 catches, 686 yards, three TDs

2007: Arnaz Battle, 50 catches, 600 yards, five TDs

2008: Isaac Bruce, 61 catches, 835 yards, seven TDs


I might have even overshot Crabtree’s production when Football Outsiders asked for a prediction of Crabtree’s rookie numbers. After all, I believe Josh Morgan is the receiver who could be the team’s top producer from that position. Crabtree is far behind the other receivers on the team, as far as learning how to compete and run routes at the NFL level.


It will be interesting to see how the receiver competition shapes up during training camp. But from viewing the vast majority of the offseason practices, Morgan, Brandon Jones and Dominique Zeigler looked very good. Crabtree, Battle and Jason Hill were out with injuries, and Bruce did not bother to show up.


People have asked recently about Crabtree’s attitude. In the lead-up to the draft, Crabtree got a lot of attention for his so-called “diva” tendencies. Generally speaking, receivers are weird dudes, so he would really have to be out there for it to cause problems.


Crabtree’s coach at Texas Tech, Mike Leach, swears by him. He says Crabtree is no diva. He said Crabtree’s shyness is misinterpreted.


A 49ers source told me this week, however, of an episode this offseason that rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way. The source said that Crabtree, rehabbing his foot, showed up late for a meeting, prompting coach Mike Singletary to prescribe extra running for the entire team. Crabtree, per the source, did not say a word to his teammates about it – no apology.


But since that episode, Crabtree has come around and his teammates are warming up to him, the source said. I do remember a scene June 8 on the practice field when Singletary was disappointed in the sloppy play and ordered some sideline-to-sideline running during practice. Notably, Crabtree stepped in and began running with his teammates. He had already completed his conditioning/rehab on another field before stepping in to participate in the discipline.


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The 49ers rookies are scheduled to report to training camp on Tuesday, July 28. But the first practice is scheduled four days later on Saturday, Aug. 1.


Singletary wants everybody to know exactly what’s expected of them, so there will be a lot of classroom time before the rookies hit the practice field. The rookies will combine work in the weight room with going over the procedures and team rules.


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