Crabtree working his way back slowly

If you’re wondering how Michael Crabtree looked today in the 49ers’ offense, the answer is: He didn’t.

Because Crabtree will not be in uniform for Sunday’s game against the Falcons, there was no reason for him practice any of the 49ers’ game plan. Instead, he lined up as a receiver on the scout team – in the role of Michael Jenkins.

Crabtree looks rusty, but you can tell he’s got skills. He catches the ball very strongly with his hands – though I did see him drop a low pass from Alex Smith on a crossing route.

The 49ers received a two-week roster exemption for Crabtree. He can’t warm up or suit up, but he can remain in the bench area during the game.

Earlier today, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye discussed at length the team’s plan for Crabtree. Here are some excerpts of what he said:

On how he plans on using WR Michael Crabtree:

“Well, we’re going to try to get him started, but the biggest thing is that he as no carryover background from being here before because he wasn’t able to do anything because of the injury. So, we’re trying to get him caught up in the system, the words and the verbiage and give him a chance to get his legs underneath him.

“He’s a little wobbly. You’ve got to remember, he hasn’t played football since last November or December. He hasn’t done anything relative to football, so he’s not in that kind of shape. So, we have a conditioning thing we have to be concerned with, not take him too fast and get a setback. If we can avoid that and we’ll start him off at either one of the wide receiver spots, not sure exactly right now which one that will be, but I know system-wise, the split receiver is the less complicated because of the shifts and the motions, it’s the one that has less learning. We may start him there, but basically, my hope is we will start him in the three-wide package. He will play in the slot, and that will be the focal point of getting him into the game as quickly as we can, and then that would be a game-plan situation because he would then learn the plays and the game plan and wouldn’t have to be responsible for the entire offense, things that he would be short on.”

On having Crabtree continue the learning process at the split end position:

“I think that is least complicated, volume-wise, learning there, but to get him on the field the fastest we would, in a three-wide package, he would be the slot. He would be the guy who would go into the slot. That will take some adjustments to get him up to speed to go on the field right now as a split end.”

On whether he’s practicing with the offense or on the scout team:

“We don’t have space to use him in the offense. We have time with him, and then we have a bye. We can’t give snaps to him in the offense if he’s not going to the game. We’ve got to get the people ready who are going to play in the game and continue the continuity that we have in the passing game with the quarterbacks and the receivers that are playing. So, to get him snaps in the offense at this point would be detrimental to what we’re trying to do.”

On whether he feels Crabtree can adjust to his scheme:

“I’ve watched very little tape of what he did in college. He played in a four-wide or five-wide package and was an outside receiver. I’ve seen the highlight film, but I didn’t study him as a receiver, or haven’t studied him as a receiver in the scheme that he played in college. From what I’ve seen early on, I think he’ll adjust to the scheme, adjust pretty easily to any scheme. He basically played on one side in college, didn’t flip, stayed on the one side and the routes were basically – in their system, he ran a hitch, and if he was pressed, he ran a go. So, it’s a little bit more learning that he has to do than time will allow us to teach him, but we’ve got to make do as we can.”

On whether Crabtree essentially ran two routes in college:

“As far as I can tell, but that’s just a gloss over because I did not look at him and study him going back because I didn’t have the receivers to look at. From what I saw of him on the highlight tape, that’s what I saw.”

On whether he ran those routes well:

“Yes, and they threw it pretty well, so he was pretty successful with it. As a matter of fact, the route that he caught to beat Texas was that route.”

On whether he will install a small package of plays for Crabtree against Houston after the bye:

“I think so. I think that, as mentioned earlier, I think it would be easier for him or less complicated for him if he had a concentrated package, and right now, in my mind, that would be the third-down package where he would be the F receiver and he would learn that and not be responsible for the entire plan. Whether we, depending on how he is condition-wise after these two weeks, how much we think we could have a six-play package for him as an extended receiver and as an X or a Z, would be dependant totally on his conditioning and his level of retaining what we have installed over the additional time that we have to get prepared for the next game.”

On the difficulty of installing Crabtree into the offense midseason:

“It’s a challenge because we have no background with the young man. The quarterback is throwing balls in warm ups to him, so there’s no symmetry between the quarterback and the receiver, no route flexibility, the body language. We’ve got to try to hasten that process and do all of that in a 10 to 14-day window, and try to do something that has taken us as a group to this point, since last March to accomplish. We’re trying to do this with a young man who hadn’t played the speed of the pro game and hadn’t been here for any of that. So, it’s a challenge, but one that we’re up to.”

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