After missing the last eight days of practice because of an injury, 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree returned to the field on Monday. What has kept Crabtree out of practice has been described as a right calf injury and he has been working out with strength and conditioning coach Mark Uyeyama at training camp. As individual drills started on Monday, Crabtree joined the wide receivers.
The 49ers have their first exhibition game this Friday at Candlestick Park and it looks like Crabtree will miss yet another preseason game. The wide receiver was involved in drills at Monday’s practice, however, he did not participate in seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 teams drills. This most likely means Crabtree is still hurting and he will be eased back into practice once he is closer to 100%.
Crabtree’s lack of participation in preseason games has been well documented. If you are counting, and if he misses Friday’s game against the Vikings, that will mean he has missed all of his 13 exhibition games in his career. In 2009, Crabtree was a holdout through the preseason and did not sign with the 49ers until just before week five of the regular season. 2010 saw Crabtree suffer a neck injury causing him to miss the entire preseason. Last offseason, he broke his foot before the start of training camp and missed all of the exhibition games for the third straight year.
There is no doubt that Crabtree is injured. However, if misses Friday game and continues to miss more preseason games, there is no guarantee he will hold down the starting spot at wide receiver. Should Randy Moss and Mario Manningham continue their dominate performances at training camp and play well in preseason games, Crabtree could get jumped over on the depth chart.
Frustration is starting to mount for 49ers fans as this is a make or break season for Crabtree. He has more offensive weapons around him than any of his previous three seasons with the 49ers. This should give him more opportunities to make plays as defenses have to focus more on other players on offense. But if he is not playing in exhibition games, his development in the offense is slowed. Let’s hope Crabtree only misses the first preseason game and he returns to 100% health soon.