In August, just after Braylon Edwards signed a one-year deal to play for the 49ers, quarterback Alex Smith was smiling and enjoying the sight of the former Browns and Jets star in a San Francisco uniform.
“Pretty crazy in the middle of practice to see him run out and jump in there,” Smith told reporters after Edwards’ first practice with his new team. “It’s great to see him. He’s a great player. The more he can add to this team, the better.”
Unfortunately for the 49ers and Edwards, the former Michigan star has added very little this season.
That, however, may be about to change.
Edwards, who injured his knee in the first quarter of the 49ers’ second game of the season vs. Dallas, has been sidelined during the 49ers’ four-game winning streak. But after having surgery for a torn meniscus and going through rehab work, the No. 3 overall choice of the 2005 draft is expected back at practice Tuesday, and could start against the Browns this Sunday.
“I had a chance to watch him work out last week,” head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Monday. “And I anticipate seeing him out there tomorrow in practice. And hoping for good things.”
Getting Edwards back in the mix will be a good thing for a thin wide receiver corps. With Edwards and Joshua Morgan out – Morgan for the season with a broken leg – Kyle Williams and just-signed Brett Swain saw significant playing time in the win over the Lions, just before the bye week.
With Edwards back, an Edwards-Michael Crabtree tandem, backed up by Ted Ginn Jr., Williams and Swain, will give the 5-1 49ers more depth and go-to talent against the 3-3 Browns Sunday at Candlestick Park.
Crabtree has started the past four games, and had nine catches for 77 yards vs. the Lions.
In his only two games this season, Edwards has just four catches for 48 yards and no scores. But Edwards, a 6-foot-3, 214-pound physical receiver, has been a big-play pass catcher over his career. Last season with the Jets he had 53 catches for seven TDs, and he had three straight 50-plus catch seasons for the Browns, including his 2007 Pro Bowl season when he caught 80 balls for 1,289 yards and 16 TDs.
Harbaugh expects his team has recovered over the bye week – which he calls “improvement week.” Aside from Edwards, also expected back Tuesday are fullback Moran Norris (also injured against the Cowboys), linebacker Parys Haralson and guard Adam Snyder.
“Our wounds have almost healed,” Harbaugh told reporters.