Sometimes, NFL training camps are as much about reading tea leaves as reading injury reports.
So when 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree was seen at practice Monday wearing sneakers on both feet – instead of having the usual protective boot on his left foot – and “walking briskly,” it brewed speculation that Crabtree is getting close to being active again.
Crabtree injured his foot in early June during the players’ first minicamp during the lockout. The nature of the injury is undisclosed and Crabtree has said he won’t talk to the media until he’s healthy. Early reports were that Crabtree likely would miss the entire preseason schedule but be ready to go by the season opener Sept. 11.
Now, with the boot gone, could that timetable be moved up? The Chronicle’s Kevin Lynch wrote Crabtree could be 10 days away from getting back on the field.
Offensive coordinater Greg Roman won’t say, but did tell the Chronicle’s Eric Branch that Crabtree is making progress.
“He’s working very diligently to get back out there, and I think he’s really on top of things mentally, which is a credit to him,” Roman said. “Our meeting are very interactive, and he’s very much a part of those meetings.”
During a portion of practice Monday, Crabtree rode an exercise bike.
Entering his third season, Crabtree caught 55 passes last season for 741 yards and six touchdowns, after 48 catches for 625 yards and two scores his rookie season.
But with coach Jim Harbaugh’s new West Coast offense in place and another receiving threat added in Braylon Edwards, the Niners are eager to get Crabtree into the mix and see what he can do. Before training camp, receivers coach John Morton said he believes Crabtree can have a “phenomenal” season because the revamped offense is geared to getting the ball to receivers quickly.
“And there are certain routes that do that,” he told the Sacramento Bee. “Its’ quick routes or it’s slants or shallow crosses and things where you get the ball in their hand real fast and let them use their God-given ability. I don’t think they’ve had a chance to really do that yet from what I’ve seen on tape. I don’t think I’ve seen a slant here run since Terrell Owens left.”