When the 49ers signed free-agent receiver Braylon Edwards this summer, the perception was the team had just locked up a big-time playmaker.
Though often troubled off the field, on the field Edwards has mostly been a positive force for his teams. In seven previous NFL seasons, he’s had four 50-plus catch years and once scored 16 TDs for the Browns in 2007.
Last season while playing for the Jets, Edwards had 53 catches for 904 yards and seven touchdowns.
But 11 games into the 2011 season, Edwards – slowed by injuries -- largely has been a non-factor. He has only 14 catches for just 172 yards and no touchdowns.
As San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami wrote this week, “Braylon Edwards is the 49ers’ accidental hidden weapon; he’s out there, but you just never see him do anything.”
Edwards has been frustrated by his lack of productivity, but is enjoying his time on a team that is 9-2 and can clinch the NFC West championship this weekend with a win over the Rams or losses by the second-place Seahawks and Cardinals (both 4-7).
Now, with a right shoulder injury suffered against the Redskins Nov. 6, Edwards is looking toward the playoffs, knowing that clinching a playoff spot seems certain. His focus seems to be on spending the rest of the regular season getting healthy again so he can contribute in January.
“My plan is more (to get healthy for) the playoffs,” Edwards told Kawakami. “We can pretty much wrap those up with a win this week. So I think the big thing for me is to get back healthy. … The ideal goal for me is to just get back healthy for the playoffs.”
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh says he knows Edwards’ playing time and effectiveness have been curtailed recently by his shoulder injury, but told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that he hasn’t discussed a course of action with Edwards for the remainder of the regular season.
“Braylon hasn’t said that to me,” Harbaugh said of Edwards’ focus of getting ready for the playoffs. “That’s something I can discuss with Braylon.”
Edwards’ injuries – he had a knee injury earlier this season – have kept him from being a deep threat. The Niners also lost starting receiver Joshua Morgan this season, leaving the team’s receiving corps without two of its best down-field receivers. Though Michael Crabtree has played well, Branch notes that Edwards, Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams have combined for just 35 total catches.
Edwards says he hopes the Niners can be patient and see the real player he is when he’s healed. This season has been “very frustrating,” he says.
“I ask the team to bear with me,” he told Kawakami. “I can’t really control being hurt. It’s part of the game.”