Michael Crabtree, out this entire exhibition season, was the subject of NFL scrutiny Monday. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
When is having Michael Crabtree around to catch passes a bad thing?
When it’s not allowed by the NFL, of course.
As Kevin Lynch clearly spelled out in his report for the San Francisco Chronicle, Crabtree’s premature session with team quarterbacks Monday is just one more strange twist to a weird preseason for the San Francisco 49ers.
First, to recap: Crabtree, who is recovering from a broken foot and is on the team’s physically unable to perform list, caught several passes from an assortment of Niners QBs in warm-ups. Crabtree, who was wearing shorts and a sweatshirt instead of a uniform, also reportedly caught a pass from coach Jim Harbaugh.
It was about that point, Lynch reports, that GM Trent Baalke came out on the field to tell Crabtree and Harbaugh that injured players aren’t allowed to work out with the team, and Crabtree returned to the area set aside for injured players.
Baalke immediately notified the NFL, Lynch wrote. A league spokesman said the NFL is looking into the matter. One report indicated that the NFL could penalize the team as much as a 2012 draft choice for the infraction, but that seems unlikely.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email: “We are looking into it. We appreciate Trent Baalke contacting our office to report what happened. Our understanding is that it occurred during warm-ups and that Michael Crabtree did not participate in practice.”
So, while the Niners were excited this week that Crabtree appears finally close to getting back in the lineup – he’s missed the entire exhibition season – the minute he starts to catch passes from Alex Smith, that positive turns into a negative.
Can anything else go wrong?
As Lynch noted, the Crabtree episode follows other factors that have reared their heads this summer such as the trading of last year’s second-round pick Taylor Mays, the breakdown in security at Candlestick Park in the game against the Raiders, the offensive line’s constant struggle to protect the team’s quarterbacks and several questionable decisions by the team’s first-year coaching staff.