Not since July 27 has San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree been on a practice field in Santa Clara.
The long-awaited return of the talented wide-out had to wait 10 days, including seven practices, but Crabtree ran onto the field Monday suited up in full pads ready to practice -- sort of.
“Today, he was back and our plan was to have him in the individual drills,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He looked good. I haven’t talked to him yet since practice, but we’ll see how he responds, how he feels tomorrow and what the soreness is like.
Crabtree had been absent from 49ers practice since the injury to his right leg, but he was seen on the sidelines over the past week looking on at his teammates.
Why the spotlight on a player’s presence in training camp?
If it was anyone else on the 49ers’ roster, it probably would not be that big of a deal, but this is Crabtree.
He has yet to play in a preseason game in his three-year career, and training camp has seemed to be optional for him.
The offseason after he was drafted he held out of training camp, and endured a neck injury last offseason, which held him out of the preseason then.
The common interpretation of such events was that Crabtree simply does not like preseason practice -- until Monday.
Crabtree did participate in individual drills, but nothing more.
Because he was fairly limited in his first practice in over a week, it is up in the air as to whether he will play in Friday’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park.
When asked who has stood out to him this offseason, Harbaugh was quick to point out running back Kendall Hunter and linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
Hunter will be fighting for time in the backfield with starter Frank Gore, rookie LaMichael James and newly acquired Brandon Jacobs this season, but Harbaugh has said his vision and instincts have both improved during the offseason.
“Tremendous shape, very strong, running with a lot of confidence,” he said. “Through the whole off-season, really. Has a chance to have a big year.”
Brooks, who signed a six-year $44.5 million contract in the offseason, has been equally impressive.
“Ahmad Brooks has been fantastic -- all off-season, all camp,” Harbaugh said. “I think another one of those things that speaks volumes about a guy. I don’ t know if he doubled, tripled or quadrupled his salary, but this is the best shape he’s been in. People are saying this is the best off-season that he’s had.”