Crabtree likely to join 49ers' 'hands team'

Harbaugh talks Crabtree on 'hands team,' Willis' big night

Crabtree likely to join 49ers' 'hands team'
December 26, 2013, 9:00 am
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Michael Crabtree has 16 receptions and ranks third on the team with 255 receiving yards since his return. (USATSI)

Michael Crabtree might have the best hands 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has ever seen, but that has not been enough to get him included on the “hands team.”

That will likely change if the 49ers are faced with the prospect of being tested with another late-game onside kick.

When the 49ers were protecting a three-point lead with two minutes remaining Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, they went with their special onside-kick recovery unit.

It featured wide receiver Anquan Boldin on one side behind a wall of 49ers. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was on the other. Falcons kicker Matt Bosher chose wisely with a kick to Bowman’s side, and Jason Snelling recovered at the 49ers’ 30-yard line. It was a huge play at the time, but Tramaine Brock and Bowman teamed up for Bowman's game-clinching 89-yard interception return for a touchdown.

[REWIND: Bowman's pick-six more impressive upon inspection]

In May 2012, Harbaugh famously declared, “Crab's got the best hands I've ever seen on a wide receiver.”

So why wasn’t Crabtree on the field when the 49ers needed to be in good hands?

“I think that’s probably someone that we could add, yeah,” Harbaugh said.

Of course, it’s not certain anyone could’ve gathered in Bosher’s onside attempt that Bowman saw skip away.

“That ball took a bounce like it sometimes does being the oblong, spheroid that it is, it took a bounce away from him,” Harbaugh said.

Even without playing special teams, Crabtree has made a big impact late in the season. In four games since his return from surgery to repair a torn Achilles, Crabtree has 16 receptions and ranks third on the team with 255 yards receiving.