Crabtree moves the chains

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Crabtree moves the chains

Michael Crabtree was too high a draft choice for a very long time. Now, it may turn out that he was taken too low. Its all in how you choose to define his job.

I would like to be thought of as a football player, the 49er wide receiver said after what might arguably be his best game as a pro, rather than just as one category.

That question came after the 49ers 27-19 win over Detroit on Sunday Night Football, when he asked yet again if he thought of himself as a possession receiver. He doesnt want to be considered a possession receiver, for the same reason that Alex Smith isnt crazy about game manager, but it isnt the terminology that matters. Its the definition.

Crabtree caught six of the seven balls thrown his way Sunday night, and though the 67 yards he gained doesnt ring any fantasy bells, he:

Helped set up the 49ers first touchdown drive with a 21-yard catch on a first-and-10 at the Lion 38.
Set up the first David Akers field goal with a short reception on a third-and-seven.
Set up the second field goal with a 13-yard catch on a second-and-four at the Detroit 33.
Set up the final touchdown with three third-down conversions, on third-and-seven, 14 and nine.

That wasnt possession receiving. That was receiving that extended or enhanced possessions. And if you think possession receiver is still a pejorative, well, youre just not going to get it ever.

Crabtree started his career in San Francisco slowly, losing two years to injury and offensive-challenged philosophies that never could figure out what his gifts were. He was drafted in the 10-spot in 2009, wasted two seasons in the Mike Singletary era, then bloomed in his way as Smith bloomed in his.

Now he is the teams second most important receiver behind Vernon Davis, and if he isnt Jerry Rice-esque, he does a pretty decent early career imitation of Fred Biletnikoff. Not so much stylistically, as Biletnikoff was stealthier, but as the solution to some bad down-and-distance predicaments.

In short, he moves chains five of his six catches went for first downs, and while he still fretted about the one he dropped on a third-and-five early in the second quarter, he more than made his bones on a cranky night with cranky opponents.

Crabtree had been scapegoated pretty well as either a bad pick (which he wasnt) or as a pick the 49ers didnt know what to do with (which he was). His toughness was questioned constantly, as injuries extended long past peoples frustration levels, and though he was never truly a bust, neither was he a home run.

But Harbaughs gift is that he knows how to size up talent and find what it can do, rather than curse it for what it cannot, and he found in Crabtree someone who could precise routes, catch balls in traffic and, well, move chains. He is not the home run hitter that makes your jaw drop, but he is the receiver every good team must have if it doesnt want to wear out its punters foot.

And there is no reason to think he cannot become something else in the years to come. He has already remade himself once, after all.

But for right now, he is a possession receiver in the best sense of the word. He more than merely fits an offense that works, even if it doesnt effervesce. He is becoming a pro at a job that should be considered sexier than it is, and if you must use the phrase, use it properly. Because possession is a team statistic, and frankly, someones got to do it.

For now, on this team and for the foreseeable future, that is Michael Crabtree. Maybe he can make it a phrase that can be used for good, the way Smith used game manager.

Reid: National anthem protest accomplished goal of awareness

Reid: National anthem protest accomplished goal of awareness

SANTA CLARA – Safety Eric Reid and linebacker Eli Harold, who joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem last season, will not continue the protest this season.

Reid said Wednesday they achieved their goal of bringing attention to racial inequality in the United States.

“When we started doing that, our goal was to open up the floor to conversation. I believe we’ve achieved that goal,” Reid said. “So now we just want to move forward and just partner with people that’s trying to make a change.

“We accomplished that goal. People talked about it. I think we raised a lot of awareness about issues in this country. And now it’s time to move on to just affecting change.”

Reid and Harold are back with the 49ers, while Kaepernick remains a free agent. The 49ers have expressed no interest in retaining Kaepernick after opting to sign free-agent quarterback Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, instead.

“I stay in touch with him,” Reid said of Kaepernick. “I’m rooting for him. Obviously, he isn’t on a team, yet, but I’m rooting for him but hopefully he gets that call after the draft.

“It’s surprising. You see some of the other quarterbacks that have been signed around the league and why he hasn’t been, it’s just unfortunate.”

When asked if thought Kaepernick was paying the price for his protest, Reid answered, “I think so. It’s unfortunate, it’s sad. People want to shy away from him because of media, PR reasons.

“You’re doing something to better the world. I mean, the guy got a plane sent to Somalia to help with the famine there. He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation without the anthem (protest), they’d be praising him and giving him awards for it.”

 

Coming off Achilles injury, Bowman returns to 49ers practice at full speed

Coming off Achilles injury, Bowman returns to 49ers practice at full speed

SANTA CLARA – NaVorro Bowman, who sustained a season-ending torn Achilles in Week 4 of the 2016 season, has been a full participant as the 49ers return to the practice field this week.

Bowman worked with the first team at middle linebacker Wednesday and appeared to move at top speed as the 49ers went through the second day of on-field workouts at a voluntary minicamp.

The 49ers, under new coach Kyle Shanahan, are allowed an extra voluntary minicamp as part of their offseason program. Bowman's return to the practice field was the highlight as the 49ers enter their third-week of the offseason program.

In other notes:

--The 49ers had tryouts with three unsigned veteran players: cornerback Steve Williams, and offensive linemen Tim Barnes and Kitt O’Brien.

--Wide receiver DeAndre Carter made the best catch of the day on a deep throw from quarterback Matt Barkley. Carter beat Williams on the reception.

--Defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who is a candidate to play the “Leo” position, was held out of competitive drills as he continues to recovery from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

--Ronald Blair lined up at the “Leo” position with the first-team defense and beat No. 2 right tackle Garry Gilliam for a sack in the “non-contract” drills. Aaron Lynch was at the “Leo” position with the second team.

--Tank Carradine lined up at the 5-technique, which is a position where the 49ers could target Stanford’s Solomon Thomas with the No. 2 overall pick.

--Kyle Juszczyk showed the versatility that prompted the 49ers to make him the highest-paid fullback in the league with several pass receptions during the 90-minute practice.

--Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson lined up at the cornerbacks with the first-team defense. Robinson made a leaping interception of a Brian Hoyer deep sideline pass against Rashad Ross during 7-on-7 drills.

--Hoyer and receiver Pierre Garçon teamed up for a 20-yard completion on the opening play of the 11-on-11 period.

--Wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who spent all of last season on injured reserve, did not practice due to a soft-tissue injury not related to his hamstring injury of a year ago.

--Offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (soft tissue), tight end Je’Ron Hamm (leg), running back Raheem Mostert (soft tissue), linebacker Eli Harold (toe) and tight end Blake Bell (cut forehead) did not practice.