Programming note: Log on today at 1 p.m. when we live stream today's 49ers press conference featuring head coach Jim Harbaugh, TE Delanie Walker and safety Dashon Goldson, live from Santa Clara.
SANTA CLARA -- Receiver Michael Crabtree returned to the practice field Monday morning, four days before the 49ers' first game of the exhibition season.Crabtree, who did not play in an exhibition game in his first three NFL seasons, has been out since sustaining a right lower leg injury near the end of the 49ers' first practice on July 27. He missed seven full practices.For the first time since the injury, Crabtree appeared on the practice field for stretching with his uniform and shoulder pads. It was unclear whether he would go through a full practice. The 49ers are scheduled to practice until 1 p.m.Crabtree began the session working on a side field with Mark Uyeyama, the 49ers head strength and conditioning coach. For the first time since he sustained the injury, Crabtree is wearing football pants and has pads with him on the practice field.
Last summer, Crabtree underwent surgery on his left foot to repair a fracture just prior to the opening of training camp. He missed all of the exhibition season but appeared in the regular-season opener. Crabtree then sat out Week 2 due to the injury but played every game the remainder of the season. Crabtree still led the 49ers in the regular season with 72 catches for 874 yards.He sat out all of camp as a rookie in a contract stalemate. In his second season, Crabtree sustained a neck injury early in camp and did not play any exhibition games. He played all 16 games that season.Rookie Jason Slowey was not suited up Monday for the second practice in a row. Tight end Nate Byham, who missed two practices, was on the field in pads.
CEO Jed York said Tuesday he expects the 49ers will have the two top positions in the organization's football structure to be filled shortly after the Super Bowl.
"I would assume that that's going to take place," York told CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto at "Words to Action," a discussion of activism in sports at San Jose State.
"I don't know that the staffs are going to be filled out and all those things. But I think the significant hires will be done the week of the Super Bowl."
The 49ers have a window from Friday afternoon through Saturday to meet for a second time with Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the team's only candidate for the head-coaching job.
The 49ers are prohibited from hiring Shanahan until after Super Bowl 51 on Feb. 5. The Falcons meet the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in Houston.
Shanahan is also expected to take part in the process to hire the 49ers' next general manager. Finalists Terry McDonough and George Paton are scheduled to interview with Shanahan, York and 49ers executive Paraag Marathe on Saturday in Atlanta.
McDonough is the Arizona Cardinals vice president of player personnel. Paton is the Minnesota Vikings' assistant general manager.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is, perhaps, the top NFL player scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March.
But if Washington is unable to sign Cousins to a long-term contract before the start of the free-agent signing period, the club appears likely to place the franchise tag on him for the second year in a row.
Washington coach Jay Gruden appeared to confirm that suspicion on Tuesday while speaking to reporters at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
"We totally anticipate Kirk coming back to (Washington)," Gruden said via CSN Mid-Atlantic. "We're excited about parlaying two very good years as the starting quarterback with a third year and continue to watch him grow."
But does Gruden anticipate another team willing the pay the price it would take to acquire Cousins?
If Washington places the franchise tag on Cousins at approximately $24 million for one season, another team could sign him to an long-term offer sheet and pay the price of two first-round draft picks as compensation.
The 49ers – and presumptive head coach Kyle Shanahan -- are expected to be interested in acquiring Cousins. If the cost of two first-round draft picks is considered exorbitant, the 49ers could attempt to negotiate another deal with Washington.
Washington can end any possibility that the 49ers or any other team could acquire Cousins this offseason if they tag him as an exclusive franchise player at a cost expected to be slightly higher than $24 million.
Cousins, who turns 29 in August, started every game the past two seasons for Washington. In 2015, he completed 69.8 percent of his pass attempts while throwing 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a passer rating of 101.6. Last season, he finished third in the NFL behind Drew Brees and Matt Ryan with 4,917 yards. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt and had a rating of 97.2.