Healthy Crabtree running better than ever


Healthy Crabtree running better than ever

SANTA CLARA -- Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers rates Michael Crabtree's hands up there among the best receivers in the game, comparable to those belonging to Larry Fitzgerald.Where Rogers has seen a noticeable improvement is with Crabtree's foot speed. Crabtree was healthy for the 49ers' entire offseason program. And it appears the eight practices he missed with a right calf strain was a mere speed bump.Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he agrees with Rogers that Crabtree is running much better than a year ago."He was playing last year on a bad wheel and battled his way through it," Roman said. "I think he's a lot healthier this year, and he certainly appears to be much quicker and faster. Another year under his belt from an experience standpoint is very important."Crabtree is listed as a 49ers starting receiver after catching a team-high 72 passes for 874 yards last season. The other starting position remains unsettled Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Ted Ginn currently listed atop the depth chart.RELATED: 49ers release second depth chart
Crabtree spoke to the media Wednesday for just the second time since the end of last season. Here is what he had to say:Q: Carlos Rogers talked about how you look faster. Is that a fair assessment?
Crabtree: "I've been in competition with Carlos since I started camp. I got a little tablet in my locker of how many days I've won, how many he's lost. So I'm keeping that tablet. I'm winning right now. I'll try to keep it like that."Q: Are you faster?
Crabtree: "It's really limited on the injury. You got a foot injury, of course you're not going to go to full speed, you can go fast enough to play. My feet are good right now. I'm out there running."Q: How do you determine who wins your battles with Carlos?
Crabtree: "Obviously, I got to catch every pass. I can't let him knock a ball down. We don't really face each other that much out there. It's whenever I'm up against him, I just count that as a win. He's good competition -- friendly competition -- really, just making each other better. Really, making the practice more enjoyable."Q: Do you give him a chance to dispute your tally, look over the running score and make an argument?
Crabtree: "Every day. It's on the board, so I write it down before I go out. I say I won already before I go out. It's all fun and games."Q: Do you keep tab on any other defensive back?
Crabtree: "No. Just with Carlos right now. He's the only one who's doing a lot of talking. We're just having fun out here."Q: Before your calf injury, did you train to improve your speed?
Crabtree: "Really, just working hard. We got a good training staff, a good strength and conditioning program out here. Those guys have been real good at working on things you really need, things you need to focus on like speed and power, quickness. I just use it."Q: Carlos thought you might have lost some weight?
Crabtree: "No, I weigh same. That's the crazy thing about it. I've probably gained a little more muscle. That's about it."Q: What excites you about your role in the offense?
Crabtree: "Everything. It's football. Every day I come out here I'm looking to do something new, not just the same old routes I've been doing the whole camp or last year or the year before that. Just really trying to do something new and try to fit in with the rest of the guys we have -- that's (Randy) Moss, Teddy (Ginn), (Mario) Manningham, K-Dub (Kyle Williams), all those guys are out here competing and going hard. I just really feel like I need to fit in and have fun. Where I fit in is make some plays, either inside or outside, just trying to make a play."Q: There was a lot of talk in the offseason about how the 49ers needed to add receivers. How did you react to that? Did you take that as a challenge to you personally?
Crabtree: "Not at all. It's a team. We've added running backs. We've added receivers. Quarterback is looking good. That's just how the game goes. I don't think one receiver is enough. You never know what's going to happen in the season. Guys go down. For instance, last season we had four or five guys in the beginning. At the end of the season, it was just me and Brett Swain and my guy, Joe Hastings. I think you need that depth at receiver."Q: Jim Harbaugh said a while ago that you have the best hands he's ever seen. Is there pressure now to live up to that hype?
Crabtree: "No, not at all. It's really just be yourself and go out and try to catch every pass. It's not too much pressure."Q: Do you have the best hands?
Crabtree: "I don't know. I just going to go out there and be me. If that's what the people say, that's what the people say. I'm just going to play."Q: How much work does it take to make catching a pass look effortless?
Crabtree: "It's really focus. Probably, most of the drops come from not focusing and not seeing the ball. That's really catching the ball. If you can't see the ball, you can't catch it. You take your eye off the ball, you're not going to catch it. It's really just focus."Q: Carlos said you have a unique ability to catch the ball without your eye on it. Is he wrong?
Crabtree: "I don't know what Carlos is saying, man. Carlos is saying all kinds of things. But I'm just practicing on catching the ball every day."Q: You're going back to Houston, where you played your first game in 2009. How have you changed since then?
Crabtree: "I've grown a lot. Just going on my fourth year, that's crazy. Just each year, I get better and better, stronger and stronger. Learning how to be a pro. Learning from guys. There's been a lot of talent around me since I've been here, especially at receiver. A lot of old guys, Isaac Bruce, those guys, that I take new things. If I can learn something from those guys and put it in my notepad, and I'm running with it."Q: The fact that you're practicing and you've played in an exhibition game, do you feel much further along than past years?
Crabtree: "It's just preseason. I feel like being around, I'm a step ahead. Not being injured, it's always a plus. I'm looking good."

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

After a couple of practices and one exhibition game against the Denver Broncos, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan once again came to the realization things are often not as good or bad as they seem.

That was his takeaway a day after the 49ers provided the Broncos with five giveaways to go along with 11 penalties in a 33-14 loss at Levi’s Stadium.

“But when I get in and watch the tape, it wasn’t quite as bad as it felt,” Shanahan said Sunday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “When you look at each situation, especially when you talk about the ones on offense, it takes 11 guys to execute a play, and if you have one guy off a little bit, it breaks down.”

A couple of passes that could have been caught, a ball that slipped out of quarterback Brian Hoyer’s hand and some other correctable errors gives Shanahan reason to be optimistic.

When he spoke to the media on Saturday night after the game, Shanahan was clearly upset with how his 90-man team performed. He was asked a day later if it was a relief to watch the film and come to the conclusion that not everything was a total disaster.

“It’s not really relief,” Shanahan quipped. “It’s kind of my life story.

“We put a lot into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scrimmage, practice or preseason. I try to compose myself by the time I talk to you guys (the media) after practice. But I’m pretty pissed after practice when it doesn’t go well. We’re competitive guys and we want everything to be perfect. That’s why most of the time I’m not that happy.”

Shanahan said he expects everyone in the organization to hold themselves to the same high standard.

“Whenever you go out to a game like that, you want to win, you want to play well,” he said. “And you turn the ball over like that and you have the penalties that we did, I’m definitely going to be pissed off and I expect everyone in our building to be pissed off. If they’re not, that’s when I would be worried.”

Shanahan said he had the opposite feeling after the practice Wednesday against the Broncos that looked like a decisive win for the 49ers. Upon review, Shanahan said he felt there was still a lot of room for improvement.

“I thought things seemed real good at practice our first day versus them,” he said. “Then, I go in and watch the film and it was good but not quite as good as I felt when I was out there.”

49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon


49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon

The 49ers could get their presumptive starting free safety back on the field this week.

Jimmie Ward, who has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list since sustaining a hamstring injury during a conditioning test on the eve of training camp, will go through strenuous workouts Monday and Tuesday.

Ward could be cleared to return to practice as early as Wednesday, when the club is scheduled to hold its next practice.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Sunday in a conference call with reporters that defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley will will pace him through a football-related workout on Monday and Tuesday.

"Hopefully, we'll get him ready to go by Wednesday," Shanahan said.

The 49ers envision Ward, a first-round draft pick in 2014, as a major contributor in the team’s new 4-3 scheme, which is based on Seattle’s defense. With strong safety Eric Reid playing close to the line of scrimmage, Ward will play the deep safety – a role that Earl Thomas has played for the Seahawks.

In Ward’s absence, undrafted rookie safety Lorenzo Jerome started the 49ers’ first two exhibition games and appears to have played his way into solid position for a spot on the 53-man roster.

"Lorenzo has done a good job," Shanahan said. "I think a couple of times he's ran around and been a ballhawk for us and made some tackles. I thought they caught him a few times out of position last night on a few play-action looks because he's been so aggressive. He's going to have to learn from those, but they never made him pay for those by going outside."

--The 49ers will have days off on Monday and Tuesday as they settle into their regular-season routine.

--Shanahan said he has been formulating ideas for the game plan against Carolina in Week 1 of the regular season. So as the 49ers play the exhibition games, they are mindful of not showing too much.

"I never get too far away from that," Shanahan said. "Everything we put into a preseason game, you always try to take into account what you’re going to be doing in the regular season."

--Shanahan said he thought No. 1 quarterback Brian Hoyer "did a good job." He said the first throw intended for Vance McDonald over the middle was thrown a little late.

"Besides that, I thought he did a good job with his reads and went to the right spots," Shanahan said.

Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard also was on-point with his reads, Shanahan said.

--Eli Harold got the start Saturday night at outside linebacker position, as he competes with Ahmad Brooks for a job.

"I try to go off what I see in practice," Shanahan said. "You want to know who has more upside, things like that. Who's going to get better throughout the year if given the opportunity? But you also want to know, when it's all said and done, who is going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things I look at personally."

--Former 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin announced his retirement on Sunday. Shanahan never coached him, but he was obviously a big fan.

"I've personally met Anquan or talked to him before, but he has been one of my favorites of all time," Shanahan said. "I love Anquan. I don't know him at all, but I feel like I do because I've always studied how he plays. I remember watching him in college when he came into Florida State as a quarterback and moved quickly to receiver his freshman year.

"And I remember him coming into the league and people thinking he wouldn't be as great because he didn't have a fast 40 time. And watching him play over the years. That's my definition of a football player. He's as violent of a receiver as there is, and I've always truly believed that receivers can really set the mentality of an offense. I feel lineman have no choice, they have to be tough. Running backs, if you're not tough, you're not going to make it in this league because you get hit every play. Quarterbacks got to hang in there. Receivers are the guys who can pick and choose a little bit. And when you have guys who play like Anquan, that just brings a whole different mentality to your offense that I think usually leads to teams that have chances to win Super Bowls."