Crabtree does himself no favors

Crabtree does himself no favors
August 7, 2012, 4:41 pm
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SANTA CLARA -- The ramifications of Michael Crabtree's business and personal decision three years ago are still being felt.Once Crabtree -- and his agent, Eugene Parker, who up to that point seemed to promote training-camp absences as a negotiating tool -- decided to stay away from his rookie training camp, the entire public perception of Crabtree was permanently forged.In several pre-draft reports in 2009, Crabtree was portrayed as a "diva." And when Crabtree and Parker finally decided it was time to sign his contract as the No. 10 overall pick (after four regular-season games), the 49ers took advantage of the opportunity to include a "diva clause" into his deal.First, Crabtree had to agree to a sixth year (when everyone else at that spot in the draft signed five-year deals) and he signed off on a clause in which millions of dollars in base-salary escalators would be received only if he achieved at least 90-percent participation in all 49ers team activities mandatory and voluntary.Since that first summer, Crabtree has reported on time to training camps. That has not been the issue.It's just that he has never played in an exhibition game. He is currently rehabbing from a
right lower leg injury which makes him questionable to appear in the 49ers' exhibition opener on Friday against the Minnesota Vikings.Crabtree's biggest problem since coming to the NFL is that he and his advisors have done nothing to change his public image in the Bay Area. In my limited dealings with Crabtree, I've found that he has a good personality and he is passionate about football. But he rarely agrees to any form of interview, so the public is allowed no glimpse into his mindset and what makes him tick.The last time I spoke to Crabtree was the day after the NFC championship game. He was still frustrated with the team's loss and his lack of production. He caught just one pass for 3 yards. Quarterback Alex Smith targeted Crabtree on five attempts. And that was the source of Crabtree's frustration."Watch the other offenses. I see guys get 20 attempts and dropping four or five balls and still catch 10, and they're having a good game," he said on January 23, the day after the 49ers' overtime loss to the New York Giants. "It's crazy how football works."When you look at plays on the field that were made, it was like there was no separation between anybody this last game (against the New York Giants). I was seeing guys getting balls thrown to them and they had three people on them -- they were getting a chance to make a play."Crabtree did not mention Alex Smith by name. And when I brought up Smith, he said he "didn't want to be put in that category" of being a "bad guy." I have no problem with a player expressing frustration after a loss. But those are the last words I've heard him speak. He is the only player on the 49ers who has not been available for interviews since the end of last season.
Smith and Crabtree had plenty of time during the offseason to discuss all aspects of the 49ers' offense and Smith's expectations for Crabtree.
Crabtree was healthy for the entire nine-week offseason program. Even if Crabtree has taken part in only one day of 11-on-11 practice during training camp, Smith believes enough work was accomplished in the offseason to set them up for success."He had such a great spring and summer," Smith said last week. "I don't know when he's going to be back, but we look forward to his return. Hopefully, it's not too long. I know I feel good about what he got done this offseason. It's a long camp. I feel like he'll be back and get some good work in."Crabtree was on the field Monday to take part in some individual work. Smith and Crabtree walked off the field together, joking and clearly at ease with one another.During his three regular seasons with the 49ers, Crabtree has been a good player. (Judging by comments in previous posts, some will surely disagree.) His overall numbers have risen every season.RELATED: Crabtree career stats 2011 game logs News
In spite of starting last season slowly (four catches, 28 yards through three weeks with one game inactive due to lingering soreness from offseason foot surgery), he still led the 49ers with 72 catches for 874 yards. Tight end Vernon Davis, who played every game, was second on the team with 67 receptions for 792 yards.Only the Denver Broncos attempted fewer passes than the 49ers last season. And the 49ers ranked 29th in passing yards. So the 49ers of last season were not the place for a pass-catcher to pad his stats. Yet, Crabtree tied for 16th in the NFL among wide receivers in receptions and 28th in receiving yards.The 49ers listed their official depth chart on Monday. And while three receivers were listed as eitheror options on one side, Crabtree's name was all alone as the starter at the other wideout spot. I'd be very surprised if Crabtree is not again the 49ers' clear No. 1 wide receiver.RELATED: 49ers release first official camp depth chart
But perceptions are perceptions. The injury problems are one thing. But Crabtree has complete control when it comes to how he is perceived among 49ers fans.

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