When Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon last month, the 49ers' biggest offseason issue immediately became: Who will step into the void at wide receiver?

Time for 49ers' Crabtree to get to work

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5C
Last Modified: Saturday, Jun. 15, 2013 - 12:41 pm

Michael Crabtree had his stitches removed Monday following May 22 surgery for a torn right Achilles' tendon.

So what's next for the 49ers' No. 1 receiver?

If he plans to play in 2013 – and coach Jim Harbaugh has been consistent in saying the injury isn't season-ending – he must get to work right away.

Dr. Dan Solomon, an orthopedic surgeon with Marin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Novato, said an aggressive approach to rehabilitation would get Crabtree in the pool and working on his range of motion as soon as the surgical wound heals.

The rehabilitation routine for Achilles' injuries has been honed and improved over the last decade or so, one of the reasons the injury is not the career-ender it used to be.

Crabtree suffered a complete tear, unlike, say, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs last year.

The Achilles' tendon attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone. When there's a complete tear, the surgeon has to make an educated guess – usually involving the other, undamaged Achilles' – as far as how much tension to give the tendon when it is reattached.

Solomon said tears that occur at either end of the tendon are easier to repair than tears in the middle because there is better blood flow at the end points and the tension is easier to determine.

Solomon likened the tendon to a rope. When it is cut, many strands must be reattached. "The more it looks like the end of a mop," he said, "the more difficult it's going to be."

Harbaugh has been consistently sanguine when it comes to Crabtree's prognosis, which probably means the surgery was a success and the tension issue was resolved.

Harbaugh said team surgeon Tim McAdams was "very confident and felt good" about Crabtree's case, and the surgery he performed on running back Kendall Hunter, who tore his Achilles' on Nov. 25. Hunter is on track to rejoin his teammates at the start of training camp in late July.

Solomon said the most optimistic timetable for Crabtree returning to the field is six months, which would allow him to be back for the final month of the regular season. But that's if things go exceedingly well.

"I think everything would have to line up perfectly for him to be back this year," Solomon said.

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320. Follow him on Twitter @mattbarrows.

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