When the 49ers began practice on Wednesday, Michael Crabtree lined up at his usual spot as one of the team’s starting wide receivers. A little while later, however, he walked off the field into the team’s weight-room facility and after that he went to the locker room.
Injured? Nicked? Taking a half day? No, it’s more like caution.
“You saw Michael practice a good portion of the workout and there’s a plan in place for him,” Jim Harbaugh said afterward. “More limited than some of the other receivers that we have. But I think our medical staff and Michael and these coaches are taking a smart approach.”
Crabtree, 26, has suffered two severe lower-leg injuries in the offseason in recent years, a broken foot in 2011 and a torn Achilles’ at this time last year. That recent injury kept him out for most of the season, although he made a very successful comeback in time for the playoffs and looked like himself in late December and January. It also haunted the 49ers, who were not able to find two reliable receivers for most of the regular season.
One of Crabtree’s strengths is his suddenness – his ability to stop, cut and change directions. That, however, also puts plenty of strain on his feet and lower legs. He is going into his sixth season – and also his contract year – and there’s no reason to push his luck, and pound his feet, in May.
Justin Smith and Ray McDonald also had light sessions on Wednesday, which gave their lengthy list of backups – Demarcus Dobbs, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Lawrence Okoye and Kaleb Ramsey – more practice time.
In addition, two other multi-year veterans, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, did not practice. Gore has been working out in Santa Clara but not practicing. Davis has not been a regular attendee at the voluntary sessions, Harbaugh said.
That helps explain why the 49ers used an open roster spot on USC tight end Kevin Greene earlier this week. With Davis absent and another tight end, Asante Cleveland, dealing with a hamstring strain, the team was low on tight ends. Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Derek Carrier and Greene practiced there Wednesday.