Michael Crabtree was back at practice Thursday after working out on a side field with trainers last week. Coach Jim Harbaugh said the wide receiver’s performance this week will determine how soon Crabtree returns to the active roster and, eventually, to the playing field.
Crabtree, who is still on the physically-unable-to-perform list following Achilles’ tendon surgery in May, was allowed to join practice with teammates two weeks ago. He did so in the run-up to the Carolina Panthers game Nov. 10. But he worked out by himself last week.
He again was working by himself at the start of Thursday’s session. That, however, turned out to be an extended warmup period for the receiver, and he later joined teammates at practice. The team has until Tuesday to remove him from the PUP list and place him on the 53-man squad.
Harbaugh said that move could occur sooner than that, leaving a possibility, at least, that Crabtree could play Monday night against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md.
Crabtree’s return to the lineup promises to bolster a 49ers’ passing attack that ranks last in the NFL. Only two 49ers pass catchers – Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin – have touchdown receptions this year. Last year, Crabtree was by far quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target, and Crabtree became the first 49er with more than 1,000 receiving yards since Terrell Owens in 2003.
Tender ribs – Cornerback Tarell Brown was one of three defensive starters who did not practice Thursday. Brown left Sunday’s game because of a rib injury, but Harbaugh disagreed with a report that Brown is dealing with cracked ribs.
“He’s working through something,” Harbaugh said. “I wouldn’t call it cracked ribs. I’m not going to define it. He’s got an issue he’s working through. Gonna take a little bit of time.”
If Brown is out of the lineup, Tramaine Brock would start at right cornerback Monday and Eric Wright would play in passing situations. Rookie Darryl Morris would serve as the team’s fourth cornerback.
Defensive ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald (ankle) also missed practice. Smith usually is given a day off during the week. If McDonald misses his second consecutive game, he’ll be replaced by Tony Jerod-Eddie, who played a career-high 54 snaps Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Et cetera – Another wideout, rookie Quinton Patton, also was working out on a side field as practice began. He’s coming back from a broken foot suffered in Week 4. Harbaugh said Patton would return to practice “very soon.”
• Guard Mike Iupati (knee) and tight end Garrett Celek (hamstring) also did not practice. Iupati will not play Monday and will be replaced at left guard by Adam Snyder.
• Former 49ers Roger Craig, Charles Haley and Kevin Greene, and former owner Eddie DeBartolo, are among 25 semifinalists in Pro Football Hall of Fame voting. The group will be cut to a list of 15 finalists on Jan. 8.