Coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday he has no issues with Michael Crabtree and doesn’t think the 49ers wide receiver is unhappy with his role in the offense.
“I don’t think so,” Harbaugh said while parrying a number of Crabtree-related questions. “Seems to be doing a fantastic job and getting the ball a lot.”
Crabtree might not agree. He said last week his output so far this season has been disappointing, and after Sunday’s 27-24 win over the New Orleans Saints he seemed to gripe that he’s been relegated to the role of third-down receiver.
Asked by The San Francisco Chronicle about his 51-yard catch at the end of regulation that led to the game-tying field goal, Crabtree said, “Third down. I’m a third-down receiver. I mean, I’m like the third option. So I come in and I do my job.”
Reminded that his catch came on fourth and 10, Crabtree said, “Fourth down. I guess when they need me, you know, I guess that’s when I play.”
Crabtree is second to Anquan Boldin among the team’s receivers in snaps and targets, although the second category is close. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has thrown the ball in Boldin’s direction 77 times compared to 68 for Crabtree.
Boldin, however, has caught 51 passes (66 percent) for 635 yards while Crabtree has caught 40 (59 percent) for 424 yards.
Crabtree also leads the team with seven drops, although Boldin had four drops against the Saints.
“It happens,” Harbaugh said. “I mean Anquan had a few. There have been a few overthrows, I’ve had a few play calls that didn’t work. I have no problem with Michael Crabtree’s hands or Anquan Boldin’s or the way our receivers have been catching the ball.”
Boldin’s four drops equal his total from 2013. Still, he led all receivers Sunday with 95 yards on six catches, including a 15-yard touchdown.
“They burn,” Boldin said of the drops, “and it’s something that you think about but at the same time you can’t let that affect the next game or the next play. That’s something you vow not to let happen again, come out, work your butt off and move on.”
Crabtree came off the field more than usual against the Saints as the 49ers leaned more heavily on two-tight end formations, but his playing time didn’t dip dramatically.
He played 64 percent of the 49ers’ offensive snaps after playing 73 percent of them in the first eight games. Crabtree is in the final year of his contract and said last week he thought he would be making more of an impact.
“It ain’t where I want it to be,” he said. “That’s why I work hard every day. That’s why I try to catch every pass. Whatever they give me, I just try my hardest to work with it. I’ve been here before. You guys see what you see.”
Asked if players in their contract seasons can put too much pressure on themselves, Harbaugh said, “He’s a tremendous competitor. And I’m not blaming him or anybody, but we’ve talked about this before. I think we talked about it last week concerning different players. The heat of the moment, 10 minutes after the game, I don’t go by that.”
Boldin agreed with Harbaugh that there were no issues among the team’s receivers.
“We’ve got a group of unselfish guys and guys who just want to get it done,” Boldin said. “That’s just the way we approach it. Some days, some guys will get more targets than others. We feel like we can affect the game in other ways as well. Our receivers, we’re a big part of the running game as well. We feel like if we block well on the outside, we’re able to pop big runs. That’s something we take pride in, too.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.