Michael Crabtree is a former first-rounder, selected 10th overall in the 2009 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Crabtree was one of the most prolific wide receivers in NCAA history, so there were high expectations set for the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner coming into the NFL.
The 6'1" receiver has a history of missing offseason work, and in three of four offseasons, he's been hampered by injury. However, during the regular season, Crabtree has not had an issue missing time, which is positive in that those are the games that matter.
But the hope is that young players will make strides in the offseason, during which time it's hard to assume Crabtree will always be available. While he has returned this offseason, Crabtree suffered a minor foot injury on the first day of the 2012 edition of 49ers training camp.
This did not sit well with a lot of folks outside the organization, but unfortunately it was a reality. Taking a look back at Crabtree's offseason history, it's clear to see that there is a distinct pattern.
Rookie Season (2009)
Suffered an ankle sprain as a senior at Texas Tech.
After Crabtree declared for the NFL draft, it was announced that the Red Raider had sustained a Jones fracture in his left foot and it would require surgery. He missed his entire rookie preseason and five regular-season games due to a lengthy holdout, not an injury.
2nd Season (2010)
In 2010 Crabtree missed his second consecutive preseason, this time with a lingering neck injury.
3rd Season (2011)
Crabtree suffered a broken foot during player-only offseason workouts, which caused him to miss the entire preseason once again.
Crabtree is entering his fourth NFL season, and, needless to say, it's a much different 49er team posted up in the Bay. A player's fourth year is typically very telling of the rest of his career, so in 2012 it should be interesting to see Crabtree in his second year under the Harbaugh regime.
As we can see, Crabtree has been injured only during offseason activities. Not including his rookie-contract fiasco, Crabtree has not missed significant regular-season time.
From 2010 to 2011, Crabtree played 31 regular-season games out of a possible 32.
Courtesy of ESPN.com
So while we question whether or not Crabtree can stay healthy for the year, the fact remains that he has been a starter for the past two seasons. The receiver has undergone an extensive amount of criticism, which has not been warranted.
The only reason people should have to get on Crabtree's case is over the fact that he held out as a rookie and missed games.
Injuries happen frequently in the NFL, and the wide-receiver position is an acutely fragile one. Plus, Crabtree has sustained multiple foot injuries, and foot injuries in particular are irregular in that they tend to linger.
At this point in his career, Crabtree can be correctly labeled injury prone, but it's unfair to assume he doesn't want to be there for his team.
Andre Johnson gets hurt all the time, but no one in Houston throws the book at him, saying, "Let's trade him." And no one insists that Johnson is faking the injuries.
The 49ers also have licensed doctors on staff to confirm the reality of Crabtree's injuries. And while the timing of his injuries have been unusual—arousing suspicion—given what it would cost him if he were faking them, it's difficult to conclude that they have been fabricated.
Furthermore, Crabtree is no longer the only sure-handed wide receiver on the 49ers roster.
San Francisco now has a stable of pass-catching threats, and with the nature of the NFL, a player does not want to allow his backup a chance to steal his job—just ask Drew Bledsoe, twice.
Crabtree will be a presence for San Francisco in 2012 and could be in for his best season yet. The rhythm Crabtree has established with quarterback Alex Smith is among the best of the receiving group.
As one of many receiving targets, Crabtree could see career highs from the split-end position, opposite Randy Moss.
During his career, Crabtree's receptions and yards have increased annually. It is actually more compelling to argue about Crabtree's potential numbers in 2012, rather than when he might get hurt next.
Considering that Crabtree has played only three seasons, it's still fairly early in his career. If these shenanigans are still ongoing in his late 20s, then there should be some concern.
Right now, though, we can expect Crabtree's statistics to see another jump this season, as he looks to become a more established go-to receiver in the NFL.
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