Give the San Francisco 49ers a little credit. The rebuilding franchise may have screwed up royally by using the No. 10 overall draft pick on a high-maintenance wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, who has yet to prove to anyone he is anywhere close to NFL-ready following surgery to repair a left foot fracture.
At least the 49ers are displaying solidarity in refusing to buckle to Crabtree’s stubborn demands that he is paid what a Top 5 draft pick should receive, and not what a No. 10 selection is worth.
The team is moving on with business sans Crabtree — and that’s a good thing, for a struggling football operation that desperately needs to salvage credibility within the Bay Area community and around the NFL.
On Wednesday, 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said the team has not finalized a starting quarterback for Friday’s 7 p.m. PT exhibition opener, against the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park.
All indications are that incumbent starter Shaun Hill will be the No. 1 quarterback, with wide receiver Josh Morgan getting the first-team reps that Crabtree would be receiving if he were under contract.
You won’t hear Singletary wasting his time publicly obsessing over Crabtree and how it’s a shame the receiver isn’t getting valuable reps in the team’s new version of the Wildcat offense. He insists Crabtree’s demands and threats to sit out the 2009 season aren’t a distraction, and it doesn’t sound like lip service.
“Would you love to have him in? Absolutely. You’d love to have him,” Singletary told the Bay Area media. “Would you want him here? Yes, we want him in. But, until that happens, I just can’t sit back and think about the what-ifs. All I can do is concentrate on what is, and control that.”
There are reports that this Crabtree contract impasse may extend into September, much like the 2007 showdown between the Raiders and their No. 1 overall draft pick, quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
That very well may be the case. At this point, what have the 49ers lost? A player consumed with procuring a rookie contract beyond comprehension, who has displayed zero desire to get on the field?
Singletary did not address the Bay Area media Wednesday, but here is what Raye had to say about Crabtree’s ongoing absence.
“Obviously, he’s missing an opportunity to join his teammates to bond and learn what we are doing and help us going into a championship season, if in fact he is the player that we think he is,” Raye said. “If and when he does become a part of it we’ll have to accelerate the process to try to get him familiar with the quarterback and the system. It’s a detriment at this point but like I said earlier, we’ll embrace him when he comes.
“It’s the business side of it that we really don’t have control over and we’ll embrace him when he comes. It’s not him; it’s the business that he’s involved in. He needs to get that fixed and when he does get that fixed, then we’ll try to fix him. Hopefully that will help us and then we’ll go forward.”
A phone call to Crabtree’s agent, Eugene Parker, was not returned on Wednesday.
Time will tell whether the former Texas Tech standout will be a productive NFL wide receiver. All we know for sure is that in mid-August of what should be his rookie season, Crabtree has been a colossal failure at developing chemistry with his NFL front office, coaches and teammates.
He has blown a valuable opportunity to ingratiate himself with a 49ers fanbase desperate to embrace an enthusiastic, charismatic star.
Instead, Crabtree has validated pre-draft concerns that he is a diva athlete, so much so that teammates such as tight end Vernon Davis are openly calling for the receiver to settle his business disputes with the 49ers so that his NFL career can officially begin.
If Parker, an experienced NFL agent, believes it is smart business to allow his client to sit out the entire 2009 season in hopes of re-entering the draft in 2010, then his two decades of negotiating skills should be called into question.
Meanwhile, the 49ers are doing the wise thing, and that’s concentrating on who is in their training camp. That doesn’t include Crabtree, and it is his loss at this point more than it is theirs.