Crabtree needs to do own talking, get in camp

So now we know Michael Crabtree is pretty good at posturing. But will we ever know if he can be a great wide receiver for the 49ers? One thing we do know about the rookie: The chance of Crabtree making any significant impact in 2009 gets smaller as each day goes by without him in camp, and he certainly isn't doing anything to help his diva image by letting others speak for him in his absence.

Things had been so quiet on the Crabtree front during the first week of training camp that we here on the scene were almost starting to forget about him.

After all, the team's wide receiver corps is as deep and talented as it has been in almost a decade – with or without Crabtree present – and it's already becoming apparent that the 49ers can and will get by at the position without Crabtree, even though they'd likely be a better team with him living up to his potential and draft status and making a contribution to the San Francisco offense as a rookie.

As long as Crabtree gets in by next week, ostensibly he'd have enough time to absorb the system and get NFL-ready before the regular season begins in mid-September. No news from Crabtree over the first five days of training camp practices didn't necessarily mean bad news.

But then David Wells, Crabtree's cousin and self-proclaimed "adviser," had to go open his mouth. And the Crabtree saga took a turn for the worse.

Wells told ESPN that Crabtree is prepared to sit out this season and re-enter the NFL draft in 2010.

"We are prepared to do it," Wells was quoted as saying. "Michael just wants fair market value. They took him with the 10th pick and you have Darrius Heyward-Bey getting $38 million? This week is crucial. Michael was one of the best players in the draft and he just wants to be paid like one of the best players. This week is very crucial."

Wow. Thanks, cousin David. You just went out of your way to cause harm to Crabtree's already-shaky reputation while throwing a wrench into ongoing negotiations for your man, negotiations of which a 49ers spokesman said, "In our view, there has been open and positive communication with both sides."

No word on any of this from Crabtree himself, of course. And the diva image that was pasted on him by some reports before the 49ers selected Crabtree with the No. 10 overall pick in the NFL draft now can be looked at in a different light.

Eugene Parker, Crabtree's agent and lead man in negotiations with the 49ers, came out with some damage control after Wells' comments, saying, "I'm not a guy who makes threats. Nor am I a guy who negotiates in the public. I don't know where this came from but no such threat has been made."

But the thing is, it HAS been made. There's no taking back words already out of the horse's mouth.

Whether or not Wells is talking for Crabtree, what has been said has been said, and we don't hear Crabtree – or even Parker, really – correcting the comments of cousin David.

What it looks like Crabtree really needs here is another cousin who can give him some sound advice.

Such as, get your deal done already, Michael, and get your fanny into camp. You've already missed enough time. And, you already are going to make plenty of money once you sign on the dotted line. What's another million or two here or there? Is this about respect or being a good football player? You already are going to be rich either way.

Niners coach Mike Singletary, who hasn't come close to even a trace of bad-mouthing Crabtree during his absence from camp, held to the straight-and-narrow of the company line when asked Friday morning what Crabtree's absence is doing to the team's receiver corps that took a big hit this week when Brandon Jones was lost for eight weeks due to a shoulder injury.

"It doesn't do anything, to be honest," Singletary said. "This is not a political speech, it's just the truth. We've got wide receivers that (receivers coach) Jerry Sullivan is working his tail off with them, they're growing and progressing, so we're fine for right now. Hopefully, when (Crabtree) comes in, the learning curve is not as great as it may take some others. Hopefully he'll just catch right on and go from there."

When SFI then asked if there was a point when Singletary finally would throw up his arms and declare that Crabtree has to get his butt on the practice field with his 49ers teammates, Singletary gave an out-of-sight, out-of-mind response that indicates the 49ers won't wait forever to move on without their first-round draft pick.

"I will say this," Singletary started. "If I can just keep my focus here, and in terms of Crabtree, when he comes in, he comes in. Would you love to have him in? Absolutely. You'd love to have him. Do we want him here? Yes, we want to have 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."

And what is, with 49ers training camp now one week old, is that Crabtree needs to get his contract done and get into camp. He needs to tell Parker that. And he needs to tell his cousins/advisors that.

Crabtree is reportedly looking to get $23 million in guaranteed money. Let's be honest here. That's too much money for the No. 10 pick in the draft, even if he really is the No. 1 talent in the draft. Crabtree can't expect to get the same kind of deal as Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall selection, even if it should have been Crabtree – and not Heyward-Bey – that was first receiver taken in the draft.

The 49ers are not penny-pinchers. They will offer fair market value. Crabtree will get the contract he deserves as the No. 10 overall pick. If he wants more, he's being unrealistic. And, to put it more bluntly, he's being stupid.

Part of the Crabtree holdup is that NFL rookie salaries are generally slotted by draft position and, since Heyward-Bey signed his deal, none of the other rookies drafted in the Nos. 8 through No. 12 slots have yet to sign. Brian Orakpo, drafted 13th by the Washington Redskins, signed for $20 million over five years.

But if Crabtree or his "advisors" think they have leverage by publicly saying he'll sit out the year, they are only fooling Crabtree and fooling themselves.

First off, every day this stalemate goes on and some ridiculous comment comes out of the Crabtree camp, his reputation takes a hit, his credibility takes a nosedive and he falls another day farther behind the rest of the capable receivers San Francisco has in camp.

And if Crabtree really thinks he can sit out this year and then re-enter the draft next year… Ha! What a joke.

Sure, Crabtree can do that. And sure, he'll be a first-round pick again in 2010.

But it can almost be guaranteed he wouldn't be a top-10 pick, because who wants to draft a wide receiver who didn't play at all the previous year, passing up tens of millions of dollars to do so, and already has proven to be a poorly-advised money-grubbing problem child of the highest order?

No, Crabtree will eventually sign with the 49ers. But now he needs to do so sooner rather than later. Every day he waits from here on out, Crabtree leaves open the chance a cousin or advisor will hit the stupid button again.

Crabtree doesn't need that. Neither do the 49ers. And, if the Crabtree camp keeps this kind of thing up, he might find the Niners don't need him as much as he and others might think.


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