SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Although the third game of the preseason is usually a time when coaches like to give their starters extended playing time, it's likely that San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary will continue to hold back some of his stars.
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree (neck strain) returned to practice for the first time in two weeks, but there's no guarantee he or three other key players – tight end Vernon Davis and running backs Frank Gore and Brian Westbrook – will play much Saturday night when the 49ers face the Oakland Raiders in Oakland.
"I think it's very good for us to get them on the field," Singletary said. "I think all those guys are mature enough to be able to go into a game. It's not like the first time they've done it. We just have to look at it and see if we need to make a move like that."
Translation: Singletary would like to let them play, but it's not worth of risk of having them get hurt if they play too much in the preseason.
Davis, who has a strained right knee, worked on the side but did not take part in drills. Maybe it was a good thing. The 49ers worked out in 101-degree weather despite starting practice at 4 p.m.
Singletary said Gore might get a few snaps on Saturday, which might not be a bad idea since the Niners are starting two rookies on their offensive line, left guard Mike Iupati and right tackle Anthony Davis.
"I think it's like everything else," Singletary said. "You have a runner, a very good runner. You want to be careful, but at the same time you don't want to limit him too much. I just think you want to be wise; you want to make good decisions. We know what Frank can do, but with this line, they have not had the opportunity to feel the timing of Frank, to feel his quickness and the way he makes cuts."