49ers' Michael Crabtree could be on pace for late-season return

Michael Crabtree led the 49ers with 85 receptions last season. (USATSI)
Two months ago, 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree had surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon. On Monday, coach Jim Harbaugh said that Crabtree's tendon "looks great" and that the former first-round pick was on pace to return at some point during the 2013 season.

"Talking to the doctor, and talking to Michael, I feel very good about where he is right now," Harbaugh said, via CSNBayArea.com. "I wouldn't categorize it as 'ahead of schedule' because he's just starting now to start moving on it. It's been just healing so far. But it looks great. That's the words of the doctors.

"We're optimistic there," Harbaugh continued. "Michael did a tremendous job post-surgery. He stayed in town and did not leave and did not travel. He did everything he was being asked to do. They say it looks great."

The team will put Crabtree on the active physically-unable-to-perform list on Wednesday. He will count against the roster limit until final cuts, at which time the 49ers could choose to place Crabtree on the reserve PUP list. If that happens, he will be able to return to the active roster between Week 7 and Week 13.

With Crabtree sidelined to start the season, quarterback Colin Kaepernick loses his favorite target. Last season, Crabtree had 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. The 49ers' passing game will now have to go through Mario Manningham (who was second on the team in receptions in 2012 with 42 and who will begin training camp on the PUP list), tight end Vernon Davis (41 receptions in '12), offseason acquisition Anquan Boldin and with the hope that 2012 first-rounder A.J. Jenkins can contribute after getting shut out last season.

Heading into camp, Jenkins, Quinton Patton, Ricardo Lockette and Marlon Moore will line up at split end -- Crabtree's position -- and compete for his job.

"I feel like they're making a lot of progress," Harbaugh said. "I feel good about where that stands right now. Continued competition will continue to be good for our team and those youngsters."

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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