Alex Smith

Braylon Edwards’ season keeps getting worse

Braylon Edwards has had some great seasons in the NFL, including a pretty good 2010 campaign, and he was available to the 49ers for a short-term (one year) contract for not much money. If Edwards hit all the pie-in-the-sky statistical marks the 49ers set, he could make as much as $3.5 million. Otherwise, Edwards would have to settle for the $1 million that became guaranteed once he made the regular season roster.

The biggest question mark when the Niners added Edwards was a possible early-season suspension due to off-the-field incidents, and Edwards avoided missing any time due to disciplinary reasons.

Edwards caught a few short passes in Week 1, then caught a 21-yard pass against the Cowboys in Week 2 before going down with a knee injury which required surgery, forcing him to miss four consecutive games before he came back after the 49ers’ bye. Then Edwards caught 4 balls for 42 yards against the Browns before heading to Washington, where he had only 2 receptions. However, one of them was a very memorable 24-yard reception, as he saw DeAngelo Hall in his path and ran straight into him like a tight end or a fullback would. It was one of the highlights of that win over the Redskins, but Edwards’ aggressive path to the left sideline left a more unfortunate lasting impression, according to what he told Matt Barrows yesterday:

Receiver Braylon Edwards said today he’s been playing with a sprained AC joint in the last three games. Edwards said he suffered the injury during the team’s Week 9 game against the Redskins. After delivering a blow to Washington corerback DeAngelo Hall, Edwards said, he was struck by safety LaRon Landry. (In reviewing the play, Hall is the one who knocks Edwards out of bounds and Edwards appears to land forcefully on his left shoulder).

This is troubling for a few reasons.

1. This shoulder injury is very possibly making it difficult for Edwards to reach for passes that are above his … shoulders.

2. Edwards felt the need to let the media know about this shoulder injury on Monday, seemingly in response to the interception by Lardarius Webb that was blamed on “miscommunication” by Alex Smith. Edwards had no comment after the loss to the Ravens.

3. Jim Harbaugh is as secretive as head coaches get in regard to injuries, so he can’t be pleased that Edwards is taking it upon himself to let the media know about this injury.

Also from Barrows:

Edwards said his goal was to be healthy for a likely playoff run. Asked if it would be beneficial to perhaps take a game off to achieve that goal, Edwards said, “We’ll see what the doctors say. We’ll put that plan in the hands of the doctors and trainers and coach Harbaugh and see what they think. …. But maybe that’s what needs to happen.”

Said Harbaugh about possibly resting Edwards: “Braylon hasn’t said it to me, so I mean it’s something I can discuss with Braylon.”

Hmmm … guess who won’t be on the team next year?

Edwards blamed the interception on his knee injury: “That happens from time to time. That probably comes from us not being able be out there together (because of) my injury.”

The problem isn’t that he’s ridiculously injury-prone, and clearly it’s tough for a Edwards (who’s effectively playing to prove he should still be in the league next year) that he’s suffered two injuries, injuries that can happen to any receiver.

But Edwards is also a guy with character concerns (and not just because he once referred to the fragrance he was wearing as “war cologne”) who’s making some excuses when things aren’t going well. Also, now that he can’t earn any of his incentives it seems like he’d rather sit out and get healthy so he can salvage his market value in the playoffs when everyone’s watching.

This leaves the 49ers in a minor bind, but a bind nonetheless. After losing Joshua Morgan, the receivers behind Edwards are Ted Ginn (high-ceiling/low-floor guy), Kyle Williams (talented but unproven) and Brett Swain. They can probably beat the Rams without Edwards, since he hasn’t made much of a difference in any of the 49ers’ nine wins in 2011.

James Brady from SB Nation Bay Area suggests the 49ers rest Edwards, and that makes sense. But is one week enough? Edwards’ comments lead one to believe that he needs quite a bit of healing time if his goal is to be right for the playoffs. Either that or he’s skipping that boring “one game at a time, do everything for the team” stuff and going with the more Braylon-esque “let’s maximize my earning potential and clumsily attempt to use the media to my advantage” way of doing things.

A lot of people are wondering why the 49ers haven’t been interested in Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. After taking this extremely small gamble financially on Edwards and seeing what it’s produced, watch for the 49ers to steer clear of outspoken veteran receivers in the future, no matter how much of a bargain it may appear to be.

After watching Chad Ochocinco this year, the New England Patriots probably agree.

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