With Thanksgiving fast approaching, things were relatively quiet around the 49ers facilities today. The coaching staff treated Wednesday like a Friday, so the portion of practice that was open to the media lasted about five minutes and featured only a team-wide stretching session before the powers that be sent us on our way back towards the media trailer. Of course practice wasn’t without its usual excitement, especially with the buzz about Michael Crabtree’s return. Here are a couple tidbits from Thanksgiving Eve at 4949 Centennial Way.
– This may not shock you, but Jim Harbaugh’s weekly Wednesday presser left more questions than answers regarding Crabtree.
“He’s ready to go on Wednesday,” the coach said of Crabtree’s availability on Sunday.
He was mum, even after saying Sunday he expected his No. 1 wide receiver to play following the team’s Monday night win over Washington. Harbaugh did say he was optimistic though, so do with that what you will.
– The coach heaped praise on his team — especially the defense — upon returning home from the east coast.
“There was quite a bit of positive in the game, number one being that we won the game,” Harbaugh said. “Mario Manningham contributing was big. Anquan Boldin had a great game.”
Defensively, he credited the usual suspects (Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks go without saying), but also pointed out that defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie had the most snaps of any defensive lineman and played quite well. He said the team “turned in a gem.”
– Although he side-stepped what Matt Maiocco meant when he asked whether Tramaine Brock had a chance to stick as a top-two cornerback, he said the recently extended defensive back played like a starter on Monday.
“Just very happy for him,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been well earned. He didn’t change at all. He was very humble about it around the locker room, the meeting settings and the practice field.”
– Harbaugh’s press conferences are always good for a couple laughs, but today he only provided one.
“This past game was very good,” the coach said of tight end Vance McDonald. “The week before he had some struggles in the run game … He doesn’t flinch though. It doesn’t ever get too much for him. I’ve never really seen him sweat, sweat it … He sweats, obviously.”
(It was probably one of those “you had to be there” moments)
– The 49ers quarterback didn’t say it, but if there’s one thing he’s got to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, it’s the return of Crabtree.
“I think he’s someone, he’s very easy to throw to,” Kaepernick said. He said he didn’t think it would take long to regain chemistry with his favorite target in 2012.
– The cute questions were no match for Kaepernick’s stone-faced demeanor. Who influences his leadership style the most? His dad. What’s he thankful for? His family. Fin.
– Kaepernick was complimentary of, not only his new favorite target Anquan Boldin, but Joe Staley and the 49ers special teams unit as well.
“Joe’s phenomenal,” he said. “He’s someone you never have to worry about him doing his job.”
He’s got to be liking what LaMichael James did on Monday too. He said the return game cuts the field in half.
– Speaking of Staley, he talked a little bit about the challenge he faces in Robert Quinn and addressed some questions about the 49ers’ offensive game plan.
“He’s playing the same as when he got into the league, he’s just having a lot of success this year,” Staley said about Quinn.
He said the Rams don’t do anything too exotic, but they still get pressure with their two standout pass rushers.
– Matt Barrows addressed what fans have been begging for in the 49ers’ offense: screen passes.
“We actually ran about three screen passes last game, they all went for negative yards,” Staley said. “We do call them, it’s just sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.”
He argued the Redskins had good defenses dialed up to counter the screens that the 49ers did call.
“Screen passes are either going to be really really great or really really bad. There’s no in between, you’re not going to get a five-yard screen. You’re either going to get a 40-yard screen or negative plays.”
Roster moves and practice notes
– The 49ers cleared space on their 53-man roster for Michael Crabtree by waiving McLeod Bethel-Thompson yesterday, but his locker was still full during media availability. That’s because Bethel-Thompson cleared waivers and signed with the team’s practice squad tonight.
– There were a couple new names on the 49ers’ injury report today: Navorro Bowman (knee, shoulder) and Mario Manningham (knee) didn’t practice. They joined Tarell Brown (ribs), Garrett Celek (hamstring), Mike Iupati (knee), Ray McDonald (ankle) and Justin Smtih (shoulder).
– Ahmad Brooks (stinger), Frank Gore (ankle), Quinton Patton (foot), Dan Skuta (foot) and Aldon Smith (shoulder) were all limited in practice.
– Iupati was hobbling around the locker room, still wearing a heavy-duty knee brace. I’d consider the Pro Bowl guard highly doubtful to play Sunday.
– Most notably from the Rams side, Zac Stacy didn’t practice after suffering a concussion on Sunday. That’s something to monitor, since he’s been such a big part of St. Louis’s late surge.