Michael Crabtree

Michael Crabtree’s the “elephant,” it seems

The Niners’ two resident divas, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, had a little spat today. You know what this means … training camp’s almost over and the players cannot wait to be finished with Camp Singletary. And like it often does throughout the league, most of the drama coming out of Niners camp revolves around the receiving corps.

The last preseason game is tomorrow night against San Diego, where the starters will sit and a few guys on the outskirts will try to prove right or wrong Matt Maiocco’s predictions on who will make the final 53-man roster. But one has to wonder if Crabtree’s attitude, already in question after his ultra-long holdout last season, was something Davis couldn’t stand for another day. Singletary seemed to understand why Davis went off on the only person under 30 who seems to truly respect MC Hammer, but probably wished Davis didn’t reprimand Crabtree in full view of all the beat writers. From Matt Barrow’s blog:

Like a father, Singletary walked a fine line between crediting Davis, a team captain a year ago, with exposing a problem and chiding him for handling it poorly. “He’s fine. He did a great job. He’s one of the captains. He did the right thing, but he did it the wrong way. So that’s all I’m going to say about that …”

Last month, Singletary said the week’s worth of distractions that included Kentwan Balmer’s absence and Glen Coffee’s retirement were a positive for the team because it taught them focus. He struck a similar stance today. “That was a good thing that happened. It really was – for a number of reasons that I won’t go into. … I appreciate Vernon speaking from his heart. But he was just wrong. But he indeed is every bit the reason why I made him captain. He’s not going to sugar-coat things. He doesn’t know how to sugar-coat things. I wish he did sometimes.”

If we’re speculating as to what the “elephant in the room” was, the first guess would logically point toward Crabtree’s neck injury that’s kept him out of action for quite a while (although if Crabtree needed to be punished, Singletary could always make him play the “elephant” position that used to be a mainstay on the Niners’ defensive line). So Crabtree’s reputation has gone from diva (helped by Eric Mangini’s claims of entourages and such and enhanced by an extremely long contract holdout) to solid performer (after coming in midseason and playing as well as anyone could have expected) to a malingerer who feels like he’s above practice and preseason games.

Should be an interesting story to follow over the next couple years, whether Crabtree’s misunderstood or someone who feels as if he’s above the team or a guy with a legit neck injury that will follow him all season long. Hell, I can barely move for a full day whenever I sleep on my neck funny; maybe Crabtree’s actually hurt. Another thing to pay attention to: with all the talk about Crabtree working to get a rapport with Alex Smith, will that actually happen if Crabtree’s been nursing what his teammates seem to think is a pretty minor injury?

So will the elephant play tomorrow night, or will he allow the three-way competition for the last two receiver spots to continue uninterrupted between Dominique Zeigler, Kyle Williams and Jason Hill? Maiocco thinks it’s the talented but not-so-sure-handed Hill who’s on the outs, which probably means the Seahawks will probably have him signed by the end of the week. However, Zeigler’s inability to have much impact on special teams might mean he’s the one looking for a job after tomorrow night’s game.

The receivers are pretty much the only thing to pay attention to tomorrow evening, since this is the time of year when important subplots are few and far between. The starters know who they are, and everyone who knows they’ll be on the roster are just biding their time, waiting to play the games that count.

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