Crabtree caps career year with Super Bowl berth

Michael Crabtree refused to remove the black 49ers beanie and

reveal his hair. Nope, not going to do it.

Crabtree is trying to maintain every possible element of

surprise he might still have left heading into his first Super Bowl

– and will certainly take any advantage he can get this week.

Not that his `do has much to do with it. But this is Crabtree,

quirky and superstitious, a guy still trying to shed that diva

label he picked up as a college star at Texas Tech. It’s something

his San Francisco teammates are quick to dismiss, insisting that’s

not the case.

The dynamic, play-making wide receiver will be a primary focus

for the Baltimore Ravens’ secondary come Sunday at the Superdome.

Crabtree is as dangerous after the catch as he is dodging defensive

backs to make acrobatic catches or finding ways to keep both feet

inbounds while tiptoeing the sideline.

”A lot of coaches can coach a route and how you catch the ball,

but after the catch it’s really all you,” he said. ”That’s what

makes you special.”

No matter his catches or number of chances this weekend,

Crabtree cares about only one thing: capping his career season with

a championship ring. The fanfare and media frenzy, he’ll take it or

leave it (his voice was hoarse Wednesday from all the talking). He

is still coming to terms with being a public figure, and the

constant scrutiny that goes along with it.

Just last week, Crabtree learned he wouldn’t face charges for an

alleged sexual assault in a hotel after the 49ers beat Green Bay in

the NFC divisional playoffs on Jan. 12. The San Francisco district

attorney announced Friday there would be no charges ”at this

time.” The wideout was never arrested or detained, and police said

he cooperated with the investigation.

”I was disappointed in the allegations,” Crabtree said

Wednesday morning, before heading off to practice at Saints

headquarters. ”It’s over now.”

Crabtree still carries a chip on his shoulder and is out to

prove he should have been drafted higher. He held out for 71 days

as a rookie before signing in October 2009 and becoming a starter

less than three weeks later. He wouldn’t change much about how

things have gone so early in his NFL career.

After all, had he gone to the Oakland Raiders with the seventh

overall pick that year – they selected Darrius Heyward-Bey instead

– Crabtree would be watching after yet another losing season in the

East Bay. The Niners grabbed him three spots later at No. 10.

”I watched him as a youngster, I watched him in college,”

Baltimore receiver Jacoby Jones said. ”When he came out and he

held out, I was interested to see what he was going to do. He came

in and I was like, `This kid can play.’ I like his game. He’s got

great hands, great route runner.”

Colin Kaepernick sure thinks so. Crabtree quickly became the

second-year quarterback’s top target after he took over the

starting job under center midseason.

Kaepernick’s passes come so fast they require extra

concentration and ”you’ve just got to focus at all times on his


”He does a lot of things well and he’s a very physical

receiver,” Kaepernick said. ”He wants to get in the end zone

every time he touches the ball. As a quarterback, that’s something

you love.”

Crabtree receives guidance from a couple of other characters who

have dazzled at his position – teammate Randy Moss and former 49ers

star Terrell Owens. Moss tells Crabtree like it is, on the field

and off, while T.O. offers advice from time to time via text


They’ve got a few things in common, too.

In the season finale against Arizona on Dec. 30, Crabtree caught

two touchdowns and finished with a career-high 172 yards on eight

receptions. It was the best outing by a 49ers receiver since Owens’

166-yard performance in November 2002. Crabtree, finally healthy

for a full season after a series of injuries in his first three

seasons, also became San Francisco’s first 1,000-yard receiver

since T.O. in `03.

If he and Kaepernick can keep their good thing going, Crabtree

certainly has a chance at a championship.

”He’s a great runner and he has great ability to make people

miss,” Ravens cornerback Cary Williams said. ”He’s elusive. He’s

a guy that can put his foot in the ground and move and get to a

different direction. He’s having a great year and he’s done some

great things for that team. We look forward to the challenge out

there of going against him.”

Crabtree keeps defenders guessing on every down with his

big-play potential all over the field.

He finished with career highs of nine touchdowns, 85 catches and

1,105 yards this season. That included five TDs and 30 catches on

third-down plays – both stats among the top five in the NFL.

Teammate Frank Gore describes his recent play as the ”Texas

Tech Crabtree.”

Crabtree took it personally when the 49ers failed to reach last

year’s Super Bowl after a 20-17 overtime loss to the eventual

champion New York Giants. San Francisco’s receiving corps managed

one catch for 3 yards that game. It was his reception, but hardly


”I can’t really pinpoint the things that Crabtree has picked

up,” Moss said. ”I just told him when I first came I really

wanted to work, I just wanted to be out there with him to make

plays for him. Michael Crabtree hasn’t let me down, he really

hasn’t. Everybody has little stumbles in the road. It’s great to

see a person to overcome so many things. His whole 49ers career

he’s had some stumbles and hasn’t been able to complete a whole

season, but to go out there and make the plays he’s made this year,

my hat’s off to him.”

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