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Sports Then and Now




Michael Crabtree Better Start Acting Like An Adult

Posted on September 22, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Michael Crabtree's catch and touchdown at the end of the Texas Tech-Texas game was the biggest play of the 2008 College Football season.

Michael Crabtree's catch and touchdown at the end of the Texas Tech-Texas game was the biggest play of the 2008 College Football season.

On the same day that a one-time star NFL receiver began serving a two year sentence in the New York State Prison system as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, another potential NFL star receiver is continuing the self-inflicted implosion of what just months ago seemed like a promising NFL career.

When the San Francisco 49ers selected Michael Crabtree with the 10th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft most experts hailed the pick as a coup for the 49ers.

Rated by some as one of the top five talents in the draft, Crabtree’s slip to the 10th pick was believed to be primarily because of concerns over a foot injury suffered during off-season workouts and general concerns with selecting any receiver that high in the draft. However, you have to wonder now if it was also partially because some teams feared him following in the footsteps of some of the “Receivers Gone Wild” that have inundated the NFL in recent years.

With former Hall of Fame great Mike Singletary, a tough disciplinarian, as his head coach, many believed that Crabtree could flourish in the 49ers’ system. Having the talented receiver to serve as the go-to receiver for quarterback Shaun Hill, who is in his first full season as an NFL starter after eight years as a backup, seemed like a great move for the 49ers.

In addition, with future Hall of Fame receiver Isaac Bruce on the roster, everything seemed to be in place to provide Crabtree with a nurturing and supportive NFL environment.

The only problem is that Crabtree has yet to sign a contract and report to the 49ers.

Since the draft, Crabtree has insisted that even though he was drafted behind receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, he was a better player than Heyward-Bey and should be paid accordingly.

The Oakland Raiders signed Heyward-Bey to a $38 million contract, with $23 million guaranteed, and Crabtree has been insistent on receiving an equal or greater contract.

San Francisco, however, has been following the NFL’s unofficial slotting standards and have consistently offered a five-year, $20 million contract with $16 million guaranteed.

It was obvious from the beginning that getting Crabtree into uniform was not going to be easy, but expectations were that as the season approached, Crabtree would eventually join his new team.

When a Crabtree cousin claimed in early August that the star receiver was prepared to sit out the entire season and re-enter the 2010 NFL Draft, his agent, Eugene Parker, was quick to dismiss the statement.

However, now that we have gone from summer to fall and Crabtree is still nowhere near signing with the 49ers, it looks like David Wells may have been right.

Holdouts are part of the NFL and have been for generations. However, as the song goes, “You have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.”

If Crabtree hopes to salvage his rookie season, and quite possibly his NFL career, it is time for him to put his hand down and happily join the 49ers.

That is assuming that they still want him.

You see, while Crabtree has been acting like a spoiled athlete, the 49ers have quietly been winning football games.

The 49ers are 2-0 with solid victories over their two biggest rivals in the NFC West.

Sure, their receivers have not been spectacular, but Bruce is still a solid player and second year player Josh Morgan has shown great potential.

Veteran Isaac Bruce could serve as a great mentor for Michael Crabtree.

Veteran Isaac Bruce could serve as a great mentor for Michael Crabtree.

To his credit, Singletary has not allowed the Crabtree situation to become a distraction for his team and has kept the players he has in the locker room focused on working together to win football games.

The longer the saga continues, the more history becomes the enemy of Crabtree.

Many great wide receivers who were in camp from the beginning of their rookie season have struggled to make an impact as rookies.

Without the benefit of training camp and practice time with Hill, it is doubtful that even if Crabtree signed today he would make a significant impact this season.

The 49ers seem to recognize this and word is that they have considered reducing their offer to Crabtree.

If that happened, basically meaning the 49ers have called the player’s bluff, it is likely that Crabtree would maintain his pride (perhaps a false pride at this point) and indeed sit out the entire season.

The last first round draft pick to sit out his entire rookie season was Kelly Stouffer with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987. The Cardinals eventually traded him to the Seattle Seahawks prior to the 1988 draft.

After sitting out the 1987 season, Kelly Stouffer spent four non-descript seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

After sitting out the 1987 season, Kelly Stouffer spent four non-descript seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

All you really need to know about Stouffer’s less than distinguished NFL career is that he has probably gotten more media attention during the last two weeks being compared to Crabtree than he did during his four seasons in the NFL.

Another more contemporary example of the damage sitting out a season can do is the case of fellow wide receiver Michael Williams.

It is likely that if Crabtree does sit out the entire season and re-enter the draft in 2010, NFL teams will certainly remember the saga of the former USC standout.

If you will recall, Williams got caught up in the court battle over whether the NFL could force players to be three years removed from high school before entering the NFL Draft.

They could, but Williams had already turned pro and wasn’t reinstated by the NCAA. So, he sat out a year before being drafted with the 10th overall pick by the Lions. He caught 44 total passes in three seasons and is now out of the league.

Crabtree has reportedly received support from a number of teammates, who say they will still welcome him whenever he does sign with the 49ers.

However, at a time when most Americans are just happy to have a steady job and income, there isn’t a great deal of public sympathy for a professional athlete who is choosing to leave $16 million on the table because he thinks he deserves an even more insane contract.

Plaxico Burress let self confidence and bad decisions ruin his NFL career.

Plaxico Burress let self confidence and bad decisions ruin his NFL career.

All great athletes believe they are invincible and entitled. That was the downfall of Plaxico Burress and if he is not careful, that will also be what keeps Michael Crabtree from achieving his full potential.

Unlike Burress, Crabtree won’t wake up tomorrow in a state prison, but unless he quickly changes his tune and signs with the 49ers, he may spend the rest of his life having to live with the fact that, like Burress, he let pride and self confidence get in the way of his chance at NFL stardom.


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