SANTA CLARA — Michael Crabtree ran around in gray sweatpants and a red hoodie underneath his San Francisco 49ers jersey, catching passes from Colin Kaepernick at the start of practice Thursday.
His route-running skills looked even more impressive in the locker room as Crabtree sliced through a half-dozen reporters waiting to ask him questions. He declined to stop and answer them.
The best indication of Crabtree's progress might be that he's no longer among the players sitting out practice or limited in workouts, according to the team's injury report. Last week, Crabtree participated in every practice without restrictions except for one because "there wasn't the full workload," coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman elaborated a little more, saying the 49ers (7-4) hope Crabtree can play against the St. Louis Rams (5-6) on Sunday. Roman also said San Francisco's top wide receiver will be eased into action whenever he returns.
"I don't think we're going to just throw him out there and have him play every play," Roman said. "But I think it's day to day, see how he's doing, see what he can handle, see what's best. I think you have to feel for that day to day, week to week, and that'll be it. Now is there going to be a pitch count or what not? I don't think necessarily there will be."
Gauging Crabtree's development on the field is even more difficult.
The team has remained vague about the wide receiver's status, and the 20 minutes or so reporters were allowed to watch individual drills at the beginning of practice Thursday only muddled the matter more.
Crabtree gingerly ran several slants and over-the-middle patterns. He never showed any burst — of course, there was no defense, so he never really had to. He caught at least two passes from Kaepernick, but also made little effort for an overthrown pass from third-stringer McLeod Bethel-Thompson.