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SANTA CLARA

When the moment finally arrived, when Michael Crabtree stood in front of a crowd of reporters to announce he had ended his ridiculous holdout and had caved into the 49ers, you could come to only one conclusion. What a colossal waste of time. What a pointless exercise. How utterly stupid.

He had been used and manipulated by his agent, Eugene Parker, a man on the make. Parker delayed and ruined his client's entry into professional football, his entry to the Niners. I believe Parker realized he had lost, threw up the white flag and made Crabtree look like a dope.

It is so clear Parker cried uncle. He saw the 49ers had gone 3-1 without his guy and told Crabtree to end the holdout.

Listen to Niners general manager Scot McCloughan describe the surrender of Parker and Crabtree: "They would only come (to a meeting) if we would guarantee that we would switch our proposal, and we weren't going that route. All of a sudden Sunday night, boom, they called and said, &‘We're flying into town.' I had no idea if that meant they were coming into a meeting. I just knew they were going to be in town at some time."

It must feel wonderful to win. McCloughan made it clear he never would violate the Niners' pay scale. He would have allowed Crabtree to enter next year's draft, if it came to that.

This is one of the best things McCloughan ever did as a GM. It showed the Niners are beginning to value themselves. A team that values itself becomes a team that has value.

Back to Crabtree and his press conference. The scene on that stage in Santa Clara was classic. It was instructive. Mike Singletary bounded onto the stage and took over the room. He always takes over rooms with that voice and that stare and that presence. Crabtree stood next to him. And you thought, "Crabtree has just been to the principal's office."

Crabtree lingered quietly just behind Singletary with a submissive look on his face. He looked impermanent. He looked heartbreakingly young. He had experienced the tough reality of life and got knocked over by it. Singletary called him Mike. Singletary said, "Obviously, Mike missed a lot of time, valuable time. He'll have a lot of work to catch up."

He was lecturing Crabtree in front of the media and a TV audience. He was telling Crabtree he whiffed on the basic course and now he's behind everyone else and he's remedial and he better get serious fast. He was putting fear into the kid. Later Singletary said that during the holdout he told Crabtree — and I loved this — "There will be no balloons, no parties when you get here."

Welcome to the NFL, Mike Crabtree.

Finally, Singletary allowed Crabtree to answer questions — not many. Remember Singletary is the principal and Crabtree is a wayward freshman. I had this interchange with Crabtree.

Cohn: Why was it worth it to hold out all that time?

Crabtree: "I'm just glad I'm past that part."

Cohn: I understand, but what did you gain?

Crabtree: "I'm very humble right now. It's a very humbling experience. It just gives me a chance to sit back and better myself as a person, as a player and as a teammate."

Cohn: So you're saying holding out all that time made you humble.

Crabtree: "I'm not just saying it made me humble but it's a very humbling experience. I feel like going through that made me look at the world a different way, look at my teammates a different way. Hopefully it'll work out for the best."

Here's my take on this exchange. Crabtree refused to say the holdout was worth it because it wasn't worth it. It was worthless and he lost face big time. He said he looks at the world in a different way. He sure does. He realizes he's not the center of the universe, just another player who has to prove himself in the NFL — he hasn't even begun to do that.

He also said he looks at his teammates in a different way. I agree. Now he looks at them as teammates. Before he signed, he was spinning in a solo orbit dreaming about money he never earned and didn't deserve. He was a man who thought he deserved balloons.

Singletary was excruciating clear on Crabtree's place in the 49er pecking order.

"As his teammates see what he has," Singletary said, "it's just a matter of them saying, &‘Hey, coach, we want him on the field.' It's a matter of Shaun Hill saying, &‘Hey, he makes us better.' That's when you want to put a guy on the field."

You love to hear that stuff. Crabtree has to earn everything now – he will start with limited playing time after the bye. He needs to impress his teammates even if he earns more than most of them. He has to catch someone's eye just like any rookie.

Here is Shaun Hill on the eye-catching maneuver: "If he catches my eye later on I'll certainly stand up and say something."

Which means it's all up to Crabtree. Which means although he was a crummy negotiator, now he has a chance to be a football player.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular go to the Cohn Zohn at blog.pressdemocrat.com/cohn. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.