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Receiver's healthier, surrounded by other threats in San Francisco offense

The legend of Michael Crabtree was formed in Texas, where fans knew the name and college recruiters, for football and basketball, showed up in droves. He chose football, went to Texas Tech and established himself as the best receiver in the nation.

Here in the Bay Area, though, where Crabtree has spent three seasons with the 49ers, many of the locals remain on the edge of their seats.

They're waiting for Crabtree, who has been reasonably productive but rarely spectacular, to be the wide receiver they saw generating so many highlights during two fantastic seasons at Tech.

Waiting for that special NFL season, when his name is mentioned in conjunction with the Pro Bowl.

Crabtree may sense the lingering unease -- or growing impatience -- and he surely yearns to be the player the 49ers believed they were getting when they drafted him 10th overall in 2009.

Though he avoids lofty rhetoric or grand prognostications, there is reason to believe 2012 is the year we all find out what kind of player the Dallas native can be.

"I'm just feeling good, man," Crabtree said after a recent practice. "It's been a while. It just feels good not to have to go through so many warmups, putting on a bunch of wraps and (ointments) just to go out and play."

Crabtree pauses and gazes toward his feet. His left foot has undergone two surgeries and is pain-free. He says it hasn't felt this good since he was a college freshman in 2007, when

It's numbers like that which had people anticipating someone who could pick up the torch transferred from Jerry Rice to Terrell Owens but abandoned since T.O. left after the 2003 season.

Crabtree has not been a bust. His career numbers (40 starts, 175 catches, 2,240 yards, 12 touchdowns) through three seasons compare favorably with those of such illustrious wideouts as Michael Irvin and Cris Carter.

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