Kaepernick credits both of his star wideouts for returning to their former explosive selves so soon. Such compliments go a long way.
"It's important when it comes from your teammates," Manningham said. "I know I can get better, everybody can always get better. I'm trying to take it step by step and do what I can do to make my team look better. I'm practicing like I'm playing, just trying to make plays and come out with a 'W.'"
At the start of practice, the first full session for Crabtree since he was medically cleared Tuesday, he planted hard with his healthy right foot to cut inside on a short route. Between drills, he shuffled his feet in a little jive as Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." blared from the sound system.
Crabtree has been doing speed work for a few weeks.
"I really just want to get back out there. They really have to calm me down. I was the first person out there today stretching for no reason," he said. "When I come back I'll let you know if it's stronger. Right now I'm just trying to get going."
Harbaugh wandered over for a glimpse of the receivers doing their position work. He will be among those to keep Crabtree on task so he doesn't try to do too much too soon.
"Good to have him back, 15 reporting eligible," Harbaugh said earlier, referencing Crabtree's uniform number. "Everybody kind of watches out of the corner of their eyes doing their drills. It's neat to see any player who comes back from a serious injury, understanding the grueling rehab that's taken place, the mental toughness grinding through those rehab sessions. ... He'll be on a pitch count."
Just imagine what San Francisco's 32nd-ranked passing game might look like down the stretch with these two back in the offensive mix for Kaepernick to complement Anquan Boldin. Suddenly, San Francisco's players will allow themselves to think about the added big-play potential for a unit already on a nice roll and riding a five-game winning streak in which the team has scored at least 30 points in each victory.
"It'll be crazy," running back Frank Gore said. "Looking back the way guys were playing, especially with Kap and Crab on the field last year and how they were so used to breaking a lot of plays down the field, the running game will be getting easier. That's big for the team. A lot of teams are playing us with a lot of people in the box. With those guys back out there making plays, with the people who are already making plays — Vernon (Davis), Anquan Boldin, adding Crab, Mario, that's big."
Before his injury last December, Manningham had 42 receptions for 449 yards and one touchdown in 12 games and 10 starts. He injured his left knee in a loss at Seattle Dec. 23 then underwent reconstructive surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligaments.
Crabtree, the team's 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Texas Tech, established career highs last season with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. Then Crabtree sustained the injury during 7-on-7 drills in an organized team activity May 21.