SANTA CLARA — Considering the career season he produced a year ago, Michael Crabtree hesitates to say he is completely back to his former playmaking self only seven months after Achilles tendon surgery.
"I'm headed that direction," Crabtree said Thursday. "I don't really think about it, I just count my blessings and keep it going."
There's no arguing he has made big gains in his contributions each week in what has been a remarkable comeback the past four games with San Francisco.
After a rigorous recovery following the procedure to repair his torn right Achilles tendon in May, Crabtree realizes he could be far worse off if the injury didn't heal as well as it did. Things have gone about as smoothly as he could have imagined given the severity.
"I'm just blessed to be out there," he said. "I'm just out there playing, thankful to be back on the field."
It shows. He has returned to being the jokester with teammates in the locker room, where Crabtree participates in the occasional game of mini basketball with the guys while razzing anyone he can at every chance.
Crabtree, 26, has 16 catches for 255 yards and a touchdown, making five receptions in each of the past two games to help the Niners (11-4) run their winning streak to five heading into the final regular-season game Sunday at Arizona (10-5).
"Nothing surprises me with him. He's an amazing player, he works hard," quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. "We knew when he came back he'd be ready to play."
A man of few words completely by his own design, Crabtree has long let his outspoken teammates be more vocal for the franchise as he prefers to make any statements on the field. If San Francisco is going to return to the Super Bowl after coming so close last season, Crabtree will surely have an important hand in getting the 49ers there.
"When you add one of your best players back to the offense it's going to impact anybody," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.