Michael Crabtree sat out for majority of the season with a torn Achilles tendon which he suffered back in May during OTAs. It didn't stop him from working hard and rehabbing throughout the whole six months before he made his 2013 season debut on December.
"As soon as I got hurt, [the doctor] told me [I would be out for] about five months," Crabtree said on Thursday. "I didn't want to tell anyone the dates, but I continued to work hard."
Throughout the whole rehab process, offensive coordinator Greg Roman admitted he had his doubts on any potential return for the fifth-year wide receiver. When he saw Crabtree pushing a sled in November rehabbing, he became optimistic about him.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh was grateful on how the wide receiver was able to recover quickly after the injury looked to be crucial. He was amazed at the healing process throughout the offseason and regular season leading up to this point.
"On a personal level [he was] able to go through the grueling rehab," Harbaugh said on Thursday. "[He] sat out for healing purposes. When he came back in every juncture, he hit in the middle of the strike-zone. [He had the] physical toughness and mental toughness as he got back on the field. It was really good for us [and I'm] thankful that he went through rehab."
Prior to Crabtree's return, it was a revolving door at who would be the No. 2 wide receiver behind Anquan Boldin. Only Vernon Davis and Boldin had touchdown receptions throughout the opening 12 weeks without Crabtree. Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton all spent time on the field, but none of them would be productive. Williams and Moore were both cut when other players returned from their injuries.
The 49ers also traded 2012 first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins to the Kansas City Chiefs for WR Jon Baldwin. After the swap, Baldwin was only able to muster three receptions before being an inactive WR for each game.
It wasn't until Week 13 on December 1 against the St. Louis Rams where he played in his first game of the season. His first catch of the year was an eight-yard reception which garnered applause from the crowd. He also made an impact with a 60-yard catch and run later in that game.
In seven games, including two in the postseason, Crabtree has 30 receptions for 435 receiving yards and one touchdown. He was the go-to guy against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional playoff round with 125 receiving yards.
Crabtree says he is "feeling good" since returning to the field and expects to keep helping the team throughout the rest of the postseason. Rehabbing his torn Achilles further motivated him to do well when he came back.
"You strive to be back on the field [again]," Crabtree said. "I feel like my instincts never leave [me]."