Why Michael Crabtree's presence matters

San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree missed nearly one-third of his NFL rookie season during a contract dispute.

No one can accuse Crabtree of holding out from player-organized practices this offseason after the third-year wideout showed up with teammates Monday.

Crabtree reported to the 49ers two seasons ago with the mindset of a veteran. The comments he made Monday -- that he saw no reason to show up earlier, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee -- were consistent with that mindset.

The problem, if there was one, lied in the fact that Crabtree could use the work as quarterback Alex Smith leads sessions designed to teach the team's new offense. Anything Smith and Crabtree can do to improve their rapport would help all parties. Whether or not these informal sessions help a great deal remains unclear, but if the 49ers are going to hold them, Crabtree might as well attend.

Perceptions should matter to Crabtree because they'll frame whatever difficulties he has in the future. Dropped passes and missed assignments are going to happen, but if it appears a receiver could have done more to prepare during the offseason, he'll hear about it. Perceptions can also influence the types of contracts players get in the future.

Crabtree's talent is obvious. He caught six touchdown passes last season. He also struggled some. By my count, Crabtree dropped nine passes, including six from Smith and three on third down. Opponents picked off two of the drops, one from Alex Smith and one from Troy Smith. Some of the throws were tough to handle, but an NFL receiver should have made them, in my judgment (and coaches tend to be tougher graders).

The more time Crabtree spends catching passes from Smith or any 49ers quarterback, the better off the team will be.