Crabtree, who tore his Achilles in May, has been cleared to begin practicing, the 49ers announced Tuesday. Now that he's reached this stage, a 21-day window for the team either to activate him or shelve him for the season is in effect.
If Crabtree doesn't have a setback, he should be ready for the final five games of the regular season and a playoff run for the 49ers (6-2), who have won five straight games. The rival Seattle Seahawks are atop the NFC West at 8-1.
Crabtree has been progressing well in workouts at the team's facility and coaches have expressed strong hope that he will make an impactful return. The 49ers desperately need Crabtree because there has been virtually no production at receiver beyond Anquan Boldin. The team will get some relief this week in the form of Mario Manningham, who was activated Monday for the first time since surging a knee injury last December.
Crabtree's impact, though, would be felt the greatest. He was targeted on 34.5 percent of the 49ers' offense plays last season.