SANTA CLARA – Mario Manningham sustained tears to two ligaments in his left knee on Dec. 23. Five months later, Michael Crabtree underwent surgery for a torn right Achilles tendon.
The top 49ers wide receivers from last season are on similar timetables to return to action this season for an offense that ranks No. 32 in the NFL in passing yards.
Manningham is expected to make his season debut on Sunday when the 49ers face the Carolina Panthers. Crabtree is on pace to join him on the playing field within weeks.
“It’s been a storm, just ups and downs, ever since we got hurt,” Manningham said after practice Wednesday.
“We talk to each other about a couple things. You know, (we’re) just trying to do what we got to do to put this team in position to be where we were at at the end of the year -- with different results.”
Manningham caught 42 passes for 449 yards and one touchdown last season but was not available to play in Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens.
Crabtree had a team-leading 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. The 49ers’ final three plays from the Baltimore 5-yard line were incomplete passes intended for Crabtree.
Manningham returned to practice three weeks ago and was activated to the 53-man roster on Monday. Crabtree is going through his first week of team workouts after being cleared to practice on Tuesday. He remains on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
“It was hard in the beginning,” Crabtree said of his injury, which occurred during organized team activities in May. “I just took it one day at a time trying to come back. The day I got hurt was the day I was (starting to try) to come back.”
Crabtree said he has been taking his rehabilitation one day at a time, rather than looking ahead with any particular target date in mind. Crabtree can be activated at any point within a 21-day window after he began practicing.
Crabtree was so eager to practice Wednesday that he was the first person on the field to begin stretching. He wore a blue jersey at practice, signifying that he is off-limits for any contact.
Crabtree said his first priority is to “get in a groove” with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and being “in tune” with the whole offense.
“Once I feel like I’m there, then I feel like I’ll be ready to play,” he said.
Meanwhile, Manningham said he is ready for game action. He said he expects his role against the Carolina will consist of “making plays.”
“I’m preparing like I’m playing,” he said.
Manningham said he has already gotten to the point that he is not worried about his surgically repaired knee.
“I’m trying to get loose, and going out there and just practicing instead of worrying about trusting this or trusting that,” he said. “The knee I had surgery on is better than the other one. So I’m not thinking about that when I’m out there.”