Leading receiver Michael Crabtree became the second devastating loss for the San Francisco 49ers in 2013.
The Super Bowl runner-up in February, the 49ers could be without Crabtree for most or all of the 2013 season. He was injured during organized team activities (OTAs) Tuesday and was likely to undergo surgery that could put him on the shelf late into the regular season, if not the entire season. Estimates Wednesday from doctors were that he'd miss at least six months, leaving open the possibility he could be placed on the physically unable to perform list to start the season with an eye on an improbable late-season return.
The 25-year-old former first-round pick caught 20 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs and set career-best marks with 1,105 yards, nine touchdowns and 85 receptions in the regular season.
Two defensive players, Terrell Suggs of the Super Bowl champion Ravens and Buccaneers' defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers, were able to return last season from springtime Achilles tears.
The difference in stress and strain placed on the lower body at the wide receiver position, and Crabtree and the 49ers not wanting to risk his promising long-term future, could combine to rule out him returning in 2013.
Without him, the 49ers are counting on new faces and the re-emergence of former All-Pro tight end Vernon Davis. Davis caught only 12 passes in Colin Kaepernick's seven regular-season starts in 2012.
The 49ers acquired wide receiver Anquan Boldin from Baltimore for a sixth-round pick and coach Jim Harbaugh said in March the team has higher expectations for 2012 first-round pick AJ Jenkins. Jenkins added noticeable mass in the offseason, and is just shy of 200 pounds. He was a speed threat at Illinois but dropped the only pass intended for him as a rookie.
A 2013 draft pick, Quinton Patton, could also play a role if Harbaugh's praise based on practice sessions is still warranted based on what Patton brings to the field in August and September.
Mario Manningham, signed as a free agent in 2012, was the team's second-leading receiver with 42 receptions for 449 yards and one touchdown but the 26-year-old is coming back from reconstructive knee surgery and might not participate in on-field workouts until August or September. Manningham tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in December.
The 49ers didn't re-sign Randy Moss, who remains unsigned after catching 28 passes for 434 yards in 2012.