A.J. Jenkins' time is now.
Following Sunday's season-ending knee injury to Mario Manningham, the 49ers' first-round pick finally figures to be a part of a game plan. He's been active three times this season, but has yet to catch a pass, while sitting behind the team's veteran stable of receivers.
Jenkins has quietly gone about his business, trying to soak up as much as possible in both practice and from the sideline during games.
"Obviously going through my whole career, I've never had to sit out," Jenkins said. "This is my first time doing it. It's different. You never really saw the game from the sideline. Now is my opportunity to play, so I have to be ready for it."
It may not take a standout effort from Jenkins this week as the team hosts lowly Arizona (5-10), but it'll need some production from him during the playoffs to help offset the loss of Manningham, which came just weeks after fellow receiver Kyle Williams was also lost for the year with a torn ACL.
"I know everyone is making it a big deal," Jenkins said. "I'm going to be catching my first pass and everything and going to go out there and play football and do what I do best."
In his senior year at Illinois, Jenkins caught 90 passes for 1,276 yards -- over 1,000 more yards than the Illini's second-leading receiver - but there hadn't been the need to thrust Jenkins into the rotation so far this season.
"Some players get thrown into that fire and aren't ready. Some players can wait and then go out and have a great career," Jenkins said. "I'm willing to learn from Randy Moss and (Michael) Crabtree all this time. I'm not really looking at it like 'I haven't played, I'm not good.' I'm learning from the best in the game. I'm cool with that."
He'd be cool with contributing in a game too, and coach Jim Harbaugh is confident the rookie can do just that.
"A.J. will step up," Harbaugh said. "We'll look at a couple other options there at receiver. But, that group will have to step up."
Harbaugh indicated the team would likely promote a player from the practice squad to fill Manningham's spot on the 53-man roster. Common sense would indicate the two most likely candidates are Ricardo Lockette or Chad Hall, a pair of receivers.
Hall said that had been communicated to them as well.
"They told Ricardo and I to be ready," Hall said. "It's probably one of ya'll that's going to be up this week. They've definitely hinted at it, but you just take it like I do every other week and prepare the same and always be ready."
Both Hall (Philadelphia) and Lockette (Seattle) have seen time on active rosters.
"We'll give (them) a real good look this week," Harbaugh said.