When news of Michael Crabtree's Achilles tendon tear first surfaced Wednesday, the immediate suspicion was that the San Francisco 49ers' top receiver would end up sitting out the entire 2013 NFL season.
Harbaugh confirmed that Crabtree has undergone surgery for a complete tear of his right tendon, according to Bay Area News Group.
Even as recently as a decade ago, a complete tear was a career-threaterning injury, especially for an offensive skill-position player. Surgical techniques and accelerated rehab schedules have advanced Achilles recoveries in recent years, as evidenced by Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas' Pro-Bowl caliber play over the past year and a half.
Thomas cautions, however, that expectations should be reeled in for a Crabtree contribution in 2013.
"It's a little difficult. You've just got to take your time," Thomas said Wednesday afternoon. "He's a great player, and I'm sure he's going to work hard to get back. But it's difficult at first, because it took a while for me to be able to do anything."
Thomas' mid-February surgery in 2011 gave him a three-month head-start on Crabtree. Thomas said he didn't feel 100 percent again until seven months after suffering the injury. He didn't become a significant factor again for the Broncos until close to the 10-month mark.
A similar timetable for Crabtree would keep him out of game action until Thanksgiving, with the likelihood of returning in a minor role for the remainder of the regular season as well as the playoffs. Crabtree sounded optimistic about such a return, tweeting: "I go hard for my friends family and fans, just felt like I let everybody down.. But I'll be back ready!! I promise! #yungcrab"
While Crabtree's injury is sobering news for the 49ers' 2013 Super Bowl outlook, they can take solace in the fact that Thomas hasn't missed a step since returning to the Broncos. In fact, he actually has improved, emerging as one of the NFL's most explosive post-catch wide receivers.
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.