INDIANAPOLIS - Michael Crabtree had been considered the top wide receiver in the 2009 draft. The former Texas Tech player has decided to delay foot surgery until after his March 26 workout.
Crabtree, according to a source, has the beginning stages of a stress fracture in his left foot that will require a screw to be surgically inserted to stabilize that area of the foot. He will put off the surgery until after his pro-timing day in March.
The fracture was discovered during a bone scan conducted Friday during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The scan revealed a slight crack in the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot.
"It's not a career-ending injury or anything like that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He's a good football player, and he's got plenty of time to get well."
NFL officials would not immediately confirm details of the injury or the surgery, though coaches were told about it during Saturday's first drills. The fracture is so slight he could opt not to have surgery, but there is the possibility the crack would get worse if he doesn't get the screw inserted. Recovery time is expected to be 6-10 weeks.
All of the roughly 330 players at the Combine spend their first day getting measured and going through medical checks. Those with additional questions are often sent to a nearby hospital for further examination.
Crabtree, who suffered a right ankle injury late last season that had not completely healed, was not planning to run at the Combine, preferring to wait until his pro-timing day in March. If he gets a good time next month, in the 4.5 second range, he will remain a top-five pick in April's draft.
"It's just part of the process. You can't worry about it, that is just the way it is," Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said. "This is unfortunate for him. The combine is great, but you watch tape and watch players perform on tape. That's really the top evaluation."
Crabtree won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver each of the two years he played for the Red Raiders and became the first repeat winner since it was established in 1994. He also earned All-America honors the past two seasons.
As a freshman, Crabtree caught 134 passes for 1,962 yards and 22 TDs , all national bests and NCAA freshman records.
Last season, he caught another 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns despite being slowed by the ankle injury. The injury, his father told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in January, had already raised questions about Crabtree's durability.
In 2008, Jonathan Stewart, a first-round talent, ran at the Combine despite a bad turf toe. The injury didn't get better and the running back out of Oregon required surgery. Despite the surgery, and not being healthy for teams around draft time, he went in the first round to the Carolina Panthers.
If Crabtree's stock drops, receivers such as Florida's Percy Harvin and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin could move up. That's not how Harvin wanted to move up draft boards."I'm a competitor. I don't worry about Crabtree or Maclin or any of them," Harvin said Saturday. "I'm going to go in with the best and just line up and see what we can do."
Crabtree's former teammates in Indy were disappointed for their friend, but believe Crabtree will be fine."I know he'll get through it because he's a strong athlete," Texas Tech defensive end Brandon Williams said. "I know he'll take care of business."