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“It’s an injury. Nobody wants it to happen no matter who it is,” Kaepernick said.

Kaepernick’s fourth-down throw into the end zone in the closing moments sailed over Crabtree. Harbaugh and the 49ers argued that Crabtree got held, bumped by cornerback Jimmy Smith with safety Ed Reed trailing the play.

Crabtree also had five TDs and 30 catches on third-down plays last season _ both stats among the top five in the NFL.

Kaepernick offered an easy explanation as to why they clicked so well: “He got open.”

He has bounced back the past two seasons from several injuries.

After a 71-day contract stalemate as a rookie, Crabtree was sidelined during the 2010 preseason with a neck injury. Again a year later he was out with a broken foot sustained while working out in Alex Smith-organized practices during the NFL lockout.

In 2011, Crabtree led the team in catches (72) and yards receiving (874), but San Francisco came up short of a Super Bowl.

While he had four catches for 25 yards and a 4-yard touchdown reception in a 36-32 victory against Drew Brees and the favored Saints in the NFC divisional playoffs, it was the NFC championship game Crabtree remembers as a most disappointing day.

San Francisco’s receivers had just one catch for 3 yards _ yes, it was by him _ and Crabtree was targeted four times in a 20-17 overtime loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

Crabtree said that performance helped fuel him last year.

“Obviously he’s a great player, he’s done a lot for this team,” Kaepernick said. “We just have to have someone step up. He’s not happy about it, he’s just trying to get healthy now. Crab’s going to work, he’s going to be back.”

Notes: The 49ers signed fourth-round draft pick WR Quinton Patton to a four-year contract. … The team also claimed tight end/long snapper Kyle Nelson off of waivers from the San Diego Chargers and waived P Anthony Santella. … Also gone Wednesday were S Darcel McBath, who Harbaugh said was ill; LT Joe Staley, C Jonathan Goodwin, CB Tarell Brown and LB NaVorro Bowman.

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