SANTA CLARA, Calif. — From one former Michigan man to another, Jim Harbaugh is asking Braylon Edwards to grow up and be accountable for his actions. Like they were taught in Ann Arbor.
Edwards is asking for a chance to contribute with the 49ers under Harbaugh.
San Francisco signed the wideout to a $3.5 million, one-year contract Thursday, and he joined his new team on the practice field for the first time – albeit a little late and wearing No. 81, the number formerly worn by Terrell Owens.
“Listen here, that number’s temporary,” declared Edwards, who has worn No. 17. “I’m not trying to be known as the next him.”
The Niners announced the acquisition of Edwards shortly after practice began, then he emerged from the locker room less than an hour into the workout to join newly signed quarterback Alex Smith and the others.
“Pretty crazy in the middle of practice to see him run out and jump in there,” Smith said. “It’s just another addition to a strange year. It’s great to see him. He’s a great player. The more he can add to this team the better.”
The 49ers will certainly count on the veteran receiver to make an immediate contribution for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning record or reached the playoffs since 2002.
And they’re counting on him staying out of trouble, too.
“He’s hit some potholes,” Harbaugh said. “You don’t want that to spiral any further down. It’s kind of time to start doing all the little things right, that he knows of and he’s capable of. He’s a good guy.”
A Cleveland judge spared Edwards jail time last month, but extended his Ohio probation by one year for violating terms by driving drunk in New York City last September.
In January 2010, he pleaded no contest there to aggravated disorderly conduct after being accused of punching a friend of NBA star LeBron James.
While on his 18-month probation from the Cleveland case, Edwards was charged with driving while intoxicated in his Land Rover in Manhattan in September 2010. Police said his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit.
He also has been linked to a bar fight in Michigan on Monday night, though Edwards didn’t want to go into details of what transpired, saying, “At the end of the day that situation will take care of itself.”
Edwards was asked if he expects to face a suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell stemming from his run-ins with the law off the field. The two had yet to speak.
“I don’t know what his ruling will be on the situation,” Edwards said. “If there is one, then I respect it and I will gladly take it, and once it’s over with move forward and look to help this team be good this year.”
The 49ers liked his size: 6-foot-3, 214 pounds.
Michael Crabtree is sidelined at the start of training camp for the third straight year, nursing a left foot injury sustained during offseason workouts that has him sporting a walking boot. Crabtree has yet to live up to the hype around him after he was drafted 10th overall in 2009 out of Texas Tech. After a 71-day stalemate between Crabtree and the team, he agreed to a six-year deal with $17 million guaranteed.
Crabtree had 55 catches for six touchdowns and 741 yards last season. Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn Jr. are the two other regulars back from 2010, though neither has demonstrated the ability to carry the offense and consistently take pressure off running back Frank Gore.
“It’s official,” Edwards said. “We have moved to the bay. I’m a proud member of the San Francisco 49ers.”
The 28-year-old Edwards made 53 receptions for 904 yards and seven touchdowns last season in his second year with the New York Jets. He spent his first five NFL seasons with Cleveland, making the Pro Bowl in 2007.
He began talking to the 49ers on Monday, then visited team headquarters Wednesday.
“It just seemed like a good change of scenery. I’ve known Coach Harbaugh pretty much my whole life,” Edwards said.
“I think I’ve put myself in some situations I’m to blame for and coming out here is a good, fresh start to get clean personally with people that I trust and with a team that’s supporting me through what they know I’m going through,” he said.
“When he played there and when I played there, we were taught how to be accountable, responsible, to know right from wrong. That’s what I want to get back to, being the guy that can be accountable, that can be respected and who can be put in a position to thrive here and be a responsible guy for this organization.”
Safety Donte Whitner also said on Twitter that he has joined San Francisco, then sent a tweet to Edwards.
“Bray I signed there today also…let’s get a RING!”
The 26-year-old Whitner, the eighth overall pick out of Ohio State in 2006, ranked fifth in the NFL with 140 tackles last season for Buffalo and also had one forced fumble, an interception and half a sack. He apparently had been close to signing with the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the addition of Edwards, the Niners now have the No. 1 (Smith), No. 3 (Edwards) and No. 9 (cornerback Carlos Rogers) overall picks from the ’05 draft.
Second-year safety Taylor Mays, a second-round draft pick out of Southern California last year, was on the field for practice amid reports the 49ers are reaching out to teams across the league in an effort to trade him.
Harbaugh acknowledged the 49ers have received inquiries about Mays over the past eight days.
Harbaugh said general manager Trent Baalke spoke to Mays.
“Taylor’s a 49er,” Harbaugh said. “There have been inquiries over the last eight days, enough to the point where you say, ‘Let’s check it out.’ That’s where we’re at.”