SANTA CLARA -- While Michael Crabtree recovered in a Stanford Hospital room after Wednesday's surgery on a torn Achilles, quarterback Colin Kaepernick searched for a new go-to receiver on the 49ers' practice field.
"We have a lot of talent out here, a lot of great players," Kaepernick said. "It's just: 'Who's going to step up and fill that role?' "
Coach Jim Harbaugh doesn't anticipate Crabtree being lost for the entire season. But the reigning NFC champions likely will be without Crabtree through at least October.
"The good news is, he woke up from the surgery and the first thing he asked doc was how it went," said Harbaugh, who visited Crabtree at the hospital before Wednesday's practice.
Crabtree completely tore his right Achilles while making a cut on a pass route during Tuesday's 7-on-7 drills, the first day of organized team activities.
When team doctor Tom McAdams told Crabtree the Achilles was completely repaired in Wednesday's surgery and that he likely won't miss the whole season, Crabtree showed the positive approach Harbaugh expected.
"His comment to that was, he's got no choice but to be back," Harbaugh said. "Every day now is a healing day, and that starts today."
A few hours after his surgery, Crabtree tweeted: "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."
A best-case-scenario blueprint came last season from Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who returned to action five months and six days after surgery for his Achilles tear. Using that timeline, Crabtree's return might work best Nov. 10, when the 49ers return from their bye week (and a preceding London trip) to host the Carolina Panthers.
Crabtree, 25, posted career-best statistics last year: 85 receptions, 1,105 yards, nine touchdowns. Then came a three-game playoff boon: 20 receptions for 285 yards and three touchdowns.
Kaepernick's favoritism toward Crabtree was evident at the end of the 49ers' 34-31 Super Bowl defeat, when Kaepernick's final three passes unsuccessfully targeted Crabtree inside the Baltimore Ravens' 5-yard line.
Both Kaepernick and Harbaugh said it's time for someone new to assert himself opposite veteran Anquan Boldin, who was acquired in a March trade with the Ravens.
Kyle Williams could be the roster's leading candidate if he continues to recover well from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered Nov. 25. Former starter Mario Manningham also is rehabbing a torn ACL, but he might not be ready for training camp after the severe Dec. 23 injury.
Younger options include A.J. Jenkins (2012 first-round draft pick), Marlon Moore (a free agent from the Miami Dolphins) Ricardo Lockette (2012 practice squad, Kaepernick's roommate), Chad Hall (2012 practice squad), Joe Hastings (2011 practice squad), Quinton Patton (2013 fourth-round pick) and Chuck Jacobs (undrafted rookie).
"The job we're competing for just happens to be one of the most important jobs on this team, and that's replacing the best receiver we had on the team," Lockette said. "We're not taking this lightly. Hopefully we can replace Crab and hold it down until he gets back."
Linebacker Patrick Willis was on the field when Crabtree went down after what Willis called a "simple, normal cut" during a 7-on-7 drill.
"Crab is one of those tough guys. He can get hit hard, and he'll bounce right back up," Willis said. "Yesterday he stayed down a little longer than normal. You say a little prayer and hope it wasn't as bad as it looked. Unfortunately it is."
Harbaugh refused to speculate about re-signing Randy Moss, a free agent who started all three playoff games but averaged less than two catches per game all of last season.