SANTA CLARA, Calif. >> Braylon Edwards regularly lures quarterback Alex Smith back onto the field for some extra work, a few more throws to make sure they’re clicking and on cue. Same goes for study sessions in the film room.
They do it after practice, even on days off.
In the short time since Edwards joined the San Francisco 49ers, he has shown a commitment to his new team and a much-needed second chance out West with a fellow Michigan man calling the shots: Jim Harbaugh. Edwards hopes to develop the best possible chemistry with Smith so he can return to the dynamic play-making receiver he has been in the past.
He plans to stay out of trouble in the process.
“I’m trying just to be a team guy, fit in, do the things necessary to help this team succeed,” Edwards said Tuesday. “I feel like I’ve done that behind the scenes and I will continue doing so.”
He recently switched back to his old No. 17 jersey after wearing Terrell Owens’ former No. 81 during training camp.
While Edwards might not start Sunday’s season opener against defending NFC West champion Seattle, he should take on a big role as he begins his seventh NFL season.
So far, there have been no signs of the player who found trouble during a tumultuous two-year tenure with the New York Jets. Harbaugh hopes it stays that way for someone he has watched grow up thanks to their Ann Arbor connection.
The 28-year-old Edwards received a $3.5 million, one-year contract last month, giving San Francisco the strong, athletic wideout they sought to fit into Harbaugh’s West Coast offense.
The Niners love his size.
Edwards is 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds. He demonstrated his athleticism with a pretty one-handed catch along the sideline in a 17-3 exhibition win over the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 20.
“He brings a lot to us,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “He’s a big-time playmaker. He has that ability to really do that, especially in one-on-one battles.”
Harbaugh made it clear when Edwards arrived that it was time for him to finally grow up and take responsibility for his behavior and his play.
The well-mannered Edwards goes about his business without bringing any added attention to himself, something his teammates appreciate.
“You can tell he loves what he does and that he’s serious about the game,” running back Frank Gore said. “I like any guy who approaches the game like he loves it, and that’s what he does. I’m happy he’s part of the Niners.”
Polite and polished, Edwards hardly seems like someone with several legal run-ins.
A Cleveland judge spared him jail time in July 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 in Cleveland 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 was linked to a bar fight in Michigan last month, but the 49ers said Tuesday they had been informed by the league that there would be no disciplinary action taken against Edwards.
Edwards is working each day to do right.
“More so just enjoying for right now, not looking too much into the future,” Edwards said. “I’m just enjoying it day to day, week to week. I think that’s all you can do. For right now it feels good to have a fresh start.”
Edwards’ new teammates and coaches don’t seem too concerned about any past problems as long as he continues to exhibit the same focus and work ethic.
Edwards could emerge as a big-play threat and carry the load early considering Michael Crabtree remains behind after missing training camp with a broken left foot that required surgery.
Crabtree, sidelined for the third straight preseason after sustaining the broken foot in a Smith-led June workout, said he hadn’t been told if he would play Sunday.
Is he ready?
“Yeah, I should be,” he said.
Smith has certainly appreciated Edwards’ initiative.
“Crucial, trying to make up for lost time,” Smith said. “Really trying to do something every day, trying to take a step every day. It might not be something huge but just little things every day, staying on top of it, whether it’s in the film room or out on the field or just communicating. Those are things I think eventually add up.”
This isn’t the first time Edwards has started over. He was traded to the Jets from the Browns during the 2009 season and shone until the DWI charge.
Edwards hopes to put all that in the past for good.
“Braylon has been great. Braylon brings a lot to the team, brings a lot to the group,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “I really enjoy his presence. He’s a competitive guy that just wants to win. The more of those guys we can have, the better. He could be a difference-maker. As he keeps improving and working into the offense, it’s just like anybody else, his role will expand.”
Notes: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio expected CB Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) and S Reggie Smith — recovering from recent surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee — to return to practice. … San Francisco signed LB Tavares Gooden to a one-year deal to be a backup inside linebacker to All-Pro Patrick Willis and provide a regular presence on special teams. “We felt he would be an upgrade in special teams for us,” Fangio said. To make room on the roster, the Niners released linebacker Antwan Applewhite. Fangio was Gooden’s position coach in Baltimore from 2008-09.