SANTA CLARA, Calif. — 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is less optimistic about wide receiver Braylon Edwards returning from right knee surgery Sunday against his former Cleveland team.
Edwards practiced Tuesday for the first time since his injury early in the game Sept. 18 against Dallas, the lone loss for San Francisco (5-1) so far. While he looked to be running and cutting well during the short portion of the workout open to the media, Harbaugh said Wednesday there still needs to be "more evaluation" of Edwards this week to determine his status for Sunday.
"I'm not as confident as I was or as optimistic as I was the other day," Harbaugh said. "It will be determined over the next couple days."
Edwards was back on the practice field Wednesday running routes and catching passes from quarterback Alex Smith and certainly appeared to be full strength. Smith threw to Edwards some during the bye week, too.
Could this be a little gamesmanship on Harbaugh's part to keep the Browns' "salty" defense — as he refers to it — guessing ahead of the game? You never know with the Niners' first-year coach, who insists he needs no friends across the league but only those within team headquarters and the players he goes to work with every Sunday.
Cleveland native and San Francisco safety Donte Whitner figures Edwards will do all he can to get on the field Sunday at Candlestick Park.
"I hope he does. I think he will," Whitner said. "I'm sure he'll be pretty fired up to play against those guys, and I would be too if I used to play for them."
Harbaugh said several other injured players he hoped to have back also remain question marks for Sunday, including right guard Adam Snyder (right shoulder stinger), linebacker Parys Haralson (hamstring) and cornerback Tramaine Brock (broken left hand).
"I might have been a little overly optimistic in general about the guys who may be back for this ballgame," Harbaugh said. "We'll assess it and sort of take it day by day. I might have been overly optimistic how far along some of the fellas were. ... The guys are going through something right now and they're working through it."
Edwards spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Browns, making the Pro Bowl in 2007, before playing the past two with the New York Jets.
The 49ers are eager to get him back for his big-play ability, especially after losing Joshua Morgan to a season-ending leg injury Oct. 9 against Tampa Bay. Morgan underwent surgery to have pins inserted in a broken bone in his lower right leg.
"You hope to get him back but who knows," Smith said of Edwards. "It'll be a little adjustment. He's out for a few weeks coming back."
The 28-year-old Edwards received a $3.5 million, one-year contract in August, giving him a fresh start out West in the West Coast offense run by Harbaugh, another Michigan man who challenged Edwards to take responsibility for his actions at last.
He made 53 receptions for 904 yards and seven touchdowns last season for the Jets and was determined to build on that with his new team. Until the injury delayed his progress.
Edwards, the No. 3 pick in the 2005 draft who has four catches for 48 yards this year, had his share of legal run-ins as well as successes during his tenure with the Browns. His father, Stan, has said he never felt his son was embraced by the Cleveland fans because of his Michigan ties.
A Cleveland judge spared Edwards jail time in July but extended his Ohio probation by one year for violating terms by driving drunk in New York City in September 2010.
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.
Fullback Moran Norris, who had been expected back to practice this week, wasn't in uniform as he continues to heal from a broken left fibula.