George Kittle is back for an injury-plagued San Francisco 49ers team at the right time.
Kittle, an All-Pro and arguably the NFL’s top tight end, missed two games with a knee injury. Now, Kittle is healthy and expected to start for the 49ers in Week 4.
How confident should the San Francisco 49ers be feeling about Kittle’s return? Don’t be surprised to see Kittle’s optimism and positive outlook spread like osmosis, even as the 49ers are barely hanging afloat.
George Kittle is arguably the NFL’s best tight end
It is hard to believe George Kittle is only in his fourth NFL season, considering how dominant the former fifth-round pick has been over the last few years.
After turning 43 catches into 515 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie in 2017, Kittle broke out in a big way the next year. Kittle earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors in 2018, when he caught 88 passes for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns.
The 1,377 receiving yards are the most by a tight end in one NFL season.
Last year, Kittle caught 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games; the excellent performance earned him Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors. Kittle also caught eight passes for 71 yards in the 49ers’ three playoff games.
Kansas City held Kittle to four catches for 36 yards in Super Bowl 54, a Chiefs victory.
Kittle missed two weeks with an injury
George Kittle opened the 2020 season in normal form, snagging four catches for 44 yards and adding a 9-yard rush in Week 1. San Francisco lost, 24-20, to Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals at home.
The 49ers got bad news when Kittle, who played 98% of the 49ers’ offensive snaps, suffered a knee sprain.
San Francisco kept Kittle — who said he could have played — out of its next two games, road victories against the New York Jets and Giants.
Jordan Reed, who filled in for an injured Kittle, suffered a knee sprain and will miss several weeks. Reed had an ugly collision with the MetLife Stadium wall against the Giants in Week 3.
George Kittle is eager to ‘let it loose’ in his return
George Kittle is healthy and ready to go when the San Francisco 49ers host Carson Wentz and the Eagles in Week 4.
Kittle, who caught two passes for 22 yards against the Eagles in 2017, met with reporters this week and shared his optimism about playing. According to ESPN, Kittle intends to “let it loose” once he hits the field and adjusts to playing again.
“And once you get over that hump and you know you’re gonna be back and you’re gonna be fine, it makes it a lot easier. So, definitely my teammates made it a lot easier, they picked me up and they got two wins. I’m just looking forward to contributing and helping the team this week.”
The 49ers’ offense will look a bit different for Kittle in Week 4 than it looked when the season opened Sept. 13. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is considered questionable for the game with a high-ankle sprain.
If Garoppolo cannot go, backup Nick Mullens will make his second straight start. Kittle caught 51 passes for 793 yards and three touchdowns in Mullens’ eight starts in 2018.
That stretch included a seven-catch, 210-yard game against the Broncos on Dec. 9, 2018.