SANTA CLARA, California — The last time San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle played against the Denver Broncos in the regular season, he had the most productive day of his NFL career. That means Kittle’s return from the groin injury that kept him sidelined for the first two weeks of this season couldn’t come at a better time.
Yes, Kittle will make his season debut against the Broncos on Sunday night, coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed Friday afternoon.
“He’s ready to go,” Shanahan said. “I thought he was getting better every day. He means a ton in both [the run and pass game]. Kittle has been one of our better players over the years when he’s there. We need to get him back into football form just because he hasn’t played for a while, but he’s helping us in every facet.”
Kittle got through the practice week without a hitch, taking limited part in the first two sessions and continuing through the entire Friday. He has no injury designation on Friday’s injury report.
“I’m pretty happy,” Kittle said Thursday. “Just got some fresh air, honestly. It feels great to be with the boys on the football pitch again. I love our executive staff. They’re doing a fantastic job getting us back together, but I’d be fine with that.” don’t really like to see them for the rest of the season. So, just really happy to be back there catching the football, actually putting pads on, hitting people.”
Kittle initially suffered a groin injury on September 5, a “bonus” drill the Niners had before the season opener against the Chicago Bears. He did not play against the Seattle Seahawks that week or last week, although he first entered practice on September 16.
With Kittle back, Niner’s quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo marks his full complement of pass catchers in his first start of the season after filling in for injured quarterback Trey Lance (broken right ankle). The Niners wouldn’t mind if Kittle reenacted his performance from the last time the Niners and Broncos met, on December 9, 2018.
In a 20-14 win in San Francisco, Kittle posted seven catches for 210 yards and a touchdown. All that damage came in the first half and Kittle was knocked out in the second half, putting him just short of Shannon Sharpe’s record for receiving yards with a tight end in a game (214).
Regardless of the opponent, Kittle is clearly excited to be back on the field, noting that he is “a little itchy” to return.
“But that’s what Sunday Night Football is for,” Kittle said. “Just go out and leave it all out there. It’ll be fun.”
One 49er who may not get on the field with Kittle on Sunday night is defensive lineman Arik Armstead. Armstead is battling a foot injury and while Shanahan said on Wednesday he expected him to be well, his status is up in the air. Armstead is officially listed as doubtful, but didn’t practice this week.
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