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49ers expect Kittle to play against Cardinals this Saturday

NBC Sports

George Kittle has cleared every hurdle in practices the past two weeks and is on pace to return to action this weekend.

Coach Kyle Shanahan on Thursday said he expects Kittle to play in the 49ers' Week 16 game Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals.

"He looked great this week," Shanahan said. "I just talked to him, he said he felt good here after practice, so I'm expecting him to go."

Shanahan said he does not expect Kittle to play his usual high workload. The 49ers will have to activate him off injured reserve by Friday afternoon so he will be eligible to play.

Kittle missed the past six games after sustaining a fractured cuboid bone in his foot in the 49ers' Week 8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 1.

"He's probably one of the healthiest guys we have right now -- the freshest," Shanahan said. "He had two good weeks of practice, and he feels great after it. We wouldn't put him out at all if there was any risk of reinjuring this or he wasn't healed.

"If they're healthy enough to do it, that's what you do on our team."

Kittle, who was chosen as a first-team All-Pro in 2019, has appeared in just six games this season. He has 37 receptions for 474 yards and two touchdowns. He also is a key contributor to the 49ers' running game as a blocker.

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Kittle recently shared with NBC Sports Bay Area what he learned about the cuboid bone.

“All I ever really learned was that it’s the hardest bone in your foot to break, and you basically have to do it intentionally or in a car accident,” Kittle said. “So I don’t know if that means I’m unlucky or if I need to slow down every once in a while.

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The 49ers' decision to get Kittle back on the field comes with risks. The 49ers (5-9) were eliminated from playoff contention this week.

This season, several players on the team -- such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Deebo Samuel and Richie James -- have missed time and returned to action only to sustain additional injuries.