If it was George Kittle’s decision, he never would sit out of a 49ers game.
The All-Pro tight end missed Week 2 and 3 matchups with a knee sprain. Kittle is known for agreeing with coach Kyle Shanahan on just about everything, but this was one topic where they did not come eye-to-eye.
“I feel like I can always play,” Kittle said. “I felt like I could have played against the Jets but that’s just me. A couple things went into me not playing. A conversation with coach Shanahan, we disagreed. [Playing] just wasn’t the best decision.”
The 49ers’ player performance staff has the difficult job of protecting players from themselves. When players are recovering from an injury they have been very cautious about returns, making sure players are not overworked and can return healthy without an increased risk of re-injury.
Shanahan obviously has the final say on who suits up on Sundays and seeing the big picture goes into his decision-making process. Having a star player like Kittle available later in the season and potentially the playoffs is much more crucial than having him play in Weeks 2 and 3.
“I wasn’t all the way back yet and it’s a long season,” Kittle said. “I think if it would have been later in the season I would have definitely gone.”
Watching a game he could be playing in is always a challenge for Kittle. Even after he suffered a knee sprain in Week 1, he stayed in the game, even though he was not targeted. His mentality makes him an important leader in the locker room, but also makes missing a game that much harder.
Kittle shared that one thing that made watching the game from the sidelines more tolerable was standing next to Jimmy Garoppolo, who was wearing a headset. As the quarterback heard the play call, he would share it with Kittle who then could feel a little more “involved” in the game.
“My teammates made it a lot easier,” Kittle said. “They picked me up. But now I’m here and I get to play on Sunday Night Football against the Eagles. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
After the afternoon NFL games end Sunday, go to NBC Sports Bay Area at 4 p.m. PT for "49ers Pregame Live," as Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams, Matt Maiocco and Grant Liffmann preview the "Sunday Night Football" matchup against the Eagles. Then, after the game, come back for "49ers Postgame Live," with highlights, analysis, interviews and more.