George Kittle might have a little constructive criticism for 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance but ultimately, he wants whoever is under center to thrive.
On Wednesday, Lance’s only incompletion during team drills was a deep pass to Kittle. The All-Pro tight end joked that he would have had a better chance if the rookie would have put a little more mustard on the ball.
“He’s got a great touch with those downfield passes,” Kittle said after practice. “Trey’s just got to throw it out there. I do play tight end but I feel like I’m decently fast.”
While the North Dakota State product has been wowing fans and media alike, inside the locker room, it is simply whoever gives the team the best chance to win. As a rookie, Lance is still learning the intricacies of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s playbook.
Kittle is a realist recalling the challenges of his own debut season and how much the game has changed in his eyes since then. The fifth-year tight end hedged his bet, however, hoping that Lance defies the odds, maximizing his opportunities.
“When I was a rookie I was pretty bad,” Kittle said. “I made a lot of mistakes. The game goes faster than you think it does. When you practice it’s one thing. When you get on a field and compete against other people it’s a totally different speed.
“I know he’s going to need reps before anything happens -- or he could prove me completely wrong and just whenever he gets a chance, he could go out there and be the best football player on the field which is what I hope happens. I hope he plays at an incredibly high level.”
Kittle reports that the No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft is a student of the game, watching extra film and spending time absorbing everything he can from Shanahan. The more time that Lance has in the system, the more confident he will become and the tight end has seen the progress.
When asked if he had seen things from Lance that exemplified he is ready to be considered competing for the starting role, Kittle was very diplomatic, as expected.
“He’s got confidence because he’s a hell of a football player,” Kittle said. “He’s obviously still a rookie. There’s timing things he needs to figure out but he’s definitely making progress. Do I think that he would go out there and play at a high level? Yes, I’m going to believe in all my teammates.
“I think no matter what quarterback we put in they are going to play at a high level.”