George Kittle does not believe there was anything improper about the hit from Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker that resulted in Kittle's left knee sprain in the season-opener.
Kittle, the 49ers’ All-Pro tight end, did not travel with his teammates for the Week 2 game against the New York Jets, as he remained in the Bay Area for rehabilitation.
Kittle has since rejoined the team and gone through limited practices in West Virginia, where the team is preparing for the upcoming game against the New York Giants.
Kittle was injured just before the end of the first half on Sept. 13, when Baker hit him just as Kittle was landing after jumping for a high throw from Jimmy Garoppolo. Kittle remained in the game and missed only one offensive snap.
Kittle said Baker checked in with him regularly over the course of the week to check on his condition.
“I talked to him Sunday after the game and Monday, really the whole week,” Kittle said. “Hey, it’s football. He’s going to hit me low. That’s football. It’s a hit. There’s no intent in it. He’s just trying to tackle me, bring me down.
“He was the first person to ask if I was OK. He apologized for the hit. Like I said, it’s football. I get hit all the time. That’s what it is. That’s what you sign up for when you play the game.”
Kittle said he had no problem with Baker’s actions during the play on which he was injured.
“It was a clean hit,” Kittle said. “It’s football. If he tried to take it easy on me, I’d give him crap for that. I’m glad he didn’t.”
In the days after the Cardinals’ season-opening victory over the 49ers, Baker shared a message he received from a purported fan of the 49ers that included racial slurs. The 49ers announced they were trying to identify the fan and would ban the person from all future games and team events.
Baker and Kittle have developed one of the top NFC West head-to-head rivalries that is built on each player’s tenacity, as well as a mutual respect.
“He’s a hell of a player, and he plays at a Pro Bowl, All-Pro level every single week,” Kittle said. “He had 15 tackles against us. That’s a pretty big deal as a starting safety.
"He’s an incredible player and he was just making a football play and, unfortunately, it was an awkward hit and it is what it is and we both move on.”