George Kittle has earned his crown as the NFL's best tight end. He broke the single-season receiving record for tight ends in 2018, and yet was even better overall last season.
Along with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, Kittle is the cream of the crop at his position. That doesn't mean he isn't excited to see an all-time great return to the game, though.
His feelings were the exact opposite actually when news broke Tuesday that Rob Gronkowski had un-retired and was traded from the New England Patriots to join Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I'm stoked," Kittle said to ESPN's Scott Van Pelt on Tuesday night. "Gronk was my favorite tight end watching, especially in college with how he dominated in the run game and made the explosive plays in the run game. I'm excited to see Gronk back on the football field because he's just such a blast to watch and it's just fun seeing him out there, really. Especially when it's with Tom in Tampa.
"Good for them. I think it's gonna be sick."
Gronkowski actually is a big fan of Kittle's as well. Prior to the 49ers and Chiefs squaring off in Super Bowl LIV last season, Gronk told The Athletic's Daniel Brown that he prefers Kittle over Kelce.
“Kittle, for sure,’’ Gronkowski told Brown in Miami. “Because he just reminds me of myself a little bit with the way he plays the game.”
The former Patriots tight end and future Hall of Famer recognizes Kittle and Kelce's immense talent. But Kittle, like Gronkowski, has a love for dominating as a run-blocker, which Gronk can appreciate.
“I see a little bit of me in both, but I would say I’m definitely more of a Kittle, hands down,’’ Gronkowski said. “I would say that because of the attitude that he brings to the table, just the grit he brings into the trenches.
"He wants to bring it every time. He wants to be that guy that’s fierce out there and just wrecking guys whether it’s the passing game or the running game.”
The 49ers don't play the Bucs this season, but perhaps the two tight ends can square off in the playoffs in what would be a matchup full of wild storylines.