49ers' Kyle Shanahan won't try to change George Kittle's physical play

49ers' Kyle Shanahan won't try to change George Kittle's physical play

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- In the final moments of the 49ers' Week 14 win over the Saints in New Orleans, Jimmy Garoppolo threw an eight-yard pass to George Kittle on fourth-and-2, who ran 31 yards after the catch with three defenders attempting to tackle him. 

Even with Saints safety Marcus Williams hanging from Kittle’s face mask, the 49ers' tight end couldn't be taken down.

That image of Kittle running down the sideline personifies his bruising style of play. He has thrived with the mentality that he is going to hit defenders harder than they can hit him. It can cause opposing players to take “creative angles” when Kittle has the ball in his hands. 

Kittle also is a huge key to the success of the 49ers run game. He takes pride in his run-blocking and enjoys taking on defensive ends, which at times, outweigh him by several pounds. 

That high level of contact obviously can be the cause of more wear and tear on the body, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday that he would never try to take away that element away from Kittle’s repertoire. His request to Kittle is a different type of goal. 

“I tell him to try to score every play,” Shanahan said. “He doesn’t need to go hurt himself, but tell him to try to score every play. I think that’s why we’re all talking about him right now, because he actually does, and he plays a certain way. 

“I understand there are questions. That’s a business decision, and sometimes that’s not always a good decision, because now you’re not who you are. You’re not as good of a player."

Kittle knows his physical play can result in injuries, but he isn't changing any time soon. He played much of the 2018 season with a rib injury. Even after what is sure to be a sizable contract extension, his head coach knows that will not change. 

“That’s not how Kittle plays,” Shanahan said. “It’s not like, ‘Hey we need you to be tough here.’ That’s just who he is. That’s why he’s special. That’s why he’s different than a lot of people. We could try to take that away from him, which would make him not as good of a player.” 

[RELATED: Why 49ers' receiver group will look different next season]

Shanahan tries to get the ball in Kittle's hands with open space, resulting in Kittle leading the 49ers with two 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and breaking the single-season tight end receiving record. 

“That’s why we try to get him outside some, and things like that,” Shanahan said. “But good luck with George and that. George knows what he enjoys, and that’s why he’s one of the better players in the league." 

NFL mock draft 2020: 49ers expected to take Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs

NFL mock draft 2020: 49ers expected to take Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs

The 2020 NFL Draft is merely two weeks away. It will take part in much different circumstances than the pomp of Las Vegas, but nevertheless, seven rounds of draft picks will be complete. 

After shocking many by trading star defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers now own the No. 13 pick in the draft, along with the No. 31 pick they already owned as the NFC champions. 

San Francisco can go plenty of ways with its two picks in the first round and should be able to find a receiver with star potential for Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo. Here at NBC Sports Bay Area, Dalton Johnson and Josh Schrock have the 49ers taking receiver Henry Ruggs III at No. 13 and cornerback Jeff Gladney at No. 31. 

Check out how various mock drafts see it playing out: 

Todd McShay, ESPN.com: WR Henry Ruggs (No. 13), CB A.J. Terrell (No. 31)
Ruggs: "Coach Kyle Shanahan likes speedy guys who can tack on yards after the catch, and that's what Ruggs does. Suddenly, that arsenal doesn't look too bad with the likes of Deebo Samuel and George Kittle also running routes for Jimmy Garoppolo."
Terrell: "Terrell is long and plays fast -- as he ran a 4.42 at the combine. He has the talent to be a difference-maker opposite Richard Sherman."

Mel Kiper, ESPN.com: WR Jerry Jeudy (No. 13), CB Noah Igbinoghene (No. 31)
Jeudy: "Adding Jeudy, who caught 77 passes for 1,163 yards and 10 TDs last season, to a group with Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne makes this a really exciting (and young) trio of wideouts for Jimmy Garoppolo."
Igbinoghene: "Igbinoghene, a track athlete who is still raw, is my third-ranked corner, and he could also help as a return man."

Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: WR Jerry Jeudy (No. 13), OL Cesar Ruiz (No. 31)
Jeudy: "If Jeudy is on the board, this is a no-brainer for the 49ers."
Ruiz: "He’s a mean but agile centerpiece in the middle of the offensive line, and he has the moves to get upfield and lock out in the zone-blocking scheme."

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: WR Henry Ruggs (No. 13), DT Ross Blacklock (No. 31)
Ruggs: "Let's take a minute and just imagine Ruggs in the hands of a creative play-caller like Kyle Shanahan."
Blacklock: "The 49ers will likely trade down to stockpile selections, as they currently don't hold a pick in Rounds 2-4."

Dan Kadar, SB Nation: WR CeeDee Lamb (No. 31), S Xavier McKinney (No. 31)
Lamb: "Lamb would give the 49ers a superstar wide receiver to pair with Deebo Samuel. Along with tight end George Kittle, San Francisco would have one of the best receiver groups in the NFL."
McKinney: "He’s capable of playing safety and cornerback, and comes out of a system at Alabama that should have him pro ready."

    49ers' Kendrick Bourne implores Matt Breida to re-sign for 2020 season

    49ers' Kendrick Bourne implores Matt Breida to re-sign for 2020 season

    Kendrick Bourne wants Matt Breida to follow in his footsteps.

    The 49ers wide receiver signed his one-year tender Monday, ensuring he would return for the 2020 season. San Francisco placed second-round tenders on Bourne and Breida last month, and Bourne encouraged Breida to sign his, too.

    Bourne and Breida joined the 49ers as undrafted free agents in 2017. The 24-year-old receiver scored a career-high five touchdowns in the 2019 regular season and caught 30 passes for 358 yards.

    [RELATED: Why Jeudy could be just what 49ers want in 2020 NFL Draft]

    Breida, meanwhile, largely lost his role in the 49ers offense by the end of the 2019 season. He ran a career-high 153 times for 814 yards in 2018, but Breida ran for nearly 200 fewer yards in 2019 as the running back ended the season behind Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman on the 49ers’ depth chart. Jerick McKinnon’s return could further crowd Breida out.

    Bourne has been with Breida every step of their NFL careers, however, and he wants the running back to once again be his teammate this season.