George Kittle is a different breed. The 49ers'star tight end easily is the most important piece to the 49ers' offense, and it has shown since he returned from ankle and knee injuries.
Most players wouldn't even be suiting up right now. Again, Kittle is different.
The third-year pro is playing with a bone chip in his ankle he sustained in Week 9 against the Cardinals, and popped a capsule in his knee that same game. He missed just two games, and played every single snap Sunday in the 49ers' 20-17 loss to the Ravens.
Kittle was told he could play with the injuries as long as he can tolerate the pain. His injuries won't get worse, so for him, it's all about a mindset -- one that runs deep in his family's blood.
“The mindset comes straight from my dad," Kittle told NBC Sports' Peter King. "I think I’ve been catching a football since I could walk. Or actually really crawl, basically. My dad [Iowa captain Bruce Kittle] played at Iowa from 1978 to ‘81 and I kind of followed in his footsteps. His passion for the game just bled into me.
"I just, I can’t really get enough of it any time. It’s too much fun for me. The fact that I get to play football and it’s my job … I wake up every day living my dream."
As long as Kittle can will his way on to a football field, he will suit up and play. His father showed that same passion and toughness in quite the crazy way on New Year's Day, 1982.
“Part of what came from Dad is toughness," Kittle said. "He tore his ACL during his last season, and in those days, you didn’t do surgery on that. They casted him up for like six weeks. Iowa made the Rose Bowl that year, and he came back for the game and played in that Rose Bowl.
"I mean, if he can do that, I can come back and play with this.”
The 49ers want to keep Kittle healthy and on the field as much as possible. The Pro Bowl tight end had six receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from injury when the 49ers pounded the Packers 37-8 on "Sunday Night Football." He only had two catches for 17 yards on a soaked surface in Baltimore on Sunday, but showed how important he is to the run game with his elite blocking.
And that’s what the 49ers were missing when Kittle was out https://t.co/cTmnnybjtn— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) December 1, 2019
It's no surprise backup running back Raheem Mostert had a career-day with 146 yards rushing due in part to Kittle's outside blocking.
Whether he's catching passes or making blocks, Kittle's is the leader of the 49ers' offense. He'll do whatever it takes to be on the field with his unmatched passion for the game, as he has shown in recent weeks.