49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is hopeful tight end George Kittle will make a quicker-than-expected recovery to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
And Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday that his team is preparing as if they will face Kittle at his best at Levi’s Stadium this weekend.
Kittle, the 49ers’ top receiving threat, sat out the 49ers’ game Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks due to unspecified left knee and ankle issues he sustained on Oct. 31 against Arizona. Kingsbury was asked on a conference call with Bay Area reporters if he expects to see Kittle in top form on Sunday.
“No doubt,” Kingsbury said. “I thought it was amazing that he was able to stay in our game and push through and have such a great night.
“He’s one of the best, if not the best, tight ends in the league -- just kind of a physical freak. That’s matched by his personality, his relentlessness, his want to. It’s through the roof. As a competitor, you appreciate that. And I’m sure he’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”
Kittle sustained the injury on the first play of the 49ers’ Week 9 game against the Cardinals when the helmet of Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones struck Kittle’s knee as they were running toward each other on a running play. Kittle was blocking, and Jones went to the ground as he made the tackle on 49ers running back Tevin Coleman.
Kittle exited the game, but he returned to play 49 of the 49ers’ 70 offensive snaps in the Thursday night game. Kittle caught six passes for 79 yards, including an impressive 30-yard TD where he threw Arizona safety Budda Baker to the ground near the goal line.
But the impact from the injuries worsened to the point that Kittle could not continue to play in the fourth quarter. He did not practice all last week, and he remains questionable -- or, even, doubtful -- for this week’s game.
“Kittle’s just a little bit of a different bird,” Shanahan said to reporters Tuesday. “We’re never going to decide on Kittle too early in the week. He’s always got a chance with some of the stuff he’s been able to go through here in these last couple years.”