49ers

How George Kittle's run-blocking enthusiasm rubs off on rest of 49ers

How George Kittle's run-blocking enthusiasm rubs off on rest of 49ers

SANTA CLARA -- George Kittle loves to run block, and his joy for that aspect of the game has become contagious to his 49ers teammates. 

It’s not often that a player who has led their team in receiving yards in each of the last two seasons is also the biggest proponent of run blocking. But after amassing 1,053 receiving yards during the regular season, the tight end couldn't be happier after catching just four passes for 35 yards in the playoffs.  

Kittle wishes coach Kyle Shanahan would run the ball even more. His coach is very appreciative and realizes what effect it has on the rest of the offense.  

“I mean, he had more yards in the pass game as a tight end in the history of the NFL last year,” Shanahan said. “So, any time you have a guy like that who's one of the best players on your team who's always just talking about running the ball and playing the physicality in the game and giving everything you can, it helps you hold everyone else a lot more accountable, and rarely do you have to. 

“When people are watching guys like that do that type of stuff, when they watch guys like [cornerback Richard Sherman] play the run and things like that, it makes your job a lot easier. When your best guys are doing it, everyone else really doesn't have much of a choice.”

Because Kittle’s enthusiasm for the run game permeates throughs the offense, Shanahan has been able to make his schemes more elaborate. He has always involved fullback Kyle Juszczyk, but now the receivers are bigger parts of the run scheme as well. 

Veteran Emmanuel Sanders has mentioned that he enjoys being a “bully” while run blocking. He believes that Kittle sets the tone for what can be accomplished when everyone contributes to the ground game. 

“Kittle is one of the best tight ends in the league, but everybody wants to talk about his blocking as well,” Sanders said. “So, I think it's contagious around the building in terms of going out and doing your job. When you look at your best players and they're doing it, I feel like everybody else will hop on board as well. So, it's contagious.”

Kittle remains humble about his abilities permeating through the offense but will admit that Shanahan’s scheme has been able to grow over the years with everyone’s participation and effort. He describes the transformation with the same joy he shows on the field. 

“Our offense from my rookie year against [the Carolina Panthers in the] opening game is much different than what it is now,” Kittle said. “And, it's really fun too. Just being part of the evolution, how it's grown and how it's changed is really fun because you can look back, ‘Wow, man,’ that's what we were doing and now we're doing this stuff, and it was so much more fun. 

“Just the fact we basically install new plays every single week, we have a whole new playbook every single week, it makes football really fun. You get to learn every single week's techniques, how to block guys. The similarities always carry over, but the difference is what makes it really exciting.”

Sanders knows that Kittle’s efforts don’t just affect the offense. The tight end’s attitude is felt throughout the locker room. 

“I think it's a mindset,” Sanders said. “At the end of the day we've got a lot of guys who aren't 'me' guys, it's about let's get the job done and let's win. It's more about 'we' than 'me.' And I'm one of those guys as well. And I think everybody is a part of it.” 

[RELATED: How Shanahan, Lynch make 49ers CEO York's job easier]

Kittle doesn't need extra motivation to run block, but he might have some against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 3 in Super Bowl LIV.

The University of Iowa product will line up opposite some former Hawkeyes teammates in Miami, and Kittle has revenge on his mind. 

“I'm looking forward to blocking the Iowa linebackers Ben Niemann and Anthony Hitchens [on the Chiefs],” Kittle said. “Hitch used to bully me in practice when I was on scout team at Iowa, and so I'm going to give it back to him a couple times.”

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

President Donald Trump reportedly told sports commissioners and top executives Saturday that he believes the NFL should start on time with fans returning to stadiums by August despite the coronavirus outbreak.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn't share the same thoughts.

The governor was asked about Trump's reported prediction, and said he doesn't envision California having made enough progress against the virus for it to be business as usual for the NFL come fall.

“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said Saturday. “We’ve all seen the headlines over the last couple days in Asia, where they opening up certain businesses, and now they’re starting to roll back those openings because they’re starting seeing some spread and there’s a boomerang. One has to be very cautious here, one has to be careful not to overpromise.

"It's interesting, I have a lot of friends that work in Major League Baseball and the NFL, they've been asking me -- in fact, a well-known athlete -- a football player -- just asked me if he expects to come back. I said, 'I would move very cautiously in that expectation.' "

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Newsom is making sure to prioritize safety and caution above all else before letting sports return.

“Our decision on that basis here in the State of California will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts, will be determined by our ability to meet this moment and bend the curve, and have the appropriate community surveillance and testing to confidently determine whether that's appropriate," Newsom said. "Right now, I’m just focusing on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.”

[RELATED: 49ers reportedly eye WR/CB at No. 13, plan to trade No. 31]

The truth of the matter is that no one knows how long this will last or when sports will be able to return to packed stadiums. The NFL is planning on starting the schedule on time with fans in the stadium, but that might not be the case in California. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge again the fall, the fate of the NFL's season is very much up in the air.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports can only safely return once the country as a whole has turned the corner from the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

While the NFL offseason programs are postponed, many players are still working out to be ready for the time when the teams are able to get back to work in an organized setting.

In Miami, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Clelin Ferrell are working out with private defensive line coach Mark Hall.

Hall, who recently was a guest on the 49ers Insider Podcast, sent a video to NBC Sports Bay Area of the three players working out.

[RELATED49ers mailbag: Could Gore or Walker return in free agency?]

The 49ers recently traded Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and re-signed Armstead to a four-year, $84 million contract. Ferrell will enter his second season with the Las Vegas Raiders after being the club’s first-round selection at No. 4 overall in the 2019 draft.