George Kittle never has been shy about displaying his fondness for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. You don't have to look any further than the T-shirts the 49ers tight end often wears to press conferences for visual confirmation.
But he's full of verbal compliments for the injured QB, too.
"I know it's tough for him," Kittle told KNBR's "Murph and Mac Show" on Tuesday (h/t 49ers Webzone). "Our lockers are right across from each other, so we get to chat every single day. I know all he wants to do is be out there and throwing that football and leading this team.
"I will say, the one thing that I've missed about Jimmy is I think he's our best leader. He's got the best voice on this team. Everybody looks to him when he speaks. ... I know he's eager to be back out there, and as a team, we're looking forward to having him back, too. I hope it's this week. If it's not, we've got guys capable of handling it. I know he's eager to be back out there, though."
Garoppolo hasn't practiced since sustaining a high ankle sprain during the 49ers' Week 2 win over the New York Jets. The team is hopeful he can return Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, but if not, it'll be either Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard under center.
As Kittle mentioned, the 49ers have confidence in both backups, but neither has the same sort of presence as the franchise quarterback.
"It's incredible how he can motivate a team and also light a fire under your a--," Kittle said of Garoppolo. "He gets that done, and he's really good at it, and it's natural for him. Everybody on this team respects it.
"Yes, we miss his gunslinging ability, but he's an incredible leader, too, and in my opinion, one of our most important leaders. When we get him back, that will definitely be a huge boost for us."
Kittle proved Sunday night that he's capable of breaking records, no matter who's throwing him the ball. But for a multitude of reasons, there's no question as to who he and the 49ers would prefer to do so the next time they take the field.