George Kittle

George Kittle To Return In Week 3

After three practices this week, George Kittle is set to make his season debut Sunday. The All-Pro tight end sustained a groin injury just before the season, and it kept him out two weeks.

Injuries have been a frequent occurrence for Kittle during his second contract, but he will team with Jimmy Garoppolo in a “new”-look 49ers offense Sunday night in Denver. Kyle Shanahan said Friday the sixth-year pass catcher will not have any restrictions heading into the 49ers-Broncos matchup.

Knee, ankle, foot and calf injuries have plagued Kittle as a pro. The calf ailment cost Kittle three games last season, while the foot trouble — a fracture — represented his most significant setback. That break came midway during a 2020 season, costing Kittle eight games, in which Garoppolo and many other 49er starters missed extensive time.

The maladies that keep cropping up have interrupted Kittle on his $15MM-per-year contract. The former fifth-round pick signed that extension just before the 2020 season, and the bulk of Kittle’s injury trouble came after it. Still, the Iowa product — going into his age-29 season — is one of the NFL’s best tight ends. His blocking and receiving ability represents a rare combination in modern football, giving the 49ers a unique weapon — one that has certainly buoyed their Garoppolo-led attacks over the past several years.

Despite missing three games last season, Kittle caught 71 passes for 910 yards and a career-high six touchdowns. Those numbers did not quite match his late-2010s work — a then-tight end-record 1,377 yards in 2018 and 1,053 in a 14-game 2019 slate — that led the 49ers to extend him. But his return should still provide a noticeable boost. San Francisco’s offense does not exactly have a replacement close to its dual-threat tight end’s level. He stands to assist a team that is reacclimating Garoppolo and dealing with multiple running back injuries (to starter Elijah Mitchell and third-round rookie Tyrion Davis-Price).

Latest On 49ers TE George Kittle

SEPTEMBER 18: Kittle’s current groin ailment was initially expected to keep him on the shelf for three weeks, and Adam Schefter of reported Sunday morning that the three-time Pro Bowler is not expected to play in the 49ers’ Week 2 contest against the Seahawks (Twitter link). That may be true, but Ian Rapoport of tweeted roughly an hour later that Kittle did practice on Friday and is pushing to play.

San Francisco suffered a disappointing defeat to the Bears in their opener, while Seattle pulled off an upset over the Broncos. The Niners and second-year QB Trey Lance would obviously love to have Kittle on the field to help them avoid an 0-2 start.

SEPTEMBER 8: Following an injury on Monday, George Kittle‘s status for this weekend’s season opener was already in doubt. It’s now sounding like the 49ers tight end probably won’t take the field. According to Aaron Wilson of, Kittle’s groin injury is considered serious and he’s unlikely to play against the Bears on Sunday.

A source described Kittle’s groin injury as “not good,” although they noted that the situation remained fluid. Considering Kittle’s past issues with injuries, that source said it may be best if the tight end sits out a week or two. Another source told Wilson that Kittle suffered a Grade 2 strain that has limited his speed. While Kittle’s toughness means he’s always a candidate to take the field, it sounds like the organization is more confident in his long-term health if he takes it slow to start the year. Kittle suffered the groin injury on Monday and was absent from practice on Wednesday.

Kittle is one of the NFL’s top tight ends when he’s on the field, but he’s missed at least two games in each of the past three seasons. He missed three games last season while nursing a calf injury, but he still managed to finish the campaign with 71 receptions for 910 yards and six touchdowns.

San Francisco does have some depth behind Kittle. Charlie Woerner would likely draw the start in place of Kittle, with Ross Dwelley and Tyler Kroft serving as the primary backups.

NFL Injury Notes: McCaffrey, Texans, Young, Brady, 49ers

Since signing a deal that gave him the highest average salary of any running back in the NFL, Christian McCaffrey has missed 23 of 33 games. From a high ankle sprain to a shoulder injury to a hamstring injury and back around to his ankle again, McCaffrey has seen more than his fair share of the injured reserve. According to Joseph Person of The Athletic, McCaffrey reached out for some help this offseason.

Among a few others, one of the players McCaffrey sought help from was Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, one of two players who share with McCaffrey the distinction of recording at least 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, the other being Roger Craig. Faulk was especially healthy later in his career despite having a tendency for a higher amount of total touches as a receiving back, his late health being a trait that McCaffrey would love to emulate.

Person reports that Panthers head coach Matt Rhule indicated McCaffrey would again be held out of the preseason and that the team is also looking into how they use their star during practice. McCaffrey, himself, has been tweaking his own offseason routine, in hopes of reversing his string of bad luck.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the NFL, starting with two out of the Lone Star State:

  • From an interview with Texans head coach Lovie Smith, Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reports that pass rusher Jonathan Greenard and safety Eric Murray will be ready to return to the field by the time training camp rolls around. Greenard, who led the team in sacks last season with 8.0, underwent foot surgery over the offseason. Murray had shoulder surgery after starting 11 games for Houston last year.
  • The Commanders are expecting former Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young to rejoin the team in the next couple of weeks, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. The young defensive end is coming off an ACL tear he suffered in a Week 10 game against the Buccaneers. Young was having a bit of a sophomore slump last year, only recording 1.5 sacks in nine games of action, but Washington will nonetheless be happy to reunite him with Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, and Daron Payne in what may be the NFL’s best all-around pass rushing defensive line.
  • Although not a recent injury, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady talked about the condition of his left knee in a call with Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times this week. Last offseason saw Brady limited a bit due to surgery he underwent to repair the MCL tear he suffered during his last season in New England. With the injury far in the rearview mirror, Brady has reportedly been doing much more to prepare for the upcoming season this summer, “including some sprint work to help with his mobility.”
  • Cam Inman of the East Bay Times reported an assertion from 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan that San Francisco will likely play it safe and hold out tight end George Kittle and linebacker Fred Warner until training camp. About two of his stars, the sixth-year head coach claimed the team was “being smart” by using a little extra time to allow the two to get over their “lower half” issues.

George Kittle, Arik Armstead Rework Contracts With 49ers

The 49ers have opened up a significant chunk of cap space. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), the team has restructured the contracts of tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle Arik Armstead. These moves will open $18.75MM in cap space.

Kittle inked a sizable five-year, $75MM deal with the 49ers prior to the 2020 season, but he was limited to only eight games that year while dealing with a knee injury and a broken bone in his foot. He got into 14 games this past season and returned to his Pro Bowl form, hauling in 71 catches for 910 yards and six touchdowns.

Armstead has spent his entire career with San Francisco. The former first-round pick signed a five-year, $85MM deal ($48.5MM guaranteed) with the 49ers following a 2019 season where he finished with 10 sacks. Armstead has collected only 9.5 sacks over the past two seasons (33 starts), but he’s still collected 58 tackles and 24 QB hits.

Coaching Rumors: Saints, Texans, McDaniel, Giants, Broncos

The Saints began their cycle of head coaching interviews this week, conducting meetings with the following candidates: former Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson (1/30; hired by Jaguars), former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores (2/1), Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn (2/2), their current special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi (2/3), their current defensive coordinator Dennis Allen (2/4), and Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy (2/6).

New Orleans also requested permission to interview Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. There were some early reports that permission had been granted, but that hasn’t been confirmed and nothing has been scheduled, as of yet. ESPN’s Saints’ reporter Mike Triplett also mentioned that current offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael was offered an opportunity to interview for the position, but Carmichael declined. Despite being a part of Sean Payton‘s staff since Payton’s tenure in New Orleans began back in 2006, it appears Carmichael has no interest in running the show in the Big Easy. Whether he has retirement or another destination in mind or he is just comfortable in his role, Carmichael will not be the Saints’ next head coach.

Here are a few more notes from the ongoing coaching searches and staff changes throughout the NFL, starting with the other head coaching vacancy:

  • Houston recently narrowed their list of head coaching candidates down to three: Brian Flores, former quarterback Josh McCown, and Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Well, according to USA Today’s Josina Anderson, the Texans are now down to two candidates, with Gannon being informed Saturday that he will not be receiving the head coaching position, leaving Flores and McCown as the two remaining names.
  • New Dolphins’ head coach Mike McDaniel reportedly has interest in holding on to some of the defensive assistants currently under contract in Miami, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. This includes current defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, who followed Flores to Miami from New England. The lack of staff turnover would be a positive for a defensive unit that played well during the team’s seven-game win-streak in the back half of the season.
  • The Giants were able to add a piece to Brian Daboll‘s new staff while missing out on another today. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan tweeted out that Andy Bischoff will become the Giants’ new tight ends coach. Bischoff followed David Culley from Baltimore to Houston and will make the lateral move over from the Texans with their head coaching position still in the air. Unfortunately, the Giants did not get their running backs coach, as Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweeted out that Deland McCullough has turned down Daboll’s offer, choosing instead to remain the running backs coach at Notre Dame, believing it gives him the best opportunity to eventually become a head coach.
  • New Broncos’ head coach Nathaniel Hackett is also looking to fill out his staff. The Broncos are planning to interview Jon Embree who most recently held the position of tight ends coach/assistant head coach in San Francisco. Embree parted ways with the Niners after being asked to take a 60 percent pay cut after San Francisco’s NFC Championship loss. The man who has coached George Kittle since he was drafted in 2017 would be a nice addition to Hackett’s system.

49ers To Activate Kittle, Gould From IR

The 49ers will have some key players in uniform Sunday against the Cardinals. George Kittle and Robbie Gould will come off IR before Saturday’s roster-setting deadline, Kyle Shanahan said Friday.

Kittle has been down because of a calf injury. The All-Pro tight end attempted to play through the issue in Week 4, but the 49ers opted to shut him down the following week. Gould’s activation became fairly clear after the 49ers waived fill-in Joey Slye earlier this week.

Since signing his big-ticket extension last year, Kittle has struggled to stay on the field. He missed time because of a knee sprain and a fractured foot last season. Those injuries limited Kittle to eight games in 2020. He has missed three thus far this year. This will help a passing attack that may be without Deebo Samuel.

Battling a calf injury, Samuel is questionable for Week 9. Shanahan said his top receiver’s injury worsened this week, via the San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman (on Twitter). The 49ers missing Samuel would be rather significant, given his dominance to start the season. Samuel has 819 receiving yards, topping Jerry Rice‘s through-seven-games franchise best. Samuel, of course, joined Kittle on the injury front last season. He missed nine games in 2020.

Shanahan added Jeff Wilson has a chance to make his season debut in Week 9. Previously given a late-November return timetable, Wilson has “kind of taken off,” in his recovery from a foot injury as of late, Shanahan said (per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, on Twitter). The 49ers re-signed the veteran running back this offseason, but he suffered the injury over the summer.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/3/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Dallas Cowboys

Houston Texans

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

49ers To Place George Kittle On IR

Listed as doubtful for Week 5, George Kittle is now certain to miss Trey Lance‘s starting debut and at least the following two games. The 49ers’ All-Pro tight end will head to IR, Tom Pelissero of tweets.

Kittle is battling a calf injury, and although he played through the ailment last week, he did not practice this week. The 49ers hope Kittle will be ready to go when he is first eligible to come off IR in Week 8.

This represents a blow for the 49ers’ offense and continues both a bad injury stretch for Kittle and the team. Kittle suffered a knee sprain and a fractured foot last season, which halted the star tight end’s progress after he had strung together back-to-back Pro Bowl slates. Although it is early, Kittle has run into extensive health trouble since signing his big-ticket extension last year.

In 2018, Kittle broke the tight end receiving yardage record by breaking through with a dominant 1,377-yard campaign. The former fifth-round pick did so despite Jimmy Garoppolo missing most of that season. With Garoppolo back in the fold in 2019, Kittle played an essential role in the 49ers’ run to Super Bowl LIV by totaling 1,053 yards and five touchdowns.

After signing Jordan Reed last year, the 49ers have less experienced backups to fill in for Kittle going forward. Ross Dwelley and 2020 sixth-round pick Charlie Woerner reside as the other tight ends on San Francisco’s roster.

49ers To Start Trey Lance In Week 5

Jimmy Garoppolo‘s calf injury will keep him out of the 49ers’ game against the Cardinals. Trey Lance will make his debut as an NFL starter, Kyle Shanahan confirmed Friday.

This was the likely course of action for the 49ers, but the team had kept the door open for Garoppolo to come back after missing just a half. Instead, Lance will take the reins in a key NFC West matchup. Whether this will be a long-term transition or an injury-replacement stay will hinge on how Lance fares, though the runway appears clear for the atypical quarterback prospect.

The 49ers traded up nine spots to land Lance at No. 3, sacrificing two future first-round picks to do so. The team was more closely linked to Mac Jones than Lance going into the draft, and a recent report indicated the 49ers’ Jones interest spurred the trade. But the team decided on Lance, a one-year starter from Division I-FCS North Dakota State.

Lance, 21, has looked expectedly raw as a passer but has assisted the 49ers as a backup, throwing a touchdown pass in Week 1 and impressing as a runner early on. It should be expected Shanahan’s game plan will feature Lance’s dual-threat skill set in Arizona, after the talented rookie took over for Garoppolo against Seattle last week. Lance completed 9 of 18 passes against the Seahawks and rushed for 41 yards during his first half of steady NFL action.

Lance is unlikely to have the benefit of targeting one of the NFL’s best tight ends in his first start. The 49ers have listed George Kittle as doubtful to go with a calf injury. Kittle suffered the calf malady against the Packers but suited up for Week 4. After not practicing this week, the Pro Bowler does not have a good chance of playing Sunday.

49ers To Shut Down Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel; George Kittle Return In Play

Raheem Mostert and Deebo Samuel will see their injury-marred seasons end early. The 49ers are shutting down both players with two games to go, Kyle Shanahan said (via the San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman).

Both ran into multiple injuries this year, causing the second-year starters to miss significant time in what became a widespread injury-plagued 49ers season. Each player is under contract beyond this season, with Samuel’s rookie deal running through 2022 and Mostert’s pact expiring after next season.

The 49ers, however, are not opting to shut down all their injured skill-position talents. George Kittle has returned to practice, and Inman notes the All-Pro tight end is on pace to return against the Cardinals. Kittle, who has not played since suffering a foot fracture Nov. 1, would catch passes from his former college quarterback if he does return. The 49ers will start Iowa alum C.J. Beathard over Nick Mullens on Saturday.

A 2017 third-round pick, Beathard has worked as San Francisco’s third-string quarterback for much of his NFL tenure. His contract expires at season’s end. Mullens suffered what is believed to be ligament damage in his elbow against the Cowboys, Inman notes, and will likely need Tommy John surgery. He is due to be a restricted free agent in March.

Kittle will only play if he’s 100%, per Shanahan, who noted the 49ers will not shut down their star tight end if he is fully healthy — despite having been eliminated from playoff contention last week.

Mostert left Sunday’s game because of ankle trouble. The special-teamer-turned-RB1 sustained an MCL sprain in September and injured his ankle upon returning in October. Mostert, 28, was not able to surmount the latter malady. Mostert did end a second straight season averaging at least 5.0 yards per carry, however, though he only managed 104 totes this season. Samuel sustained a foot fracture before training camp but was able to return fairly early in the season. However, a hamstring injury hampered Samuel shortly after he returned. The 2019 second-round pick caught 33 passes for 391 yards over seven games this season.

Jimmy Garoppolo will resume practicing this week, but Shanahan said (via Inman) he would be surprised if doctors deem San Francisco’s QB1 100%. It is likely Beathard will handle the 49ers’ final two starts at quarterback. A high ankle sprain sidelined Garoppolo at multiple junctures this season. He played in just six games. Shanahan said last month the plan is for Garoppolo to return as the team’s starter in 2021, though the franchise will surely explore other options this offseason. Two years remain on Garoppolo’s contract, one the 49ers can move without incurring much dead money.