All signs point toward George Kittle’s 49ers return Saturday against Cardinals

George Kittle wants to play, and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan wants that, too.
With no playoff berth possible, however, this is the time a team’s front office and medical staff must weigh the consequences over the wants of a player and coach.
General manager John Lynch on Friday morning gave his blessing, and he said that although team doctors already cleared Kittle last week to come back from a foot fracture, they still kept him out of last Sunday’s loss at Dallas that eliminated them from playoff contention.
“Yes, you have to have discretion and all those things, but we’ve been very thoughtful about this, and if he plays, it’s only because he’s ready to play,” Lynch said on KNBR 680-AM. “He’s eager to play and we want him to play.”
All signs, thus, point to Kittle playing Saturday when the 49ers (5-9) play the host Arizona Cardinals (8-6). At quarterback will be Kittle’s former Iowa teammate C.J. Beathard, who makes his first start in two years as an injury replacement to Nick Mullens and Jimmy Garoppolo, the latter of whom returned to practice this week from a Nov. 1 ankle sprain but has no clearance to play the remaining two games.
A final announcement could come later today on Kittle’s likely activation off the Injured Reserve list. Shanahan is expected to address the media at 1:30 PT via video conference and Kittle might join that session, too.
Kittle has left injured in the 49ers’ last two games against Arizona, sustaining knee and ankle injuries in a 2019 Halloween night win and a 2020 season-opening loss.
Kittle has played in six games (37 catches, 474 yards, two touchdowns). A First Team All-Pro tight end last year and two-time captain, he received a five-year, $75 million contract extension in August.
Lynch outlined the 49ers’ thought process on Kittle’s return earlier Friday on the 49ers’ flagship radio station:
“First and foremost, it’s a medical issue. He broke that bone, the cuboid one in his foot, and we’ve been incredibly patient with the healing process. George attacks everything with such vigor and he’s attacked the rehab incredibly hard.
“It’s not as if he just woke up and said, ‘OK, I’m going to play.’ There’s been a build up that has gone far beyond which you would typically do.
“Last week, frankly,he was cleared but we all decided, let’s just give him a week of practice. As George likes to say, he was scout team player of the week. There was a guy wearing (No.) 85 who was dicing up our defense.
“He came  out feeling good. Then you re-evaluate him, take another CT, the bone is healed even more, the doctor felt great about it and said it’s your guys’ decision. We talked with George.
“We’re still going to go through that process. We said, ‘Let’s finish the week, let’s go at it in practice, up the demand.’ We’ll do that at the end of the week here and make a good decision.
“The bottom line is these guys sign up, and yes you have to have discretion and all those things. But we’ve been very thoughtful about this and if he plays it’s only because he’s ready to play. He’s eager to play and we want him to play. He wants to be there for his teammates. We’ll always be smart in situations like this. George is a competitor and wants to be out there.
“We’ll make the best decision for this franchise, I can assure. We’ve been incredibly thorough in this process to make sure we’ve crossed everything off in an effort to make sure he’s right out there. We can assure everyone it’s been incredibly thorough.”
 
 
 

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