San Francisco 49ers star tight end George Kittle popped up on the injury report Wednesday with a sore ankle that kept him out of practice.
Ahead of the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, any player missing practice offers at least a slight concern, but within the Niners’ locker room, there is little doubt the All-Pro TE will miss the big bout.
Joining NFL Network’s Good Morning Football Thursday, fullback Kyle Juszczyk verbalized the belief Kittle will be fine this weekend.
"You mentioned the whole WWE superstar, so, he likes his theatrics, he likes to get the media going. Keep people on edge," Juszczyk said. "I don’t think we have to worry about George not being out there. I really don’t think there is anything that could keep him from playing."
Juszczyk’s comment underscores reports out of San Francisco that noted Kittle wasn’t walking with a limp on Wednesday, leading to the belief that missing practice was merely precautionary after he tweaked the ankle in Saturday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Kittle keys the 49ers’ passing attack, generating 1,053 yards and five TDs on 85 receptions this season in 14 games. A YAC demon, Kittle’s ability to find open grass and blast through would-be tacklers, spurs Kyle Shanahan’s quick passing game.
"George has been phenomenal, the guy’s just an absolute superstar," Juszczyk said. "Arguably, the best player in the NFL when the ball is in his hands. But a guy that also embraces doing the little things. Love being physical. Loves blocking. And just his energy, man, his energy gets all of us going…He’s the best, he gets all of us fired up, and he makes us a better team."
Assuming he’s at full-force come Sunday, Kittle could be in for a massive day. The 26-year-old generated 129 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Week 12 matchup against the Packers, the most receiving yards allowed by Green Bay in the last five seasons. It was Kittle’s only game this season with 100-plus yards and a receiving TD.
The Packers have been burned by top-tier TEs this season. In games facing Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, Zach Ertz and Kittle, Green Bay’s defense has surrendered six receptions on 7.5 targets per game, an average of 95.8 yards and four touchdowns. Over their last 11 games (since Week 7), the Packers have allowed 710 receiving yards to tight ends (4th-most in NFL).
First Kittle must get his ankle right. Then he can feast.
There is little concern within the Niners’ locker room that both won’t happen.
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