SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Although the San Francisco 49ers have officially been eliminated from postseason contention, one of their best players is returning from injury in time for Saturday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers plan to activate tight end George Kittle from injured reserve in the next 24 hours, clearing the path for him to play for the first time since he fractured his foot in a Nov. 1 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“He looked great this week,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Just talked to him, he said he felt good here after practice so I’m expecting him to go.”
Kittle missed the past six games because of that foot fracture as the Niners fell out of postseason contention, going 1-5 without him. He also missed two games with a knee injury sustained in Week 1 earlier this season.
Despite the 49ers not being in the playoff picture, Shanahan explained why he still believes Kittle should play as long as he’s healthy.
“He’s probably one of the healthiest guys we have right now,” Shanahan said. “He had two good weeks of practice, feels great after it. We wouldn’t put him out there at all if there was any risk of re-injuring this or he wasn’t healed. But we’ve got a lot of guys going out there and everyone has got stuff on the line every time they step out. Whether you have two games left and you’re not in the playoffs or whether it’s the first game of the year, that’s what these guys do. If they’re healthy enough to do it, that’s what you do on our team.”
Although Kittle will return against Arizona, he will not have his usual workload, according to Shanahan.
“He’s in great shape and he’s conditioned very well but he hasn’t been playing a lot of football here in a while so we’ve got to be smart with that,” Shanahan said. “We don’t expect him to go in there and play 95 percent of the snaps like he usually does. We’ll be smart with him. We’ll see how he goes. I know he’s excited to go out there and play some. I know our team is real excited to have him out there but it won’t be his usual deal.”