Last week, we did our stock reports for the San Francisco 49ers tight ends and one of the notable drops in stock was tight end Garrett Celek. He started only one game this year and finished the season with five receptions compared to his 2017 campaign where he notched 33. The numbers dip all over the stat sheet, but there’s a piece of information to consider when looking at it.
Sacramento Bee reporter Chris Biderman ran into Celek at last night’s CFP National Championship and says the tight end recently had surgery on his finger. The injury? A broken right thumb suffered in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Keep in mind, Celek was quiet for the first two weeks before the injury happened. In Week 1 he wasn’t targeted at all and Week 2 he notched two of his five receptions. So he wasn’t catching much before the injury. However, broken thumbs are nothing to [site decorum] with and can be painful to the touch, especially if you’ve got a football torpedoing in to fit within its grip, and double-especially when said football is being jarred loose by defenders and your grip/grasp needs to tighten up to prevent it from happening.
This doesn’t necessarily explain what happened to the drop in production for 2018, but one has to wonder if the coaching staff looked at the broken thumb and game-planned around it. We saw Celek return more to blocking and using some misdirection, and maybe it was so he would have to bend his finger near as much.
I’m not a doctor—I just play one on blogs—and I don’t know how to adjust your play with a broken thumb. My guess is that since thumbs are what gives primates the ability to grasp something, it would cause severe ball control issues. Try picking anything up without using your thumb; line it up parallel with your pointer finger and pick up a can—you’ll see what I mean. With a broken thumb, I’d assume your grip strength would plummet and the moment a lawnmower pull happens via a defender, that ball is shooting out. Given that he had some catches late in the season (and a touchdown), maybe the pain went down a bit so he was able to grip the ball without difficulty. Again, we don’t know how painful or severe the injury was besides the fact he had surgery on it once the season was over with.
Celek will be back by the offseason workout program with a healthy thumb. With George Kittle balling out like he did in 2018, the 49ers will look to offer up a complement. Whether that’s Celek or somebody else, it would be nice to have a devastating tight end duo they haven’t seen since the Vernon Davis/Delanie Walker pair. Celek will get healthy this offseason, but the 49ers will have to figure out if he or another option is the answer. For now, we wait to see if they can get Celek Time’s gears fixed and ticking again.