San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle returned to action Week 12 on Sunday night football. Kittle hadn’t played the previous few games as he was battling a cracked bone in his ankle and another knee injury. Kittle, like only he can, went over 100 yards and scored a touchdown. On Sunday, Kittle didn’t come off the field. Kittle spoke to Peter King about his mindset:
“So when something like this happens and you’re told you’re not going to injure it any further, and it’s just a matter of pain tolerance, you know it’s going to be really painful. But it’s a mindset. We’re football players. It’s football season. One thing I’ve always felt about football is one of the most important things about ability is availability. So I’m playing, and I want to play.
“The mindset comes straight from my dad. I think I’ve been catching a football since I could walk. Or actually really crawl, basically. My dad played at Iowa from 1978 to ‘81 [Iowa captain Bruce Kittle] and I kind of followed in his footsteps. His passion for the game just bled into me. I just, I can’t really get enough of it any time. It’s too much fun for me. The fact that I get to play football and it’s my job … I wake up every day living my dream.
“Part of what came from Dad is toughness. He tore his ACL during his last season, and in those days, you didn’t do surgery on that. They casted him up for like six weeks. Iowa made the Rose Bowl that year, and he came back for the game and played in that Rose Bowl. I mean, if he can do that, I can come back and play with this.”
Just reading Kittle’s words makes me cringe. Could you imagine playing through some of the injuries that these players do? Jaquiski Tartt fractured his freaking ribs and has a chance to play next Sunday. In short, these guys are not like us. They are wired differently.
Kittle makes it personal, tying this into his pops. I love how Kittle acknowledges that football is still fun. We see every year veterans that are listed as questionable on the injury report don’t play. Sure, it helps that the 49ers are tied for the best record in the NFL, but this goes deeper than wins and losses. It’s in Kittle’s pedigree to play football. Thankfully, that’s for San Francisco. That’s an incredible story about his dad. You can tell it stuck with Kittle, and he almost feels like he owes it to “the game” to give it his all. That’s why he’s such an easy player to root for. The 49ers have the right mental makeup.