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49ers George Kittle relying on Joe Staley for leadership advice

The superstar tight end says he keeps in contact with the legendary San Francisco lineman.

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

It has been a less than ideal start to the 2020 NFL season for the San Francisco 49ers. The team went into Week 1 as the favorite to win the NFC, but injuries — among other reasons — have resulted in a 2-3 start.

Tight end George Kittle missed two games with a knee injury before returning with a monstrous performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 when he finished with 15 receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown.

Kittle is widely regarded as San Francisco’s best player, and the team relies on him to be a leader. With the 49ers struggling through five games, the tight end wants to focus on being more of a leader, something he is taking pointers on from former Niners offensive lineman Joe Staley.

“I’m still learning how to be a captain,” Kittle said. “Knowing you’re blessed would have a guy like Joe Staley and Richard Sherman at the mantle for the last couple years. Guys that have seen the ups and downs of an NFL season, they’ve been on every kind of team, no winners and no losers. They can kind of see how locker rooms work and you know, communication with coaches and just relationships.”

Staley was a stalwart for the 49ers over his 13 seasons with the team. He is one of the most respected players ever to don a Niners uniform. Even though Staley retired prior to this season, Kittle is still relying on him to provide a presence in the locker room by picking the former left tackle’s brain.

“Staley is the guy that I lean on heavily still,” Kittle said. “I’m trying to learn from Staley. I asked him questions about things that are going on. He’s been incredibly helpful.”

Kittle is in his fourth year with San Francisco and is one of the team’s four offensive captains. Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s usually vaunted offense has struggled so far this season. Kittle believes in the guys in the locker room, but he also realized he needs to speak up when things aren’t going smoothly on the field.

“I definitely do need to be a little bit more direct when it comes to guys and holding guys accountable, and luckily, at the end of the day, we do have a very accountable team,” Kittle said. “Like I’ve said, we don’t have guys that are trying to jump off the ship guys that are pointing fingers. We had guys come in [Thursday], and I thought we had our best practice of the year.”

One area that Kittle says he needs to be better is blocking, but he isn’t the only one. The entire 49ers’ offensive line is playing below expectations. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey has been poor in pass-blocking and isn’t taking kindly to the criticism he receives from the media and fans.

Kittle acknowledges that the protection issues have come from simple missteps by the offense. Still, he is confident the unit will be better communicating when they take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football.

“We’re obviously making mistakes, and we’re making easy mistakes. We’re playing behind the chains way too much, and in our offense, that’s kind of difficult for us to come back from,” Kittle said. “Whether it’s communication issues or just doing little things. Like I said, I think we’ve definitely taken a step forward in both of those, and I think we’re gonna put some better football on tape this week.”

Leadership isn’t something that you learn overnight. Kittle was open and honest about how he’s adapting to becoming a team leader. He’s learning on the fly, as is Fred Warner. Did we underestimate the loss of Staley?