With the 49ers on their bye week, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are making the rounds on the radio. Star tight end George Kittle landed on the injured reserve before the team faced the Cardinals in Week 5. Kittle must miss three games before returning to the active roster.
I’ve seen some worry — perhaps overreact is a better word — that Kittle will miss more than just three games. Lynch joined KNBR Tuesday to discuss Kittle, and the 49ers general manager was optimistic Kittle would return in a month. Here’s Lynch debating the decision to shut Kittle down:
“That was a really tough decision because he was close to playing versus Arizona. But I think at the end of the day, there was a frustration level on George’s behalf, which is right. Like, ‘Listen, I can keep not practicing and trying to play, but it feels like I’ve got a knife dug in my calf there.’
So, at some point, you have to make a decision. And we were very careful to make sure he wasn’t in jeopardy of a major injury or anything, but that wasn’t sustainable, continuing to do that, and we’re not going to have George Kittle.”
One week wouldn’t have been enough for Kittle to heal fully. But, without him, the 49ers still had an opportunity to beat an undefeated team.
Kittle would’ve never regained full strength had he kept playing. You could see him limping more and more as the games went along. Lynch said the 49ers used their bye week to help Kittle get fully healthy:
“I would submit to you that George Kittle at 80 percent is better than most at 100 but you have to do right by George and our team. By giving him the opportunity — we felt like, with the bye week, this gave the opportunity to kind of knock this thing out for the year.
Do we know that’s going to happen with it this time? No. But we have a lot of opinions that it is ample time for that to happen. So, we’re very hopeful that’s the case, and after the Chicago game, I believe for the next Arizona game, we’ll have him at full strength.”
Kittle was still effective at 80%. That wasn’t in his best interest long-term to continue playing hobbled, though. There was a risk in whatever decision the 49ers made. Shutting Kittle down for roughly a month without sacrificing your season seemed like the best move for all parties.
Kittle will be 100% for the stretch run. The hope is San Francisco is fighting for a playoff spot and even the NFC West title. The Cardinals are undefeated, and the Rams have one loss. The divisional lead might seem out of reach, but Arizona faces the Browns Sunday, then the Packers in three weeks, and that’s followed by the Panthers, Seahawks, Bears, and Rams.
One game at a time for the Niners, though. It all starts with getting healthy.