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Does George Kittle need to change how he plays in order to stay healthy?

Kittle knows he must stay healthy, but how?

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

When Jim Harbaugh was the coach of the 49ers, he had a mantra printed on a wall at 49ers headquarters. “You either get better, or you get worse. You never stay the same.” While Harbaugh may be long gone, that philosophy is common in the 49ers’ locker room and all across the league. Certainly, George Kittle believes it, and he recently told the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast exactly where he wants to be better in 2021.

“I would like to get better at the longer-distanced routes, some longer-distanced third-down stuff, just getting open in man coverage. I think there’s definitely plays that I could have made this year that I didn’t make. So, just being able to finish those plays. And that’s just confidence in yourself, how you talk to yourself, so I’m not too worried about that. But it just gives me something to work on, just consistency. And obviously staying on the field and being healthy is the one thing I would love to be able to do this year, and I need to do.”

He’s certainly not wrong about that last part. Kittle missed 8 games last season with knee and foot injuries and has failed to play a full 16 games in three out of his four years in the league. However, when it comes to how actually to do that, Akash Anavarathan had an idea in today’s Niners Nation Shanaplan podcast.

“He has this physical style of play that he likes, and I feel like the older he gets, he’s going to have to adapt from that,” Akash said, “He can’t be just looking for contact 24-7-365. He’s going to have to make some more smart decisions so he can stay on the field because his offense needs him desperately.”

As Akash’s co-host Kyle Posey pointed out during the show, the 49ers paid Kittle a lot of money, and part of what comes with that is not being your own worst enemy on the field.

“He would have the ball sometimes, and instead of trying to either make a guy miss, or even staying on his feet and stiff-arming him, he would look to lower his shoulder and, I don’t want to say, give up yards, but that’s essentially what happened. Another receiver would be able to sort of make a guy miss, or at least avoid the square 100% tackle, and then be able to gain yards after that. So I think that is an area where Kittle can definitely evolve.”

Check out the full conversation in today’s Niners Nation Shanaplan podcast, waiting for you in the player below, and anywhere podcasts can be found.

Other topics in today’s episode