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Shanahan on Kittle: I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play

Kittle’s return couldn’t come at a better time

San Francisco 49ers Training Camp Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan joined KNBR Friday morning as he does before every game. It sounds like George Kittle will make his season debut; as Shanahan said, “I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play.”

Denver has struggled to stop tight ends this year as they’ve allowed the third-most yardage per game and ranked 22nd in DVOA. It doesn’t help that they’re down star safety Justin Simmons. They haven’t sniffed a tight end close to the caliber of Kittle. Sunday night should be Kittle's coming-out party, especially if Deebo Samuel has a bigger role in the backfield without Ty Davis-Price and Elijah Mitchell.

On a Thursday appeared on KNBR, general manager John Lynch echoed Shanahan’s words and added why Kittle’s presence alone would impact the team:

“George, he’s had two good practices, so that’s a great thing. He kind of lifts us. He lifts everybody around here because he’s a character. But it’s real; it’s genuine. And he just lifts everybody’s spirits with the way he plays. You can tell he loves it out here, and you need guys like that, that lfit you, bring up the energy. I think that’s been true this week.”

San Francisco lost its starting quarterback, running back, and rookie third-round running back to a high-ankle sprain. So Kittle’s addition to the lineup, from an energy and talent perspective, couldn’t come at a more perfect time.