Kyle’s update, 4:29 PM PT: Here’s a look at today’s injury report, which is unchanged from Wednesday:
DNP - OL Daniel Brunskill (hamstring)
TE George Kittle (groin)
Limited - LB Dre Greenlaw (elbow)
Arik Armstead (knee)
LB Oren Burks (knee)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (right shoulder)
T Mike McGlinchey (knee)
For the second day in a row, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle didn't practice with a groin injury that began bothering him during Monday's practice. And when the Niners signed tight end Troy Fumagalli to the practice squad Wednesday, that was the first hint that Kittle could miss time.
During his tenure as the 49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan has been adamant that his players practice on Thursday to play on Sunday's game. Kittle, of course, isn't any player. He doesn't need to practice to play.
Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reported that Kittle has a Grade 2 groin strain that's limiting his top-end speed:
One source characterized Kittle’s status as being fluid but emphasized the groin injury is “not good,” adding that it would be optimal for him to rest and rehab for a week or two.
Another source called it a Grade 2 strain that has limited Kittle’s top-end speed. One of the top tight ends in the game and well known for his toughness, Kittle wouldn’t shock anyone if he opted to play through the injury. Nonetheless, his chances of playing nearly the entire season are considered much more likely if he sits out the season opener and doesn’t further aggravate the injury.
There is a healthy dose of qualifiers above. The situation is fluid, but it's also not good. It wouldn't be surprising if Kittle played Sunday, but he won't last the entire season if he does.
Let's act as if Wilson's report is accurate. If so, Week 1 sounds like a long shot for the star tight end. Kittle shouldn't risk a 17-game season where the 49ers hope to play well into January for a season opener where the Niners are touchdown favorites.
Last year, the Niners were banged up headed into Chicago on the other side of the ball:
Looking at the 49ers/Bears game from last year, you forget how many starters were out defensively. Tavon Wilson came in as the extra DB. Marcell Harris played 33 snaps. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles started at LB. They were so banged up on defense that Armstead had to play DT.— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) September 8, 2022
This year, we'll find out on the fly about Mike McGlinchey's health. Backup swing offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill hasn't practiced in over a week with a hamstring injury, and now Kittle's potential Grade 2 strain.
This will be Lance's third career start, and Kittle will have missed two of them. Charlie Woerner is the "next man up," but there is no replacing what Kittle brings to the offense. I'd argue Woerner is borderline elite as a run blocker, but Kittle draws attention that opens up the rest of the offense.
Last year, Kittle caught four of his ten targets over 20 yards. Shanahan would draw up deep passing plays for Kittle over Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel. Needless to say, Lance and the rest of the offense take a step back without No. 85 on the field.
We'll see if this one game turns into a month or if all Kittle needs is a week to return to the lineup. The Niners hope it's the latter.