You wouldn't be able to tell that San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is a second-year player just by listening to him speak. He sounds like a seasoned veteran who is a lot more sure of himself heading into his sophomore NFL season. Kittle hopes that confidence carries over to the football field as he works to become the type of dynamic tight end that his head coach, Kyle Shanahan, envisions for his offensive scheme.

Kittle had a late-season surge to finish his rookie campaign. He registered 42-or-more receiving yards in each of his final three games, including a season-high 100 yards receiving on four catches during 34-13 Week 17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Head coach Kyle Shanahan showed a lot of confidence in the tight end despite some injuries plaguing his season.

"I think George can be a very good tight end in this league," Shanahan said last week. "It's rare that you have a guy who is built to block very well who also runs in the 4.5s and who is quick enough to separate. I think George was a big part of our team last year. I think George played last year hurt almost the entire year. He was hurt a lot in training camp, too.

"We put a lot of pressure on George early because we needed to, and it was up and down throughout the year, but he never shied away. We always knew he was hurting, but for him to get away, clean his body up, get healthy, to come back and just watch how he moves right now, it just shows us how banged up he was."

Kittle spent much of the offseason building muscle mass and is looking forward to a healthy 2018 season. He had to deal with hamstring, calf, hip, chest, back, elbow, and ankle injuries as a rookie. The high-ankle injury was his most restricting during the season because it prevented him from properly planting his foot.

"I had ups and downs, obviously, throughout the season," Kittle said last week. "I think it's something that you just get used to yearly. It's also a lot different coming in as a rookie ... You're training the whole offseason. You don't really have any time off for your body to recover. I think that kind of led to it. I definitely wasn't feeling as good as I do now than I did last year. Feeling really good now, so I'm just really looking forward to being on the field healthy."

Tight ends coach Jon Embree believes a healthy Kittle will mean big things for the second-year player and the 49ers offense.

"His thing is staying healthy, as it is with a lot of players," Embree said. "I think if he's able to do that, everyone's going to be pleased what he brings to the table for us."

Kittle started to build a good relationship with new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on the football field last year, and he hopes that chemistry improves this season.

"We worked a lot this offseason, especially since we got back," Kittle said. "We got lucky. Jimmy got to play the last couple of games. So you got to start something there, got to get a baseline. And then just this past couple of weeks, it's been really fun to just be on the field with Jimmy, just grow with him, learn the offense with him, see what he likes because his coaching point on a route might be a little bit different than what's installed. Just being able to learn that type of stuff with him is really helpful."

Leading into Phase 2 of the offseason, Kittle was part of the throwing sessions organized by Garoppolo. Those sessions ended once the players returned to practicing three times a week. Kittle found the extra reps with his quarterback and without the coaches incredibly useful.

"That's really another point where Jimmy can be, 'Hey, I want you to do it just like this. This is how I'm going to throw it. I'm going to step at this time,'" Kittle said. "You can break it down a lot more. You have way more free time with it. You don't have a coach say, 'Hey, you've got to go to the next drill' or something. You can literally just break down a single route and be on it for 10, 15 minutes if you need to be."

For now, 49ers players will have time off until the team reports to training camp at the end of July. Kittle will return to Nashville but will work with quarterback C.J. Beathard, his former college teammate, while there. He looks to improve upon his 43 receptions for 515 yards from last season, both of which set franchise records for a rookie tight end.