Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

George Kittle, 49ers ‘hungry’ to return to football, avenge Super Bowl loss, avoid COVID-19

Jul 9, 2020 at 8:34 AM--

February's defeat in Super Bowl LIV left a bad taste in the mouths of the San Francisco 49ers. The team had enjoyed a two-month winning streak, including a dominant playoff push, until that point.

Then a fourth-quarter collapse paired with Patrick Mahomes doing Patrick Mahomes-type things ended all of that.

Now, players are eager to get back on the football field, avenge the loss, and prove that they can overcome a potential Super Bowl hangover.

"The one thing I've just noticed in the offseason, from guys whether just talking to them or through our Zoom calls that we had during the OTAs-part of the offseason, just how hungry the guys are," Kittle said Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via "I think everyone understands that hey, yeah, we were close, but obviously we weren't good enough to get the job done. What didn't we do well?

"So I think guys are really focused on that. Guys really hit the ground running this offseason. They've been training really hard. They've been getting their routes in and catching.

"We had a couple days where we were able to see some guys in Nashville. I was proud just to see the guys, how they were moving, how they're catching the ball. You know, we have a young team, we really do, especially after Joe Staley retired. But we have a mature team, which is what I really love.

"I think these guys, our team has their head on straight. They're just really looking forward to playing football again."

Kittle is looking forward to seeing all of his teammates again after an offseason limited by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, he would see them via Zoom conference calls with coaches but it's not the same. As he mentioned, he saw a contingent in the Nashville area during player-organized workouts there. However, those ended on a sour note after one unidentified player tested positive for COVID-19, stressing the importance of staying safe amid very different times.

Training camp will represent the first time the team physically reconvenes as a whole. Kittle knows he and his teammates will have to take precautions, though. COVID-19 hasn't gone anywhere and still threatens to derail the 2020 NFL season if everyone isn't careful.

"Oh my goodness, I think everybody in the NFL is itching to go play football," Kittle added. "Especially because we didn't have OTAs, you don't have that being in the locker room with all your teammates. For me personally, what I think about is the player safety. I think as long as the player safety is at the top of everyone's board, then I'm looking forward to playing football. There are definitely a lot of questions because this is something no one's ever dealt with before...

"So I think if the protocols can be met and you can stay safe, then I'm looking forward to it. At the end of the day, social distancing's hard when you're in a huddle and when you're trying to block guys.

"Like I said, there's a lot of variables, I think a lot of things are going to change, it's going to be a fluid protocol. But as long as the health and safety of players stays at the top of the list for everybody, then I'll be looking forward to playing football."

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