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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Shanahan expresses confidence in other tight ends as 49ers plan to travel without George Kittle

Sep 18, 2020 at 2:16 PM--

Bad news on the injury front keeps coming for the San Francisco 49ers, who on Friday announced they'd be without tight end George Kittle against the New York Jets this Sunday due to a knee injury.

Kittle has been battling through the injury in recent days after sustaining it during the 49ers' Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Shanahan told reporters Friday the injury is one that would have resulted in a typical player being declared out earlier in the week, but Kittle's past resilience to injuries caused the team to wait until the last minute to make a decision.

"We never really do that with George because of what he's shown us over these three years with him," Shanahan said during his Friday press conference. "We would have held out two more days to wait and see if it was a home game."

Kittle will stay behind in the Bay Area and work on his injury while the 49ers head east later today. The plan from there will be to have him rejoin the team next week in West Virginia, where the 49ers will be staying while they prepare for their Week 3 road game against the New York Giants.

"If he's not going to play, it's much better to leave him here for a couple of days and let him get his rehab and everything," Shanahan said of Kittle. "So we had to make that decision a little bit earlier today. That'll help him and benefit him and he'll meet us in West Virginia. Hopefully, these two days staying here will help him, and hopefully, he'll be ready to go next week."

Kittle's injury will result in more playing time for tight ends Ross Dwelley, Jordan Reed, and Charlie Woerner. Reed, who caught two passes for 12 yards against the Cardinals, is the most experienced of the group and the only one of them to have caught a pass in the Week 1 opener. Reed was brought along slowly by the 49ers during training camp after missing all of 2019 due to concussion issues, but Shanahan said the team's confidence in him has been growing throughout recent weeks.

"I think it's been like that really each week for him," Shanahan said. "I think he ended up getting about ten plays last week. That was about how much we planned on. If you go back to the practice weeks and stuff, it's been about that. We've been building up to ten plays. It doesn't change much with George out. I can give him a couple more opportunities, but we still have our other two tight ends out there. We'll still carry three. Last week we were able to carry four, which is why we went short at receiver.

"But no, I feel good with him. He's getting better each week at it, getting healthier and getting more confident with what he's doing in our offense."

While Reed had ten snaps on offense for the 49ers against the Cardinals, Dwelley had just seven while the rookie sixth-round pick Woerner had only one. But Shanahan said Friday he expects all of them to see more snaps this week, and that he'd have no issues if any of them needed to become more involved in the passing game.

"I'm confident in all three of our guys out there," Shanahan said. "All of them have our traits that they do some things better than others, but all three of them are capable at running, blocking, catching. They all can do it all, so it's not like you're going to make any of them one-dimensional. We've got a number of personnel groups. I expect all of them to play more. It was a little bit tougher rotating four of them last week. With only three up this week, they'll all get more playing time."

Kittle joins a list of key 49ers players set to miss this week's game that includes cornerback Richard Sherman (calf, injured reserve), cornerback Jason Verrett (hamstring), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (foot, injured reserve), and wide receiver Richie James (hamstring, injured reserve). The Jets enter into the game with injury issues of their own, as they'll be without running back Le'Veon Bell (hamstring) and wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring), among others. The 49ers and Jets kick off at 10 a.m. PDT in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday.

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