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Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Joe Staley still mentoring George Kittle on becoming a better leader for 49ers

Oct 15, 2020 at 3:49 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers lost one of their most influential leaders on offense when Joe Staley retired this offseason. That doesn't mean the six-time Pro Bowl tackle, who spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the Niners, isn't still influencing his former teammates.

After Sunday's embarrassing 43-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Staley reached out to George Kittle and offered up some advice to the All-Pro tight end, who is always trying to evolve as a leader for his teammates.

"[Staley] was just, 'Look, you have to hold people accountable, and you have to tell them that you have to hold them to the highest standard because that's what we've done for the last three years, is hold guys to an incredibly high standard,'" Kittle shared with reporters on Thursday. "I'm not saying we're lacking at that at all. I'm just saying we're trying to find our footing as a team, as captains too.

"When you lose Joe Staley, and [Richard Sherman] hasn't been here really, when you lose two guys that you look up to, it is hard. I have to be a better captain. I'm still learning how to do that. I think I'm getting better at that every single day. Fred Warner's getting better at that every single day. All our guys are. So, it's just a daily process, and I think we're going to improve."

Kittle also reflected on his arrival to the 49ers in 2017 and trying to figure out Staley. That's when the tight end started to learn what it means to become a leader on an NFL team.

"My rookie year, I was terrified of Joe Staley," Kittle said. "... He would come in, and he would be kind of a prick sometimes, and I wouldn't really understand that. And then there were times you'd see him, and he'd be the happiest guy ever, and you're like, 'What's wrong with him?'

"But really, when you think about it, the way he holds guys accountable, no matter who you are -- I mean, it doesn't matter if you're the QB, it doesn't matter if you're DeForest Buckner, it doesn't matter if you're Arik Armstead, it doesn't matter if you're George Kittle, Joe would hold you accountable, and he'd make sure you heard his point, and what he thought was required of you on a daily basis."

The 49ers are 2-3 and headed into what is perceived to be the most challenging portion of their schedule. The team remains winless at home but hopes to change that on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams.

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