Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan reveals the plan for George Kittle in 49ers-Cardinals matchup

Rohan Chakravarthi
Nov 6, 2021 at 11:45 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers are set to play the Arizona Cardinals this weekend after activating star tight end George Kittle off injured reserve ahead of the game as he had a good week of practice.

Kittle, who's faced a calf injury since Week 1's win against the Detroit Lions, felt his calf get worse after San Francisco's Week 4 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, prompting the 49ers to place him on injured reserve. As a result, Kittle was forced to miss three games(Week 5, Week 7, Week 8), but is set to return against Arizona.

Coming off an injury, what will his role be?

In his weekly interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, Kyle Shanahan addressed that the team will be cautious, given that Kittle's just returned this week, meaning the team may not play him as much as they normally would.

"We usually play him every play when he's 100 percent healthy," Shanahan said during the interview. "He's just coming back. I don't know if it will be as much like that. We've still got a little bit to decide, and you get to see a little bit on game day."

Shanahan believes the 49ers will likely will ease Kittle into the gameplan, depending on how he responds throughout the game, especially given the impact that Kittle has on a defense.

Added Shanahan: "But I think we'll ease him in a little bit and see how the game goes, how he's moving, how he's feeling, communicating with him throughout it. If he's feeling good, it's definitely a lot more tempting to keep him out there."

Contrary to Shanahan's more skeptical thoughts, the 28-year old tight end is ready to be back out there and admires the physicality, rather than looking down upon it.

"I miss football," Kittle told reporters this week. "I haven't hit anybody in a long time. I'm very excited to be out there being able to do that again."

Earlier this week, Shanahan was approached about the topic of managing a tight end's workload, especially one as talented as Kittle, during his daily presser.

"Yeah, I think when you talk about workload for tight ends, it's about training camp, it's about practice, it's about stuff like that," said Shanahan. "When a guy's not healthy, you've always got to do that. But I haven't heard of people managing a tight end, especially one like Kittle. Tight ends go. They play every play usually. Lots of them, you have different personnel groupings, but most tight ends are over 80-percent of the game. But Kittle is always going to play through stuff and go out there when he isn't a hundred percent. And when he's not a hundred percent, that's when you've definitely got to do that. But I've never done that with a tight end before though."

With practices done and Kittle officially elevated off IR, Sunday will be the next indication on Kittle's status, where the 49ers will aim to get back to .500 with a win against the 7-1 Cardinals.

In Kittle's absence, Charlie Woerner has stepped up, coming together as a better blocker, which could be helpful in two-tight end sets tomorrow should the 49ers want Kittle more involved in the passing game.

You can watch the rest of Shanahan's interview with NBC Sports Bay Area here.

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