SF 49ers shouldn’t play George Kittle for rest of 2020

George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

With the SF 49ers’ 2020 campaign officially awash, it makes little sense for them to risk further injury to their best player, George Kittle.

The SF 49ers aren’t going to the playoffs this year, folks.

True, they’re not technically eliminated after suffering yet another defeat in Week 14, this time at the hands of the Washington Football Team. But the reality of the situation is a lot of things would have to go right for the Niners, including winning out, for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad to stand a chance.

Before falling to 5-8, there was a sound argument San Francisco should push for two of its most important offensive players, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle, to make returns from injuries suffered earlier this season. But the context has changed since then.

Quite a lot.

Speaking to reporters on Monday after the loss to Washington, Shanahan said Garoppolo won’t return in time for the SF 49ers’ upcoming game against the Dallas Cowboys, yet there was a chance Kittle could make a return:

"I’m hoping to get Kittle into practice a little bit this week. We’ll see about Jimmy, if he’s ready for some practice the following week. But I think this week, we have a chance at Kittle for practice, and that’s it."

Nope. Scratch that, coach Shanahan.

Yes, it would be difficult for Shanahan to tell Kittle, the Niners’ top offensive weapon, he can’t play if he’s anywhere close to fully healthy. And watching Kittle on the field would at least give San Francisco fans something to smile about over these final three games amid an otherwise disappointing season.

But Shanahan and the SF 49ers already saw what could happen when pushing an injured player back into the fray arguably too soon.

On the Niners’ opening play from scrimmage in Week 14, wide receiver Deebo Samuel suffered a hamstring strain after a 9-yard jet sweep, coming up lame and frustratingly walking off the field under his own power. Samuel already missed three games earlier this season with a hamstring injury before making his return in Week 13 against the Buffalo Bills, only to suffer what’s likely a season-ending injury the following week.

Now, the only hope is Samuel will be able to make a full recovery and not risk a chronic problem between now and 2021.

Kittle, who suffered a foot fracture back in Week 8 against the Seattle Seahawks and hasn’t played since, could be considered in the same boat. Sure, San Francisco wants to remain competitive and would love to play the spoiler in games against the Arizona Cardinals and Seahawks in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively. No doubting Kittle would help them do that.

At the current moment, though, all of Shanahan’s focus should be on 2021, not how the team wraps up an otherwise lost season this year.

Kittle’s recovery and long-term impact are part of that equation, too. Trying to put him back on the field at any point over the duration of 2020 would net nothing more than individual stats while taking away from the focus on what’s more important: 2021.

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Let Kittle rest and recover for the rest of the season, head coach. That’s more vital for the team’s future than anything to be gained over these final three games.