SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers got star tight end George Kittle and two other key players back on the practice field after stints on injured reserve as they try to get healthier for the second half of the season.
The 49ers opened the practice windows on Wednesday for Kittle, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. and kicker Robbie Gould. Kittle and Gould are expected to play Sunday against Arizona, while Wilson may take an additional week to get back in games after injuring his knee in May.
Kittle is a major part of the offense for the Niners (3-4) when he is healthy as one of the better run-blocking tight ends and a dangerous receiving threat to take attention away from Deebo Samuel.
Kittle initially hurt his calf in a game against Green Bay on Sept. 26 and still played the following week against Seattle. But the injury was too tough to play through and Kittle went on injured reserve and missed the past three games.
That left a big hole in San Francisco's offense that could be filled again this week.
“It’ll be awesome,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said of Kittle's return. “Just having him out there for the walk-through just a little bit ago, you could feel him. He’s got some fresh legs, so his legs are, he’s looking fast right now. So I’m excited to get him back out there. Just another weapon for us.”
Kittle had 19 catches for 227 yards in his four games this season before getting hurt. Kittle also missed eight games last year with injuries to his knee and foot and two games in 2019 with a knee injury.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said some of the injuries could be related to how explosive Kittle is as a player but doesn't see a need to limit his time when he's healthy to protect him.
“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,” he said. "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. ... But Kittle is always going to play through stuff and go out there when he isn’t 100%. When he’s not 100%, that’s when you’ve definitely got to do that. But I’ve never done that with a tight end before though.”
Gould hurt his groin in warmups before the game against Seattle on Oct. 3. He was then placed on IR and missed four games in total.
Wilson injured his knee in a freak accident in the locker room in May and has been sidelined ever since. He adds a dependable back behind rookie Elijah Mitchell, who excels in both short yardage and as a receiver.
In other injury news, Mitchell (rib), Samuel (calf) and tackle Trent Williams (ankle) all missed practice. The Niners are hopeful all three will be able to play Sunday against the Cardinals.
NOTES: DL Maurice Hurst (calf), and DB Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) both missed practice. ... LB Azeez Al-Shaair and DE Dee Ford returned to practice after missing one game with concussions. ... The Niners announced that DL Charles Omenihu passed his physical and was added to the roster a day after being acquired in a trade from Houston. ... San Francisco signed LB Tyrell Adams, LB Christian Elliss, S Will Parks and WR Austin Watkins Jr. to the practice squad.
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