LAKE LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Spending a moment of facetime with 49ers tight end George Kittle at the team hotel, it becomes abundantly clear he isn’t sitting out Super Bowl LVIII.
The only starter for San Francisco to miss every practice last week, Kittle plans to be on the field to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday evening. He’s fighting a toe injury but would love not to be mentioned on the first official injury report of the week Wednesday. Kittle maintains there is “no concern” about his injury entering the game.
He’s averaging a team-leading 18 yards per catch in two playoff games with six receptions for 108 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown.
Missing a chance to duel with Chiefs tight end and good friend Travis Kelce runs a distant second to claiming a Super Bowl ring for Kittle, the 2023 All-Pro first teamer at the position. But he’s not shying away from his appreciation of sharing the spotlight with his “Tight End University” sidekick.
“I’m a huge fan of Travis Kelce and the fact I’ve been able to become friends with him, peers with him, run Tight End (University) with him, just get to know him, it’s been awesome,” Kittle said. “For someone I’ve looked up to, looked up to his game, watched so much of his film. Anything that he says is nice about you; it feels great. He’s a fantastic football player. He’s probably a first-ballot Hall of Famer. So anything you can get from Travis Kelce, it’s awesome. And the fact you’re friends too, it makes it a little bit sweeter as well.”
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan did not provide an update on cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle) or linebacker Oren Burks (shoulder) on Tuesday. He said he doesn’t talk to trainers unless he’s required to submit an injury report under league rules.
EFFORT, ET CETERA
San Francisco defensive coordinator Steve Wilks used the term “unacceptable,” and Shanahan called a few plays out for a lack of collective effort in the NFC Championship Game win over the Detroit Lions.
In particular, Wilks said the two rushing plays that resulted in points were most problematic. Jahmyr Gibbs ran 15 yards for a score by cutting against the grain and easing by defensive end Chase Young, who was caught moving at half-speed. That was after a 42-yard touchdown run in the first quarter by wide receiver Jameson Williams.
“Our guys take a lot of pride in what they do,” Shanahan said. “They work hard every day, practice, games, since I’ve known them. So, I don’t expect it to be any different on Sunday.”
49ers defensive lineman Javon Hargrave said players bowed their heads in shame and vowed to not allow the narrative to become a talking point again.
“I think the most important thing is just how we felt about it as a team,” 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw said. “I agree to the fullest extent. I felt like we could play harder and I felt like I could play harder too. So, you’ve got to look at yourself too. That’s really what it boils down to.”
FOR THE BIRDS
49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel dismissed the Eagles as a rival in the NFC. Not because of proximity or division separation. Because San Francisco pasted Philly, 42-19, in their December meeting.
“I consider rivalries close games,” said Samuel, who caught two TD passes in the win.
The 49ers lost to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game last year, 31-7, before Philadelphia was defeated in the Super Bowl by the Chiefs.
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media
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