It was a somber morning as the San Francisco 49ers met one final time before heading out for the offseason on Wednesday. The 49ers held their final team meeting and cleared out their lockers following Sunday's heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Several players spoke with the media and gave updates on the Super Bowl loss, health statuses and impending free agency. Here are the final takeaways as the 49ers head out for the offseason:
Kittle Not Expecting Offseason Surgery
George Kittle has been playing with a torn labrum this season and suggested earlier in the year that he had no intentions on having surgery. He doubled down on his decision on Wednesday, confirming he will not undergo any procedures this offseason and will spend the upcoming months rehabbing to return to San Francisco's offseason program in optimal condition. Kittle will also receive a much needed break from a knee and ankle injury suffered in the 49ers Week 9 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
"I'm great. It was a great year to be healthy," Kittle said. "I missed two games but nothing that requires any surgery. Just rehab, get the body back to 100 percent. That's it."
Kittle finished the regular season with 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns, marking his second-straight 1,000-yard season. Kittle is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is expected to be a high priority signing for San Francisco this offseason. NFL’s Mike Garafolo reported that Kittle is expected to land a record-breaking contract extension in the coming weeks as the 49ers look to lock up the tight end for the foreseeable future.
Arik Armstead's Future in San Francisco
The 49ers have several contract extensions looming in addition to Kittle and fourth-year defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. Another decision that lies ahead is the future of Arik Armstead, who is scheduled to become a free agent next month.
In his breakout campaign in 2019, Armstead finished the year with a team-leading 10 sacks to go along with 18 quarterback hits, two passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
The 49ers have the option of franchise tagging Armstead, who is expected to be one of the top defensive players to hit the open market this offseason. Despite being forced to play on a one-year deal, Armstead isn't opposed to the option if it means getting another opportunity at the Lombardi trophy.
"I would love being here," Armstead said. "I'm trying to go back to the Super Bowl. So however that is seen or has to get done, it's not really my decision what they want to do with me."
Armstead added that he is waiting to see what direction the 49ers are likely to take before making any decisions on his future.
Jimmie Ward's Stay at Safety
Jimmie Ward is another name set to hit the open market next month. After missing the first three games of the season with a finger injury, Ward went on to finish the final 16 games of the season and logged 77 tackles, eight passes defended, a sack and a forced fumble.
Ward hinted that he would prefer to return to the 49ers if the opportunity presents itself, saying the 49ers have the "upper hand" in his looming free agency decisions. Though often credited for his versatility (Ward has spent previous seasons at cornerback, free safety and strong safety), Ward was adamant that where ever he does decide to play, he wants to ensure he's at the position where he's most comfortable, which is at safety.
"That's what I love to do. That's what I'm most passionate about," Ward said. "If I don't work out with the 49ers, I'm going to look at any possibilities with teams that want me to play safety – strong or free, it doesn't matter."
Will Emmanuel Sanders Return to the 49ers?
Arriving in a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos, Emmanuel Sanders was essentially a half-season rental for San Francisco as he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this March.
Sanders appeared in 10 games and immediately gave San Francisco's offense a significant boost, hauling in 36 receptions for 502 yards and three touchdowns, while becoming the first player in NFL history to catch a pass in 17 regular season games.
Now entering into his 11th NFL season, Sanders remains unclear on his future in San Francisco.
"At some point, obviously, I got to switch my mind and think about what's to come and see what could happen," Sanders admitted. "But as of right now, I'm just a couple days away from losing the Super Bowl."
Despite the uncertainty of his future, Sanders remains confident that the 49ers are a team that has the potential to be back in contention in the coming years.
"We're different. This team is different. This organization is different," he added. "It doesn't start with the players. It starts with the general manager. From head coach. Those guys are special guys. They're going to get a group of guys around here. They're going to win a long time around here."
Jerick McKinnon Hopeful to Finally Take a Snap in San Francisco
After signing a four-year deal with the 49ers back in March of 2018, Jerick McKinnon has yet to play a live snap in San Francisco. McKinnon suffered a season-ending ACL injury ahead of Week 1 of his first year with the 49ers. Just a year later, McKinnon required additional surgery at the start of the 2019 season, causing him to miss his second-straight season in San Francisco.
McKinnon has been seen conditioning on the sidelines in recent weeks and hopes to make a full return in San Francisco next season.
"I'm willing to do whatever," McKinnon told ESPN's Nick Wagoner on Wednesday. "The organization knows I want to be a part of this team, so when that time comes there will be a talk between both parties."
Trent Taylor Health Update
It's been a rough year for the 49ers third year wideout. Trent Taylor was coming off a standout training camp before undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot in early August. Four surgeries later, the receiver hopes to get medical clearance to being rehabbing for next season.
Taylor suffered several complications in his right foot which caused him to miss the entire 2019 season. He revealed that he is close to removing the walking boot and hopes to be "100 percent" by training camp this summer.
Jimmy G on the 49ers Fourth Quarter Collapse
Jimmy Garoppolo is taking ownership in the 49ers fourth quarter breakdown against the Chiefs. The quarterback, who was 17-of-20 passing in the first three quarters, completed just 3-of-11 passes in the final 15 minutes of Sunday's game.
"Yeah, it is what it is if you just look at the stats like that," Garoppolo said. "As an offense, as a team, we've been in that situation multiple times and we've answered the bell. It's tough when that one time you didn't. That's what people will remember."
Despite the shortcoming, the quarterback looks to use the Super Bowl loss as fuel going forward and expects to be a part of "a more productive offseason" now that Garoppolo is a full year removed from his season-ending ACL injury in 2018.
"You've just got to own up to it and be a man about it," Garoppolo added. "It will fuel us in the offseason. It will fuel me, especially, in this offseason just to come back better."