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Daniel Kilgore Shed 'Injury Prone' Stigma, Earned His New Contract

Daniel Kilgore laid on the Levi's Stadium grass for an extra tic on one particular play during a Week 9 home game against the Arizona Cardinals. The referee came over and decided that the San Francisco 49ers starting center appeared to be injured. 

In reality, Kilgore was just giving himself a second of rest before returning to the huddle.

"It wasn't because of an injury. It was because I was slow, and they stopped the clock," Kilgore said of his in-game siesta.

By rule, Kilgore was forced to leave the game for one play. That would be the only snap the center missed all season. Kilgore started all 16 games in 2017 after his previous three campaigns were all cut short due to injury.

He didn't consider himself to be "injury prone", but rather unlucky. Injury is an inherent risk when playing the game of football. However, that was just semantics to John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan and San Francisco's new regime. The fact remained that Kilgore hadn't made it through a full 16-game season since 2013.

"It was a huge goal of mine," Kilgore said. "I had that stigma from the front office and coaching staff – wanting to see if I could last a whole season. Personally, knowing that I could and finally doing it, was a huge sigh of relief."

His clean bill of health was undoubtedly a contributing factor to his three-year contract extension that he signed on Wednesday. Kilgore has spent his first seven NFL seasons with the 49ers since being taken in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Now he'll have a chance at wearing the red and gold for a full decade. 

"It's exciting for sure," Kilgore said. "To continue playing for San Francisco was huge for me. To be able to start my career there and hopefully be there for 10 consecutive years is a huge honor. It's an honor to wear this jersey.

"The friends I've made on the team and in the Bay Area – we didn't want to lose that. (My wife and I) love the Bay Area and consider it our second home."

Kilgore's play was impressive down the stretch. According to Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus, Kilgore was a top 10 center with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. He didn't allow a sack or a QB hit over San Francisco's final five games.

But that didn't remove the uncertainty of his future as he was just a few months away from becoming a free agent. Some players are eager to hit the open market, but Kilgore was sure that he wanted to remain with the 49ers. That's why on New Year's Day, as players cleaned out their lockers, Kilgore was the last to leave.

He said his goodbyes to teammates, trainers, cooks, equipment staff – everyone whom he'd created a bond with over the years.

"The risk of not seeing those people or communicating as much with that staff made me nervous," Kilgore said. "It made me sad, and I didn't want to lose that. That last day, I emptied out my locker, but I didn't really want to leave."

Now that he's got a new contract, he can focus solely on his offseason workouts. Kilgore was keen to point out that this is his first offseason that doesn't include any rehabbing. He's currently working with Dr. Brad DeWeese at East Tennessee State University. DeWeese is renowned for training athletes in preparation for the Olympic Games. That includes several participants at this year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

His latest task is to get Kilgore ready for the 49ers offseason program beginning April 14. 

"I'm eager to get stronger, get better and get back with the guys," Kilgore said.

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