The 49ers playoff hopes may have come to an end but San Francisco is still looking forward to the return of one of its team captains. San Francisco opened the practice window for tight end George Kittle last week and are eyeing his potential return on Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Kittle was sidelined in Week 8 after suffering a fracture in his foot that caused him to miss San Francisco's last five contests. Prior to his exit against the Seattle Seahawks, Kittle appeared in six games and registered 474 yards on 37 receptions (12.8 yards per reception) and two touchdowns.
The tight end joined quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and other 49ers in the team's relocation to Arizona to continue rehab for a possible return.
"I think he's got a chance this week," Kyle Shanahan said on Tuesday. "That was the point of getting him back at practice last week – to see how he responded. I know he responded well from a medical standpoint and from him. So, I'm looking to see how he is this week. And if he's good, I plan on him playing."
Following Sunday's 41-33 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the 49ers were officially eliminated from playoff contention. Despite having two games to go before looking ahead to the 2021 season, Shanahan won't let the team's record deter him from keeping the star tight end off the field.
"If he's healthy, I just don't see the reason why not to," Shanahan said. "That's the same with every other player on our roster. We would never ask him to play injured or anything like that, but he had a good week of practice last week. Most of the soreness has gone away and we're definitely going to test it again this week.
"When you have a guy who is 100 percent healthy, how do you sit one guy and then look at everyone else in the eye on the team. There probably isn't anybody out there playing 100 percent healthy right now. So, when you are, there's a respect level that players have towards each other and everyone goes through this whole thing."
Kittle added to a league-high of players who landed on the 49ers Injured Reserve list this season. The 49ers opened the tight end's practice window last week and were encouraged by his performance. Even with an impending return, the team will continue to monitor Kittle leading into Saturday and are likely to be cautious with his usage against Arizona.
"Obviously, I don't want to get George hurt or anything like that and that's why we're going to be overly cautious with it and that's why we have been," Shanahan continued. "But if someone's 100 percent healthy, I can't look the rest of the team in the eye and tell them they have to play but George doesn't. So that's just part of having a team and part of treating people the right way."