SANTA CLARA, California – Just in time for a pivotal two-game streak against the NFC West leaders Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams, tight end George Kittle returns to the active San Francisco 49ers roster.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Friday that Kittle, who has missed the team’s last three games with a calf injury, will be activated from injured reserve and will play the Cardinals on Sunday.
Shanahan’s announcement came after Kittle completed practice week without a hitch and it looks like Kittle will play a big role on Sunday.
“When a guy is not healthy, you always have to (handle) that,” Shanahan said. “But I haven’t heard of people running a tight end, especially one like Kittle. The tight ends go. They tend to play every play.”
Kittle initially suffered the calf injury in a Week 1 win against the Detroit Lions, but played the next three games, despite being limited in practice. But, after Kittle came out of a Week 4 loss to the Seattle Seahawks feeling worse, the Niners opted to shut it down.
In three games without Kittle, the Niners went 1-2 with backups Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner replacing. On Thursday, Kittle said she did her best to stay positive and not let her health condition keep her from handling her usual leadership. paper. Now that he is back, Kittle said he feels good and hopes to have fresh legs and lots of energy on Sunday.
“I miss soccer,” Kittle said. “I haven’t hit anyone in a long time. I’m so excited to be able to do that again.”
The Niners will also welcome kicker Robbie Gould (right groin pain) from injured reserve after releasing replacement kicker Joey Slye earlier in the week. Running back Jeff Wilson Jr., who has been on the PUP list with a knee injury, could also make a comeback, though his status is tied to rookie running back Elijah Mitchell.
Mitchell is listed as questionable with a rib injury and was limited in practice Thursday and Friday, where he wore a contactless blue jersey. If Mitchell can’t play, Wilson could be activated to help run alongside JaMycal Hasty and Trey Sermon.
While the Niners would rather give Wilson, who had not played since May this week, more time to recover, he had a good week of practice and has sped up the timeline a bit.
“It’s only three practices, but he looked as good and ready as he could be,” Shanahan said. “So from a health and everything standpoint, there’s no question about it. Ideally, in a perfect world, we might as well give him a couple more practices. But with Elijah being questionable and the way he looked this week. , that’s why a problem. “
Additionally, free safety Jimmie Ward (quad) is listed as out and defensive end Dee Ford (back) and wide receiver Deebo Samuel (calf) are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
Samuel, who is second in the NFL in receiving yards, played with his calf problem last weekend but felt worse from wear and tear this week, according to Shanahan. Samuel said the calf has improved over the week.
“As the days go by, things get better day by day, so we’ve been taking it easy and seeing how it goes,” Samuel said.
Ford approved the concussion protocol that kept him away last week, but his nagging back problem flared again this week.
“That has never quite gone away,” Shanahan said. “That’s something he’s probably going to have to deal with forever. So some of it is on again, off again.”
The 3-4 Niners will need as many of those players as possible against the Cardinals as they enter a critical stretch that also includes a game next week against the Rams.
“When you’re up against back-to-back 7-1 teams, it just sets the stage for us,” Kittle said. “Either we’ll come out of those games with a winning record or on a hole. So it definitely shapes the entire season from a playoff perspective. You try to watch it one game at a time, so we focus on the Cardinals, but yeah, You definitely watch the whole schedule and other games. You have to be very tough, dirty and brave games and we are going to do everything we can to prepare to win those games. “