With the 49ers set to play the Philadelphia Eagles in prime time Sunday, San Francisco tight end George Kittle made it clear that there was no way he is going to sit out after missing two games with a knee injury.
“I just get excited at the opportunity,” Kittle said. “I mean, 5:25 on a Sunday night in Levi’s (Stadium) is pretty exciting. I know our fans won’t be there, but we’re going to feel them. It’s just going to be really exciting to get out there and play again. I’ve been missing it.”
Kittle sprained his left knee in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals after getting hit low by safety Budda Baker. He missed the next two contests against the New York Giants and the New York Jets, partly due to concerns about MetLife Stadium’s artificial playing surface.
“I feel like I can always play,” Kittle said. “I feel like I could have played versus the Jets, but that’s just me. I think a couple things went into me not playing and just the conversation with coach (Kyle) Shanahan and we just agreed it wasn’t the best decision and I wasn’t all the way back yet and it’s a long season. I think if it would have been later in the season, I would have definitely gone.”
Now with the 49ers back at home and playing on grass, Kittle is confident that he is ready to roll after going through his second full practice in as many days. His return is a boon to a team hit hard by injuries.
And his timing couldn’t be better as the Pro Bowl tight end seems to shine brightest under the lights. Last year, four of his five touchdown catches came in night-time action, and he hauled in at least five catches and 70 yards in each of the five prime-time games he played.
Kittle may not be the only starter returning to the lineup as receiver Deebo Samuel practiced as well on Thursday. Samuel could be ready to come off IR and make his first appearance of the season after sustaining a Jones fracture in his left foot over the summer.
Running back Jerick McKinnon, who left last week’s win with a rib injury, also could be ready to start in place of Raheem Mostert (knee), and quarterback Nick Mullens almost certainly will start again in place of Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle).