We know George Kittle is one tough cookie. Few would have guessed the 49ers All-Pro was playing through a literal broken ankle in last year’s rout of Green Bay, contributing six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown on six targets. A knee injury shelved Kittle in Week 2, though most reports suggested he’d only miss one game. San Francisco’s depleted skill corps—the injury-riddled Niners are already down a receiver (Deebo Samuel) and a pair of running backs (Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman)—would further incentivize Kittle to return against the Giants in Week 3, though Stephania Bell of ESPN doesn’t see that happening.
“I’d really question whether you’re going to see George Kittle next week,” said Bell, appearing alongside ESPN colleagues Matthew Berry and Field Yates on the Fantasy Focus podcast. “The 49ers have three games coming up on their home surface, which is grass. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the guys who are questionable end up being out until they’re back on a grass surface.”
The 49ers, including noticeably frustrated head coach Kyle Shanahan, have been vocal about the turf surface at MetLife Stadium (site of their Week 2 game against the Jets), attributing Sunday’s injuries to Mostert, reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo and Solomon Thomas to dangerous field conditions. Cognizant of last week’s carnage, ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported many players were apprehensive about returning to the Meadowlands to face the Giants in Week 3.
“The turf is another conversation,” said Bell, clearly skeptical of either Kittle or Garoppolo (currently nursing a high-ankle sprain) playing this week. “If the players already perceive it to be a problem and have expressed, literally using the word ‘anxiety,’ about the situation and watching other players go down, that adds to the onus of the decision-making and putting players who are recovering from injury or dealing with injury back out there.”
If Kittle is deemed healthy enough to play Sunday, it will be interesting to see if the 26-year-old decides to suit up—or if San Francisco—even allows him to after last week’s nightmare. Jordan Reed’s emergence versus the Jets (7-50-2 on eight targets) might make the Niners more apt to keep Kittle under wraps before unleashing him against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football in Week 4.