49ers' Kyle Shanahan clarifies if George Kittle will play again in 2020

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Jennifer Lee Chan
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Shanahan clarifies whether Kittle will play again in 2020 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

There is obvious excitement in 49ers tight end George Kittle returning to practice Wednesday but it still does not mean the All-Pro will play on Sunday. 

Kyle Shanahan has previously hinted that neither Kittle or Jimmy Garoppolo would be activated to the 53-man roster unless the 49ers were headed to the postseason. With the team’s chances of playing past Week 17 very slim, the head coach clarified his stance. 

“I'm not saying for sure no,” Shanahan said on Wednesday. “If I thought it would help him and I thought it would help our team, definitely. I mean, there's more things to it than just making the playoffs. 

“Obviously, that's the number one thing, but it would have to do with what George, if he's risking anything, then it'd be an easy decision. We wouldn't even think about it, but if he could 100-percent come back and be normal, then that's something I'll talk to him about, talk to John [Lynch] about it and we'll figure out what's best for him and the team.” Kittle has missed five consecutive games after fracturing a bone in his foot during the team’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 8. The star tight end previously missed Weeks 2 and 3 with a knee sprain. Shanahan obviously has the long-term health of his top playmaker in mind as he considers the remaining three games on the schedule.  

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When healthy, Kittle is one of the most reliable targets on the offense. His presence alone on the field will likely boost the productivity and confidence of quarterback Nick Mullens as well as providing unrivaled enthusiasm. 

“Yeah, I can't wait to see George out there,” Mullens said on Wednesday. “Even just as, take his talent and play-making ability aside, just his energy and smile. George is always bringing juice and so it'll be awesome to have him back out there. 

“And to the offense, I mean, people know any time George gets the ball in his hands a big play is about to happen and so he definitely helps the offense and helps the team.”

RELATED: Shanahan sticks with Mullens as 49ers' starting QB vs. Cowboys

The 49ers offense could use another playmaker on the offense on Sunday in Dallas when they face off with the Cowboys.

Shanahan has already announced that Deebo Samuel will miss the remainder of the regular season as a result of a hamstring strain suffered in the first play of the team's loss to Washington.