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Shark Bites

Niners TE George Kittle suffered a shoulder injury in the 1st quarter of Thursday night's preseason opener against the Cowboys. There's no word yet on the severity. We'll keep an eye out for updates over the next few days.

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SI's Grant Cohn reports that 49ers TE George Kittle has caught just 2 passes through 5 days of camp. "Instead they're using him as a blocker and a decoy while they call passes for Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Ross Dwelley," Cohn writes. That does seem odd given the financial commitment to Kittle. We'll go ahead and give HC Kyle Shanahan the benefit of the doubt and assume he has not converted Kittle to decoy/blocker. But Kittle's early-round draft position makes this situation worth keeping an eye on -- especially given that San Francisco is bringing along a rookie QB. It's tough to imagine the Niners getting too cute just to try to hide that they like Kittle.

Niners HC Kyle Shanahan confirmed Thursday that TE George Kittle will play against the Cardinals on Saturday. According to multiple reports, Shanahan said Kittle might be the healthiest player on the team and that he has looked good in practice. The TE might see some limitation to his playing time, but we wouldn't bet they'd return the star to action unless they expected him to help. Kittle jumps right back in among the top TE plays for Week 16.

The San Jose Mercury News' Cam Inman believes TE George Kittle (foot) is on track to return for Saturday's game against the Cardinals. Both GM John Lynch and team doctors have given Kittle the green light. “Yes, you have to have discretion and all those things, but we’ve been very thoughtful about this, and if he plays, it’s only because he’s ready to play,” Lynch said. “He’s eager to play and we want him to play.” It sure sounds like Kittle would be returning to something close to his regular role. There might be some risk of re-injury, but Kittle would also boast as much upside as any TE outside of maybe Travis Kelce. It's worth noting that Kittle posted a 15-183-1 line in his 1st game back from injury -- albeit a different injury -- earlier this season.

49ers HC Kyle Shanahan said there's a chance TE George Kittle (foot) returns for Saturday's game against the Cardinals. "f he’s good, I plan on him playing," Shanahan said. Kittle has been sidelined since Week 8 and would carry elevated risk in his 1st game back. But he'd certainly make sense for a lot of fantasy teams considering how ugly the TE position has been this season. We'll monitor Kittle's status throughout the week.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that 49ers TE George Kittle (foot fracture) "appears ready to play" in Week 16 after returning to practice this week. But that doesn't necessarily mean Kittle will return. "A lot will go into that decision," a source told Rapoport. At 5-8, San Francisco enters Sunday 2 full games behind Arizona for the final playoff spot in the NFC. A Niners loss and Cardinals win today would eliminate San Francisco from playoff contention, as far as we can tell. That might also keep Kittle from getting back onto the field. We'll see about the TE's status over the coming week. As for QB Jimmy Garoppolo (high-ankle sprain), Rapoport reports he won't play in Week 16 and isn't expected to return for Week 17.

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