San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle returned to practice Friday for the first time since suffering a groin injury during the preseason.
The three-time Pro Bowler missed the 49ers' Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears and sat out the first two practice sessions ahead of Sunday's matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. General manager John Lynch said the team is hopeful Kittle will be able to play.
"We're going to hold out hope that George is ready," Lynch said Friday on KNBR. "We'll see if we get him out here today. I think that's critical. And if that doesn't happen, it's probably not looking good. But George is a type of player that you even wait until Sunday. I did that many times in my career, where you don’t practice all week, you find a way to go test it before the game. So I think it's going to go right down to the wire. He is improving, though, and we just want to make sure we have a healthy Kittle for the entirety of the season moving forward."
Kittle is arguably the NFL's best all-around tight end when healthy. The problem has been keeping him on the field. He's missed 12 games since the start of the 2020 season, and the 49ers are 4-8 in those contests.
Getting Kittle back in the lineup will be critical for second-year quarterback Trey Lance, who posted a miserable performance in last week's rain-soaked loss to Chicago. The weather is supposed to be more favorable in Sunday's home opener, and having his full complement of pass-catchers should give the 49ers a better idea of where Lance is in his development.
San Francisco will be without running back Elijah Mitchell for at least the next eight weeks with a knee injury.