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George Kittle Has Had Labrum Injury for 2 Seasons; 49ers TE Rules out Surgery

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2020

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 19: George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers runs after making a reception during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Packers 37-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle said on the Pardon My Take podcast that he's played with a torn labrum since 2018. 

"So I dislocated my shoulder last year, and my labrum is completely torn," he said (h/t Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports). "So I don't get surgery on it—[the protective sleeve] basically helps me, so it doesn't hurt all the time."

He added there was "no chance" he would opt for surgery in the future.

"I can't miss those workout days, man," he said.

The injury hasn't slowed the 26-year-old Kittle. He had another excellent season in 2019, catching 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games. It was his second straight season with at least 85 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards. 

His 2019 campaign was so stellar that he received a grade of 95.0 from Pro Football Focus, making him the highest-graded player in the NFL and giving him the highest single-season grade for a tight end ever. 

Football Perspective @fbgchase

In 2012, Calvin Johnson gained 1,964 receiving yards and the Lions threw 740 passes (2.65 yds/tm pass att). https://t.co/dI97b4lswL In 2019, George Kittle gained 1,053 yards... and the 49ers threw just 387 passes in his 14 games (2.72 yds/tm pass att!!) https://t.co/rjJCycokpe

Football Perspective @fbgchase

This year, Kittle had 1,053 receiving yards playing with Garoppolo but the 49ers threw just 478 passes.... so Kittle averaged 2.20 yards/TPA this season, which was the best of any TE. But don't forget he missed 2 games. Exclude those, and he averaged 2.73 yards/TPA! Insane.

While he's become known as a weapon in the passing game, PFF's Sam Monson noted that Kittle "blocks with the better blocking tight ends in the league—including those who are blocking specialists. His run-blocking grade is the fourth-best among all tight ends this season."

One of the fascinating subplots of this year's Super Bowl between the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs is two of the game's top tight ends, Kittle and Travis Kelce, featuring in the contest. Kittle had nothing but praise for Kelce last week:

Ed Werder @WerderEdESPN

George Kittle on Travis Kelce: “Watched his tape when I was in college. Watch his tape now. I get his games every single week so I can watch what he does because he’s definitely one of the best in the game at what he does.”

Kelce returned the favor, per Grant Gordon of NFL.com:

"I think we're both positive guys. We both love to play the game and at the same time we both love life. With that comes a lot of responsibility in the tight end room, to not just be a one-dimensional player but be a utility guy in the locker room or do whatever the team needs. That's what we're capable of doing. In terms of similarities, I do believe the run after catch is something, I've been able to have a knack since I have been in the league. Obviously, since Kittle has been in the league, he's taken that to a whole other level."

And he's reached that level with a torn labrum, making it all the more impressive.