49ers TE George Kittle planning to return 'sooner than later' from broken foot

A month after suffering a broken bone in his foot, San Francisco 49ers star tight end George Kittle believes he's close to returning.

"They said eight weeks; I said six," said Kittle said Tuesday, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. "And I'm excited. These last couple days have definitely progressed forward and made me very optimistic about returning to the field of play.

"When I first got hurt, my mindset was that I'll be back. And I'm going to continue to keep that mindset because I definitely feel like I'm going to be on the field here sooner than later."

Kittle sustained the injury in Week 8 on Nov. 1. The specific injury was a fractured cuboid bone, which sits outside the pinky toe and connects the foot to the ankle to provide stability.

"All I ever really learned was that it's the hardest bone in your foot to break, and you basically have to do it intentionally or in a car accident," Kittle said. "So I don't know if that means I'm unlucky or if I need to slow down every once in a while.

"The good news is it's apparently the easiest bone to heal in your foot, and it's definitely doing a good job of that. Thankfully, I have great trainers and great [physical therapy] guys. They're the ones that are getting me back and healthy. And I think we're doing a fantastic job of that so far."

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said he hopes to have both Kittle and QB Jimmy Garoppolo back by the end of the season. Both players traveled to Arizona, where the 49ers will set up shop after COVID-19 restrictions ousted them from Santa Clara.

"I'm holding out for Jimmy for the last couple weeks," Shanahan said. "Same with Kittle. I think they are both in a similar boat. That's not guaranteed, it's how they react here over the next couple of weeks, but they are just starting to get into it. That's hopefully going to be the last couple weeks, whether it's two games or one game or none."

Kittle's comments suggest he's pushing for a more optimistic timeline.

With Sunday's win over the L.A. Rams, San Francisco (5-6) remains in the hunt to potentially swipe the final playoff spot ahead of its Week 13 prime-time bout versus the Buffalo Bills.

Despite playing just six games this season -- none since Week 8 -- Kittle remains the 49ers' leading receiver with 474 yards -- rookie Brandon Aiyuk is second with 446 -- which speaks to both the TE's importance and the rash of injuries San Francisco has dealt with in 2020.

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