George Kittle credits work on balance beam for Wild TD vs. Seahawks


SANTA CLARA – During his five-year NFL career with the 49ers, George Kittle displayed the speed and strength that make him the best tight end in football. It’s a combination that players and coaches dream of. In San Francisco’s heartbreaking loss last week to the Seattle Seahawks, he also showed a new set of additional skills.

Running on the sidelines in Seattle, the tight end might as well have replaced his crampons with the shoes of a ballet dancer or a daredevil tightrope walker in front of amazed fans. At one point, it looked like he had lost his balance. Fear not, Kittle stayed on his feet and within bounds, finishing an incredible 48-yard touchdown for his second score of the day.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end also had a pretty interesting reason for standing.

In the offseason, Kittle made her best impression of Simone Biles, working a lot on the balance beam to get the best footwork possible for games like Seattle. As he ran along the touchline and into the end zone, he also felt added satisfaction.

“I mean, I think so,” Kittle said Thursday when asked if that came into play on his long touchdown. “I spent over 30 minutes to an hour every day on the balance beam in the offseason five days a week. Balance or just the strength of my foot, ankle, calf – I was just trying to work on it.I think it really helped me, I really do.

“It’s just fun, I was literally making fun of myself running on the sidelines.”

Offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel was thrilled to see Kittle able to switch to hyperdrive, especially after dealing with his calf injury this year.

“It was cool to see George feeling like he had this extra gear,” McDaniel said. “I think you’ve heard him over the course of the week he took the Seahawks week in a very personal way and wanted to do whatever he could to get us to victory.

“Wins and losses for sure is our bread and butter. But you are also very careful not only to celebrate good games when you win. You have to have a standard in how you operate and there are a lot of things that go into a win or loss.

After going without a touchdown in the first four games of the season, Kittle has now scored five touchdowns in the 49ers’ last five games. It also helps him be perhaps the healthiest he has been all season. Kittle called his calf injury earlier in the year the worst of his career, aside from breaking his foot. The injury gradually worsened until he was due to miss several weeks.

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Last week’s demonstration of his rare ability to combine speed, power and now balance was a big step forward for Kittle. The result, however, was not. Kittle was extremely hungry for a win in Seattle, and that only grew ahead of the 49ers’ next Week 14 battle against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I’m just excited to get back on the pitch with the guys, because I think everyone was definitely disappointed with the loss,” Kittle said. “I’m not going to say we’re more inspired than usual, but the guys are locked up and ready to roll.”

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