A catch near the goal line was getting reviewed during the second quarter of the 49ers’ loss last week to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.
Tight end George Kittle thought he had possession in the end zone when he grabbed a pass from C.J. Beathard before his momentum carried him toward the 1-yard line. Rams defenders were telling Kittle there was no chance his catch should be ruled a touchdown.
“I’m like, ‘I have to score. I need the points for my fantasy coaches,’” Kittle said Thursday. “It was pretty funny. I enjoyed it.”
The touchdown counted, giving Kittle his second receiving score of the season. And the second-year pro enters Week 8 as the fourth-ranked tight end in fantasy football after entering the season as a sleeper prospect on most draft boards.
More importantly, this week Kittle was named a 49ers team captain, joining prominent locker room figures like left tackle Joe Staley, cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and kicker Robbie Gould.
“I think it starts with the way he plays and also the way he comes to work every single day,” Staley said of Kittle being named a captain. “He’s obviously got a ton of talent and everybody that watches our games can see that. ... I think guys really respect that and I think it’s very telling of a guy that’s so young and in his second year of how guys think about him and respect the way he works.”
Kittle, 25, is the least experienced captain, but he’s quickly emerging as the San Francisco’s best offensive weapon. He leads the team with 32 catches for 527 yards heading into Sunday’s trip to play the Arizona Cardinals.
His 75.3 yards per game puts him on pace for 1,204 yards for the season, which would be the most by any San Francisco pass catcher since receiver Anquan Boldin had 1,179 in 2013. Kittle’s 367 yards after the catch are second in the NFL behind New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley’s 478.
“Not expected, but I really appreciate it,” Kittle said. “Any time you can be voted a captain by your peers, it’s always a great thing.”
Kittle authored one of San Francisco’s most stirring moments from an otherwise ugly performance against the Rams. Two minutes before his touchdown, he caught passes of 35 and 23 yards to put the 49ers in position to score.
On his second reception, he carried cornerback Troy Hill along the sideline while stiff-arming Marcus Peters at the same time. It was the rare occasion in which a 49er out-willed an opponent during the contest.
“It fires us up. He plays the game the right way, plays with a lot of passion,” Staley said.
Said Kittle of the sequence: “It energizes me whenever you get a play like that. You’re either dragging a guy or you get a big hit, a big block, something like that. I feed off people’s energy and I think people feed off mine. And I try to be as highly energetic as I can be on the field. When you get plays rolling like that, we score like three plays later, I think it all kind of wove together.”
Sherman, Staley not expecting to get traded — While teams out of the playoff picture like the Raiders and Giants are making trades, two 49ers veterans aren’t expecting to get moved ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline at 1 p.m.
“I’m not getting traded,” Staley said. “... They’d be foolish.”
Sherman, who negotiated his own contract by acting as his own agent in the spring, said he hasn’t heard anything from the front office to indicate he’ll be playing elsewhere as soon as Week 9.
“They said some stuff when I came here that I was part of the future plans, at least for the next couple years, and that’s the way we see it. That’s the way I see it,” Sherman said.
Outside of Staley, Sherman and perhaps receiver Pierre Garçon, the 49ers aren’t flush with tradeable assets other teams might covet for a playoff run. But coach Kyle Shanahan has indicated throughout that he’s open to making a deal if he thinks it will make the team better for the long run.
“We’re dedicated to try to win this Sunday,” Shanahan said this week. “But, we’re also not going to just do something that makes us feel better today that hurts us for the future.”
Richburg, Sherman, Thomas miss practice — After participating in practice Wednesday, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (thigh), center Weston Richburg (knee) and Sherman missed practice Thursday.
Thomas suffered a quad bruise during Wednesday’s session and spent Thursday on the side field with his right leg in a sleeve. Richburg has been dealing with a knee injury since Sept. 30 against the Los Angeles Chargers. He would likely be replaced by Erik Magnuson or Mike Person if he couldn’t play against Sunday against the Cardinals.
Running back Matt Breida (ankle) also missed practice and remains uncertain for Sunday’s game. Pierre Garçon missed his second straight practice isn’t expected to play.
Sherman indicated his status is up in the air, though he’s hoping to play after missing the Rams game.
“I can give you a pretty sure. I’m pretty sure I’m playing this week,” Sherman said. But the veteran corner wouldn’t commit to being available following a short turnaround against the Raiders the following Thursday.
“That’s going to be a question for Thursday,” he said.