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‘We need to win now’


SANTA CLARA – George Kittle offered a blunt assessment of this year’s 49ers: “Ready to win. I’d say that’s the state of the franchise. We need to win now.”

Kittle staunchly said so Wednesday, a day after appearing with Brock Purdy and Nick Bosa at the 49ers’ once-public, now-private State of The Franchise event.

Each one of those guys could stake a claim as Face of the Franchise. Kittle, though, has been here longer than any current teammate aside from Kyle Juszczyk, who arrived in 2017 free agency a month before Kittle’s draft day.

Thus, Kittle carries clout when it comes to pontificating on the state of the franchise, the state of the NFL, and, most intimately, the state of his surgically repaired core after playing through injury the final three months last season.

Still searing is the pain of losing in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years.

“How I put it past me is I still wake up every day and I get to play football and I have another opportunity to go at it again this season,” said Kittle, a two-time First-Team All-Pro, a five-time Pro Bowler and the 49ers’ most prolific tight end ever.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve the goal that I have to win a Super Bowl, but I have another opportunity to do it this year,” Kittle added. “Does that suck? Yeah. But the fact I have another opportunity with a fantastic football team and great roster, I’d love to bet on my team, figuratively speaking.”

That team is finishing up its seven-week, voluntary stage of offseason workouts. The mandatory minicamp is next week. Once the 49ers reconvene for training camp in two months, Kittle expects to be ready for action.

Three months ago, Kittle underwent core-muscle surgery in Palm Beach, Fla. with the same doctor (William Meyers) who performed a similar procedure a week earlier on cornerback Charvarius Ward.

“They had to reattach something differently for me than him. We’re both progressing at a good rate,” said Kittle, noting that an MRI in early November didn’t reveal the extent of his core’s damage.

Kittle still played every game last season – “fun stuff” — aside from sitting with others in the meaningless regular-season finale. He had 1,020 yards, 65 receptions and six touchdowns, not counting the playoffs where his lone score came in their opening comeback win over Green Bay.

In the Super Bowl, he made a 4-yard catch-and-lunge on fourth-and-3, keeping alive a go-ahead, fourth-quarter drive that culminated in a Purdy touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings (and Jake Moody’s blocked point-after attempt). Kittle had one other catch (for no gain), and he had to temporarily leave the field for part of the 49ers’ overtime possession of that loss to Kansas City.

“When you don’t achieve that one goal you really want to get to, it’s tough,” Kittle said. “I think back to Joe Staley playing in two Super Bowls, and didn’t win one; Garrett Celek played in two Super Bowls, didn’t win one. Just listening to them how hard it is, I get that now. I understand that by playing for seven years.”

He’s no less optimistic this year about the 49ers’ chances. He was struck, however, by how many new faces surrounded their superstar-laden core.

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