Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images
There’s no ill will between George Kittle and Budda Baker. Kittle spoke before the season opener about the mutual respect the two have for each other and how Baker was one of the first to congratulate Kittle after his five-year, $75 million extension. Kittle did the same for Baker after his four-year, $59 million extension.
In that opening, 24-20 loss by the 49ers, Kittle had four catches for 44 yards and a tight end sweep for nine yards in the first half. Then, Baker, unblocked by Kendrick Bourne, had a clean shot on a Kittle, who had to jump for an overthrown screen by Jimmy Garoppolo. Baker hit him in the knee, and Kittle hobbled to the sideline with a reported MCL sprain. He was not targeted a single time in the second half, though Garoppolo did miss a chance to hit him wide open for a would-be game-winning touchdown.
Kittle said he holds no ill will towards Baker—who was the subject of a racist Instagram message from a 49ers fan—despite the injury forcing him to sit out Week 2, and potentially Week 3. Baker pretty immediately apologized, Kittle said.
“I actually talked to him Sunday after the game and Monday, really the whole week and hey, it’s football,” Kittle said. “He’s gonna hit me low. It’s football, that’s a hit. There’s no intent in it. He’s just trying to tackle me, bring me down. He was the first person to ask if I was okay, he apologized for the hit. But like I said, it’s football. I get hit all the time, that’s what it is and it’s what you sign up for when you play the game. It was a clean hit. If he tried to take it easy on me, I’d give him crap for that. I’m glad he didn’t.”
Watching that 31-13 win over the Jets was not a familiar feeling for the All-Pro tight end. His last experience watching a game on television was the 49ers’ third preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs last year.
After the season-ending ACL tears to Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas two plays apart, and both requiring a medical cart, Kittle said he stopped watching the game.
“I was actually doing some rehab when I was watching the game,” Kittle said. “I watched the first quarter and then I saw two injuries and I went outside and did my workout. I just thought I was bad luck watching the game on TV. I think the last game I watched on TV was our preseason against the Chiefs. Watching the Niners play on TV is not really fun when I should be on the field with them.”