Why Olsen, Hasselbeck believe 49ers star Kittle is underappreciated


Why Olsen, Hasselbeck believe 49ers star Kittle is underappreciated originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — George Kittle receives a lot of praise for being an all-purpose tight end, but both Greg Olsen and Matt Hasselbeck believe the 49ers’ two-time All-Pro deserves even more credit than that.

Olsen, the NFL on FOX analyst and a three-time Pro Bowl tight end himself, shared what Kittle brings to the field, particularly in San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

“There’s not a lot of guys like George from a skill-set standpoint,” Olsen told NBC Sports Bay Area last week at Tight End University, which Kittle co-hosted with Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce. “The ability to be on the field in an offense that Kyle runs that is very demanding of the tight end position.

“We think of the tight end position now as yards and catches, and he obviously gets his, being 1,000 yards a few times in his career. But his ability to be on the field for pass protection, for the run blocking, to really carry the heavy load of a lot of those run schemes and pass designs, where his ability to be physical and his ability to be multiple and athletic and strong at the point of attack and fast and athletic as a puller as a lead blocker — he gets asked to do a lot of different things.

“So, from a skill-set standpoint, that’s very challenging.”

Hasselbeck agrees that tight ends are asked to do it all on the field, from the blocking dirty work to reliable route-running. The longtime NFL quarterback sees Kittle as one of the best to do it.

“He does it all, and he does it all with a smile on his face,” Hasselbeck said. “He’s probably the best blocking tight end in football, and you lose nothing with him as a receiver. And then I would say that the best thing is, once the ball is in his hands, look out. No one wants to tackle him.”

Maybe the most important Kittle on-field intangible is the emotion he brings to the game. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. He’s ready to roll — and always with unmatched enthusiasm.

“There are teammates that I’ve played with that are just so amazing in terms of emotional intelligence and energy, like the opposite of an energy vampire,” Hasselbeck said. “That dude just brings energy to every huddle that he’s in, and I think that’s unbelievable.

“I started in the NFL with Brett Favre as the starting quarterback, and that dude, his energy and emotion are contagious. It’s a leadership style that not a lot people have, and George definitely has that.”

Olsen believes Kittle’s enthusiasm in all parts of the game is rare. Most players will shine when the ball is in their hands, when they cross the goal line for a score or make a highlight-worthy catch, but Kittle is different. He also finds joy in the trenches and other places.

“There’s a mentality that goes into it where if you really buy into that role,” Olsen said. “And you don’t shy away from the parts you don’t like or shy away from parts like maybe you’d rather not do. He embraces all of it. He loves it.

“He’s just as excited for a big run block as he is a touchdown pass. I think that’s the way he’s wired, and that’s what makes him special and makes him unique. Ultimately it makes him the perfect fit for what Kyle wants to do as an offense. There’s a lot of really talented guys there, but you could make an argument that George is one of those lynch pins that allows the system to operate as well as it does.”

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