CHICAGO — Steady rain is greeting the 49ers at Soldier Field for their season opener, which they’ll play today without not only tight end George Kittle but also rookies Ty Davis-Price and Danny Gray.
A large puddle developed on the southwest corner of the field within 30 minutes of the tarp’s removal, forcing the 49ers to shift the warmups to the other side of the hash marks, with linebackers and tight ends shedding their shirts.
Kittle is out, as expected, because of a groin injury that “started to bother him” on Monday (rather than throughout training camp), coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.
Gray’s speed and down-field ability made him a third-round pick, but the 49ers’ game plan and the inclement conditions didn’t set up well for his NFL debut. The 49ers do figure to run the ball a lot, but Davis-Price won’t suit up as they instead suit up Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr. and undrafted rookie Jordan Mason.
The inactivations of Gray and Davis-Price are reminiscent of last season’s opener. Both are third-round draft picks. A year ago, Trey Sermon did not suit up for the opener even though he was a third-round pick, and the 49ers instead opted for Mitchell.
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Lance noted last week that even though he grew up in Minnesota and played collegiately at North Dakota State, he’s a relative stranger to wet weather in a game.
“Minnesota was a lot more snow than rain, for sure. So, I haven’t played in a ton of rain games,” Lance said Wednesday. “And obviously North Dakota State, we’re playing in the dome, but a lot of practices, definitely a lot of practices in poor, cold weather, but I don’t think it’ll be too cold, so we should be alright.”
The forecast calls for 69 degrees and rain throughout the game, though it could taper off to a 50-percent chance in the second half.
If a tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend, Lance has a few other allies he can bond with, outside of reserve tight ends Tyler Kroft, Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner.
The 49ers’ offense otherwise enters this game close to full health, the only other exception being guard/center Daniel Brunskill, who hasn’t practiced since a hamstring strain in the preseason opener.
Lance’s supporting cast includes All-Pro talent at wide receiver (Deebo Samuel) and left tackle (Trent Williams), plus emerging talents in wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk, Ray-Ray McCloud, Jauan Jennings and special-teams ace Malik Turner.
To refresh Kittle’s medical chart, he’s endured many issues since resetting the tight end market with a contract extension (five years, $75 million) prior to the 2020 season. Kittle missed only three games his first three seasons; he’ll have missed at least 14 of the past 36 before he’s eligible to come off Injured Reserve next month.
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