Tight end Robert Tonyan will play for the Green Bay Packers for the first time since the Week 5 game at Dallas, while San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle also will be back in the lineup for tonight’s NFC showdown.
With a healthy roster, the only question for the Packers is how they’d get down to 46 for kickoff. Coach Matt LaFleur’s inactives: receiver Ryan Grant, running back Dexter Williams, safety Will Redmond, cornerback Ka’Dar Hollman, guard/tackle Adam Pankey and tight end Jace Sternberger. The return of Ibraheim Campbell before the bye is why Redmond is inactive and the return of Tonyan is why the rookie Sternberger is out.
The Packers put guard Cole Madison on injured reserve on Saturday so only had to deem six players as inactive.
For San Francisco, Kittle (ankle/knee) and receivers Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and Deebo Samuel (shoulder) are active. However, defensive end Dee Ford (hamstring/quad), left tackle Joe Staley (finger), big-play running back Matt Breida (ankle) and kicker Robbie Gould (quad) are out. On Friday, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan listed Ford and Staley as out and Breida and Gould as doubtful.
Kittle return following a two-game absence is huge. He’s perhaps the best tight end in the NFL and will be attacking a Packers defense that has had trouble against top tight ends Darren Waller of Oakland, Travis Kelce of Kansas City, Hunter Henry of the Chargers and Greg Olsen of Carolina.
“He’s in the conversation (as) certainly one of the best – if not the best – tight end in football,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “He’s a more-than-adequate, more-than-willing blocker. And this is a guy who has borderline wide receiver-type speed. He’s got great ball skills, difficult to tackle, he breaks a lot of tackles. He’s violent after the catch. He’s got a good relationship with the quarterback and, on top of that, a coordinator – a guy putting the offense together – that can get him open. It’s as big a tight end challenge as we’ll have. That’s something that’s been well-documented, we need to be better.”