SANTA CLARA — George Kittle’s impressive season has impressed his 49ers teammates, so much so they voted the second-year tight end among their captains, a group that also includes Joe Staley, Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner and Robbie Gould.
“It starts with the way he plays and the way he comes to work every day,” Staley said of Kittle. “Obviously he has a ton of talent. … He plays the game the right way with a lot of passion.”
Kittle leads the 49ers with 32 receptions for 527 yards, the latter of which already surpasses his rookie total (515 yards on 43 catches).
“It was not expected but I really appreciate,” Kittle said. “Any time you can be voted a captain by your peers is always a great thing. I’ve learned a thing or two in the year and a half I’ve been in the NFL. It’s definitely helped me as a leader.”
Kittle wasn’t a captain in college at Iowa. Coach Kyle Shanahan has changed captains each game throughout last season and up until this point; he planned to hold a players’ vote midway through last season but did not feel it was warranted among an 0-8 start.
Sherman was never voted a captain his previous seven seasons in Seattle, and even though he said it was leadership by committee, last year’s Seahawks captains were Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner and Jon Ryan.
“I’ve always felt like a leader regardlesss if I had a ‘C’ on my chest,” Sherman said. “It’s cool to get the letter but not something like, ‘man I hope they give me the letter,’ and staying up at night. I just hope to win.”
TRADE TALK: Sherman and Staley may be the 49ers’ top commodities in terms of trade value but neither veteran expects to go anywhere. “I’m not getting traded,” Staley said before adding half-jokingly, “They’d be foolish.”
Sherman said the 49ers haven’t approached him abouut a potential trade. “They haven’t reached to my agent,” Sherman said, drawing laughs because he represented himself in signing a three-year deal. “They’ve said since I came here I’m a part of the future plans, at least the next couple years, and that’s the way I’ve seen it.”
Sherman didn’t practice Thursday but said beforehand he expects to play Sunday at Arizona. A left-calf issue sidelined him last game as well as three weeks earlier against the Chargers.
Two other one-win teams, the Raiders and New York Giants, have been active on the trade market. They’ve also been consumed by controversy, which the 49ers have dodged for a reason, Staley and Sherman said.
“We have strong leadership from the top,” Staley said. “Kyle has done a great job keeping everyone together. … He’s honest with us, keeps people accountable.”
Added Sherman: “Guys are just trying to put their best foot forward. They’re staying the course. There’s no finger pointing. It’s a collective effort.”
FOSTER’S PAINS: Linebacker Reuben Foster practiced in full but acknowledged a right-shoulder injury is hindering him and he likely will that pain the rest of this season. “It doesn’t go numb. It’s a sharp pain that goes on and off,” Foster said. “I want to stay out there the whole time. I listen to my coaches and trainer. Whatever they decide for me, I know it’s best.”
Foster said an MRI recently revealed no structural damage to a shoulder that required surgery for a torn rotator cuff prior to last year’s draft. Added Foster: “It was just tweaked, probably fluid, and something you have to continue to rehab.”
Said defensive coordinator Robert Saleh: “He’s a fighter. He wants to be great. It might trigger here and there but he’s not coming off.”
HEALTH CENTER: Running back Matt Breida (ankle) and wide receiver Pierre Garcon (shoulder, knee) remained out of practice. Center Weston Richburg (knee) and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (thigh) did not practice; Thomas’ injury is new. Wide receiver Dante Pettis (knee) was limited.
The Cardinals practiced without kicker Phil Dawson (right hip), guard Jeremy Vujnovich (hamstring) and safety Tre Boston (shoulder, ribs).
NEW KID ON BLOCK: The 49ers defense is approaching Sunday’s matchup with uncertainty, the result of Byron Leftwich making his debut as the Cardinals offensive coordinator. Mike McCoy got fired after Thursday night’s 45-10 home loss to the Denver Broncos.
“He’s going to have his wrinkles,” Saleh said. “I’m trying to see what he’s been influenced by in his past. We’ll see as the game goes on. In-game adjustments will be very important. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with.
Leftwich was a 2003 first-round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he played four years there. He finished his career in 2012 following stints with the Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.