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George Kittle encouraged by Trey Lance's improvement entering 49ers' 2023 season

The 49ers aren't yet certain they'll have Brock Purdy in time for the start of the 2023 season.

Luckily, they have a couple of backups in whom they're confident should they be needed.

Former No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance is returning for his third season without much in the way of starting experience, having made just four starts in his professional career. Sam Darnold has more seasoning, having started 55 of the 56 games in which he's appeared, but as of now, they're both competing to be QB2 behind Purdy -- and possibly QB1 until Purdy is able to play.

Lance got some quality reps with one of his teammates, tight end George Kittle, during the latter's annual Tight End University camp. Kittle liked what he saw.

"Trey has been great," Kittle recently told NBC Sports Bay Area's Jennifer Lee Chan. "I think he took steps forward in the OTAs. It's really fun when you start connecting on plays that you might have struggled [with] in the past, and that's something that we did at OTAs a couple of times, so that was fun. Got to get a lot of extra work in with them."

Extra work is always worthwhile, especially for a quarterback who could use the reps. Kittle definitely sees the benefit in the time spent together in the offseason.

"I just like talking ball with (Lance), too, because one of the things that (Chiefs tight end Travis) Kelce was saying about him and (Chiefs quarterback) Patrick (Mahomes) is just they communicate about certain things, and there's talk through everything," Kittle shared. "So as long as they're on the same page, it doesn't really matter what the defense does. You can find that spot, or he's going to know what Travis is going to do on any given play because they've repped so many times, they've talked about it so many times.

"So just having that opportunity to sit down and talk with Trey, watch film with him, and having this event, too, because Trey sat next to me through our meetings. For him to be able to watch guys talk about routes and stuff like that, to see how other tight ends are talking about it, he learns stuff from that, too. So it's just a fun opportunity for him."

Lance might not end up seeing the field, even if Purdy can't go right away. That job could go to Darnold -- who was also at TE University -- but if the 49ers have learned anything in the last five years, it's the value of being prepared for any scenario, especially at quarterback.

They'll have ample time to prepare. And if Kittle is right, they might be better off than most realize.

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