From the 2015 to 2017 seasons, Garrett Celek was a reliable and important part of the 49ers offense, especially near the goal line.
He wasn’t a game-breaker. He wasn’t a deep threat. He wasn’t a Pro Bowl-type of tight end. But Celek, who’s been with the 49ers since 2012, had 10 touchdown catches in that span, with 111 receptions.
In 2018, however, Celek took a back seat to emerging star George Kittle, who set an NFL record for single-season yardage. Though Celek played in 15 games, he was targeted just eight times and had only five catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
It turns out there was a reason those numbers were so low: he was hurt.
Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee reported this week that Celek suffered a broken right thumb in the third game of the season, against the Chiefs. Over the next nine games, only two passes were thrown his direction and he had no catches.
Biderman reports Celek had surgery to repair the injury after the season, and he’s expected to return in full health by spring workouts. That will give the 49ers another reliable tight-end option behind Kittle in 2019.
The only game Celek missed – he continued to serve as a blocker, while also catching two passes, including one for a TD against Seattle on Dec. 16 – was the season finale against the Rams, when he was held out after receiving a concussion against the Bears on Dec. 23. It was the first game Celek had missed since 2015.
Celek, 30, is signed through 2019 with the 49ers.