Last season didn’t seem quite fair for Daniel Kilgore.
After serving as a multipurpose offensive lineman for the 49ers for three seasons, Kilgore earned the starting center job in summer training camp. Then as the season progressed, he steadily improved, cementing his spot.
But in Game 7 against the Denver Broncos, linebacker Brandon Marshall hit his lower left leg. Kilgore had to leave the game, then found out his season was over. He had suffered a fracture.
“He’s been playing really well, better and better each week,” said head coach Jim Harbaugh at the time. “We’ll say a prayer and hope the surgery goes well.”
By all accounts, surgery went just fine. However there are indications Kilgore isn’t quite ready to get back on the field.
With 49ers OTAs (organized team activities) and a mandatory, full-squad minicamp on the schedule the next few weeks, it’s possible that Kilgore won’t be quite ready to take part. That would leave the majority of reps to second-year pro Marcus Martin, who stepped in for Kilgore last season.
In a recent interview with a sports website near his hometown in Tennessee, Kilgore said he’s being patient with his rehabilitation. He doesn’t want to rush it.
“Recovery is going well, I’ve got some time,” he said. “I’m being smart and not rushing into anything. The biggest thing for me is to feel comfortable at going full speed. I am healing. There is progress in all the scans we are doing. We still have a lot of offseason left.”
Martin had some rough patches early, but showed improvement later. Martin and Kilgore are now expected to battle for the starting job in training camp starting in July. It’s possible, too, that Martin or Kilgore – whomever loses the competition at center -- also could be a candidate to win the left guard spot left vacant by the departure of Mike Iupati.
Brandon Thomas, a third-round pick in 2014 who sat out last season because of an ACL tear, is the favorite to win the left guard spot