Why Lance's early leadership traits excite Kittle, 49ers

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SANTA CLARA -- George Kittle could sense the excitement when he recently attended a Warriors playoff game.

Oh, sure, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the team at Chase Center created a buzz against the Memphis Grizzlies.

But so did Trey Lance, who was part of a small group of 49ers players who made the trek into The City to watch the NBA game and celebrate Lance's 22nd birthday.

“Everybody was just excited,” Kittle said. “I mean, how can you not be? It’s going to be fun. When you trade three first-round picks you’re excited for a guy of that caliber to come in and play football.

“I’m excited for it, too. He just brings a different dimension to the game with his legs and extending the plays.”

The transition to Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the NBA Draft, is taking place for the 49ers this offseason.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday he still expects the club to trade Garoppolo, who could still be more than a month away from being cleared to throw a football after shoulder surgery in March.

Lance is putting his stamp on the team while taking the bulk of the practice snaps during organized team activities.

“Trey is one of the first persons here in the morning and one of the last persons to leave,” said 49ers safety Jimmie Ward, whose locker is next to Lance’s. “That’s a good sign from the leader of your team.”

Ward explained why he already sees Lance as the leader of the 49ers.

“I feel like he’s the leader because it’s a quarterback-driven league and he’s the one who’s going to be controlling the rock,” Ward said. “So young, I don’t care, old, two years, three years, vet, you’re looked at as a leader.”

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Kittle said Lance learned a lot during his rookie season from sharing the quarterbacks room with Garoppolo and Nate Sudfeld.

Lance is taking on a more prominent role behind the scenes, too.

“I definitely think he’s taken ownership, for sure,” Kittle said. “You can tell that even in meetings and stuff, he’ll talk. He’s assuming the responsibility. He’s knowledgeable about that stuff, so you have to appreciate that about Trey. He’s trying.”

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