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SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 2: San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Trey Lance (5) is congratulated on his touchdown throw to San Francisco 49ers' Deebo Samuel (19) by San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle (85) in the fourth quarter at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 2: San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Trey Lance (5) is congratulated on his touchdown throw to San Francisco 49ers’ Deebo Samuel (19) by San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle (85) in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

SANTA CLARA — This is Trey Lance’s team. That’s what coach Kyle Shanahan clearly stated Tuesday, alluding to the almighty role of 49ers starting quarterback.

“Did he say that? Nice,” tight end George Kittle responded. “I can’t wait.”

Look, this is also Deebo Samuel’s team. And Trent Williams’. And Nick Bosa’s. Maybe Fred Warner’s, Jimmie Ward’s, Arik Armstead’s or the understated running backs’.

Just don’t forget about Kittle, potentially the biggest beneficiary of Lance’s formal elevation as training camp opens.

Kittle is the 49ers’ spirit animal. He’s been a captain since he returned from his 2017 rookie season. He is an elite, all-around presence, as long as he avoids injury while playing ever-aggressively at warp speed.

Tight ends are a young quarterback’s best friend. When you’re arguably the NFL’s best tight end, well, Kittle could be trending back to his original role as a “receiving tight end,” after recent years of jubilantly pancaking defenders as an erstwhile “blocking tight end.”

Kittle said he’s especially looking forward to Lance’s “off-schedule” throws, where the young quarterback will buy time before, more likely, passing than rushing. “Instead of a five-second play, it lasts for 10 seconds. It’s hard to cover somebody for 10 seconds,” Kittle said. “I feel like I can get open from someone in 10 seconds. I think Trey will be able to do that a lot, and I’m getting used to that style of football.”

A quick pass to Kittle will help Lance get out of jams — such as pocket-collapsing pressure — when he doesn’t have time to go downfield to the 49ers’ other options, such as Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud and rookie speedster Danny Gray.

“Whether it’s an outlet (target) or, ‘Hey, I’m just going to throw you the ball regardless, so I hope you’re open,’ that’s kind of the relationship I hope to build with Trey,” said Kittle, whose calf injury last season put him on Injured Reserve on the eve of Lance’s first career start.

In that Oct. 10 loss at Arizona, Lance had more runs (16) than completions (15), and that dual-threat dynamic is something the 49ers hope to thrive with going forward. In Lance’s other start, a home-finale win over Houston, Kittle had a 29-yard reception, while his only other target got intercepted.

“Trey definitely brings a completely different dynamic to the football field than anything I’ve ever played with before, so I’m looking forward to it,” added Kittle, who turns 29 in October and is 6 1/2 years older than Lance.

To be blunt, the 49ers gave Kittle a five-year, $75 million contract just two years ago to lead their offense, regardless of who’s at quarterback.

Kittle worked on his speed and balance this offseason, while rehabbing from that calf issue and other maladies. He also co-hosted Tight End University in Nashville last month, and he’s traveled internationally to attend ex-teammates’ weddings.

Wherever he’s been, people have asked him the same question all offseason: Trey or Jimmy?

With Shanahan adamantly declaring Lance as Garoppolo’s immediate successor for this season, Kittle is excited about the possibilities, as tight as he was with Garoppolo (see: teasing about text messages, wearing custom T-shirts of one another).

Kittle noted that he’s succeeded with not just Garoppolo, but beforehand with younger quarterbacks in C.J. Beathard (Kittle’s Iowa teammate) and Nick Mullens. When all three quarterbacks played in 2018, Kittle produced a career-high 88 catches for 1,377 yards. His encore was 85-1,053 as Garoppolo played the entire 2019 campaign and the 49ers reached Super Bowl LIV.

After missing half of 2020 with knee and foot injuries, Kittle became a three-time Pro Bowler last season, and while he had a career-high six touchdown catches, he averaged just 65 yards per game. His elite blocking was in greater demand, and he delivered.

In last season’s three playoff games, Kittle totaled just seven catches for 108 yards, and his first career postseason touchdown came in the NFC Championship Game loss to the eventual-champion Los Angeles Rams.

So, which version of Kittle does Lance need more? Probably more so the yards-after-catch monster, although the offensive line’s 2022 rebuild could complicate that ideal.

The question that was on Kittle’s mind as camp opened: “Who would win a fight — a grizzly bear or a silverback gorilla? … I’m pretty sure a grizzly bear is way bigger and it has daggers for hands.”

The 49ers’ season-opening opponent Sept. 11: the Chicago “Bears.” Look for Lance to throw daggers and spirals Kittle’s way.