The San Francisco 49ers didn’t want to make this a major story during the week of the Super Bowl, but when they arrived to UNLV — the site the NFL had picked for them to practice for Sunday’s showdown against the Chiefs — the field conditions bothered several high ranking 49ers coaches and executives.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs are practicing on the pristine Raiders practice fields.
In the week leading up to each year’s Super Bowl, the AFC and NFC champions practice at pre-designated locations. Ideally, those locations are equitable. Sometimes, one setup is a bit better than the other. Before Super Bowl 50, as a point of reference, the NFC champion Carolina Panthers practiced at San Jose State while the AFC champion Denver Broncos practiced at Stanford.
In this case, the Chiefs are enjoying the benefit of the Raiders’ sparkling new training facility in Henderson, complete with three outdoor grass practice fields and an indoor turf field. The 49ers, meanwhile, are posted up at UNLV, whose two outdoor, artificial-turf fields were overlaid with natural grass in the days leading up to the conference championship games.
It’s obvious as to why Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers brass aren’t happy about this situation, but until a national report was leaked, they planned on dealing with it in a quiet way so they don’t look like “whiners.”
Michael Silver, who covers the 49ers for the San Francisco 49ers, wrote an in-depth story about why this is such a major issue and Roger Goodell is at fault.
Here’s what Silver wrote about the problems the San Francisco 49ers have with the field conditions.
On Monday, a high-ranking team source familiar with the situation gave the Chronicle a more specific sense of the fields’ problematic nature. All NFL fields are measured with a “GMAX” score, which quantifies the ability of the playing surface to absorb the kinetic energy from a collision. The lower the score, the more energy the field absorbs — potentially creating an injury risk for the player in question.
According to the source, all current NFL fields have a GMAX score between 70 and 80. Upon first inspection last week, the UNLV fields received a score of 48.
Since then, league and 49ers officials have worked feverishly to try to improve the surface: Currently, the GMAX score is in the low 50s. The 49ers conducted a light, walk-through practice there on Monday and will have a slightly more vigorous walk-through on Wednesday.
Most likely, on Thursday, they’ll accept an earlier practice slot (so as not to conflict with Chiefs practices) at the Raiders’ facility and rearrange their schedule. It’s not the end of the world — but it’s absolutely a source of frustration.
Goodell could have ordered the Chiefs to change their schedule to accommodate the 49ers on Thursday, making the situation a bit more equitable, but declined to do so. Instead, he essentially told 49ers CEO Jed York to take it up with his Chiefs counterpart, Clark Hunt. York declined to do so, correctly concluding that it should not be the Chiefs’ problem.
San Francisco 49ers Coach Kyle Shanahan Breaks Silence On Practice Field Conditions At UNLV
There was speculation Shanahan and company would figure out a situation to alternate practices with the same field as the Chiefs, which would have been a major inconvenience and break the schedule they’ve worked so hard to put in place.
On Wednesday, NFL Insider Albert Breer reported Shanahan and the 49ers have made the decision to stay at UNLV. This has been the first time the 49ers head coach has addressed the issue as he wants the focus to be on the task ahead.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan on the field conditions at UNLV, says the team won’t move its work this week. They had a full practice today. “We’re here, we’re practicing on it … wish it was better, we’ll deal with what it is.”
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 8, 2024
“49ers coach Kyle Shanahan on the field conditions at UNLV, says the team won’t move its work this week. They had a full practice today.” Breer reported on X. “We’re here, we’re practicing on it … wish it was better, we’ll deal with what it.”
Shanahan is desperately seeking his first Super Bowl win leading the San Francisco 49ers —and when it’s all said and done — let’s hope the unfair practice fields don’t affect the outcome of the game.