SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — Not only are the San Francisco 49ers having to adjust to playing without fans in their NFL season opener Sunday, they were also keeping a wary eye on the skies over Levi’s Stadium to make sure a smoke plume from the wildfires raging across the west doesn’t reach dangerous levels.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t have to alter practice plans on Friday because of the thick smoke plume, but has concerns about Sunday.
“We didn’t have to tweak it (Friday practice plans),” Shanahan said. “We would have if it had gotten to 200, but it didn’t. So, people with preexisting conditions today, they couldn’t practice with it being just past 150. If it happens Sunday, my understanding is if it gets to 200, that’s when the NFL will start really discussing what to do with the game.”
When asked if there were possibly plans to move swap the location with the Cardinals game later in the season, Shanahan said he didn’t know.
“I try not to worry about things I’m not involved in,” he said. “So, I’m just trying to get our team ready to play this game. I’m sure that the NFL has had some discussions with other people, not any coaches, I don’t think.”
However, running back Tevin Coleman, who has the sickle-cell trait, was forced to sit out practice Friday and could be sidelined for Sunday’s game.
“Tevin will do what’s right for him, what’s safe,” the 49ers head coach said. “I know he’s going to want to play extremely hard and be out there. I know that it kills him not to be, but I also know Tevin will make the right decision. I know our doctors will help him with that.”
Arizona Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim also addressed the situation on the local Phoenix radio Friday morning, saying the team was monitoring the skies over the Bay Area.
“I had talks with the NFL this morning and I’ve also talked with [49ers GM] John Lynch at length just to get a pulse out there,” Keim said on Arizona Sports’ 98.7 FM’s Doug & Wolf Show. “It’s a lot of moving parts to it.”
The game already was set to present a unique challenge. The stands at Levi’s Stadium will be empty over fears of the spread of the coronavirus.
Nothing fires up a defense more than the feeling of an opposing quarterback on the ropes and the roar of the crowd growing louder with every sack and incomplete pass.
The impact of the crowd on the outcome of a game is not lost on San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
“You don’t worry about it with the game starting, but I do think one of the greatest things for a team that has the pass rush that we have is having home-field advantage where another team has to do silent count,” he said. “The fact that we’re not able to use it, I’m assuming that they’ll be able to use their cadence. We’ll see how it goes in the game, but yeah, it’s the home-field advantage right there and if you’ve got to play every game as a road game on defense.”
“So yeah, not having a crowd, it’s going to be different out there for sure,” he added.
Kyle Shanahan On Sunday’s Game
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said he recently got to watch a replay of last year’s NFC Championship Game and it made him realize the full impact of a boisterous home crowd.
“They had it on TV here and that was really cool to watch that on TV like a fan and to see how crazy our stadium was the last time we were in it and how cool that was,” he said.
“Then you realize, oh man, it’s not going to be like that this Sunday, which you’ve got to talk to the players about because that energy that our stadium started to get like last year, it fueled us,” Shanahan continued. “I also want to remind the players that the way they played, I think fueled the fans…It sucks for the fans that, I think, what we’ve earned and to get them something to be excited about, it sucks that they can’t come there and be a part of it with us.”
The will be sound pumped into the stadium and the 49ers were not tipping their hand as to how loud that could get.
“I think it’s consensus for the whole league, I believe it’s 70 to 75 (decibels),” he said. “We’re going to decide on that too. We’ll keep it a secret… so, they don’t play with the right decibels the whole week… We’ll see if that’s an advantage for us. We’ll surprise them on Sunday.”
What the lack of sound has done, Shanahan said, was make you more aware of just how loud it is during a normal NFL game.
“I think it’ll be a huge adjustment for everyone out there,” he said. “You don’t realize just what constant noise is like. It’s not about being loud or too low. It’s about just constant. I mean, usually when the play starts, you get to hear the pop and you get to hear football. When things aren’t going on, you can have conversations with people and stuff. So just the constant noise, it’s a little tough to deal with, but fans won’t be having to deal with it. That’ll just be us.”
Jimmy Garoppolo On Sunday’s Game
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo also knows it will be a much different experience in Sunday.
“There’s a ton of differences this season and it’s really up to everyone to just adjust to it as best you can on the fly,” he said. “I think you can’t put too much thought into it, but you have to realize that it is a different week.”
Nick Bosa On Sunday’s Game
Defensive star Nick Bosa also has felt the difference, even before Sunday’s game.
“The whole year has felt a lot different,” he said. “Just little things like fans waiting outside our facility, waiting to get things signed. Just the people screaming outside the gate. Those are the things you kinda miss when you are going through this kind of year.”
“It’s just going to be that initial get going that the fans really help you with. Once you really get into the game, start playing, you kinda become self-motivated or else you are not going to play very well. There’s nothing really you can do to prepare for it, but we’ll be ready to go.”