49ers coach Kyle Shanahan says team will continue practicing at UNLV but ‘I wish things were better’

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The San Francisco 49ers will continue practicing at UNLV ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII even as coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged Wednesday the field conditions aren’t what he and his team would prefer.

“We’re here. We’re practicing on it,” Shanahan said at his media availability following the team’s first full practice in Las Vegas. “Everyone has their preferences. I wish things were better, but we’ll deal with the field how it is.”

Shanahan noted the 49ers would have had to change their entire schedule to make it work at a different field. The 49ers had been weighing their options, including seeking arrangements to use the Las Vegas Raiders practice facility at a time opposite the Kansas City Chiefs, after testing the field out at a walk-through on Monday.

“We’d have to go too early in the morning, mess everything up,” he said. “This is the best choice we’ve got.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday the league had 23 experts and the NFL Players Association visit UNLV’s field and “all of them think it’s a very playable surface.” The NFLPA pushed back on that assertion Wednesday.

NFLPA president J.C. Tretter, speaking at a news conference Wednesday, said it learned the practice field’s sod was installed incorrectly, but league officials deemed the surface “playable.” UNLV has a pair of artificial surface fields that last week were overlaid with natural grass. But because there was no surface placed between the artificial field and the new sod, league sources told The Athletic, the fields had a sponge-like feel.

“That’s a problem,” Tretter said. “Also, leading to Roger’s press conference on Monday, they said ‘It’s OK because the field’s playable.’ When we talked about it last week, we said we need to raise the level to make both surfaces high quality and then a week later you’re saying, ‘It’s OK because it’s playable.’ Playable is not the same standard as high quality. That’s about as low as you can go to say it’s OK. So we can’t kind of talk out of both sides of our mouth to say injury data looks like this. We want high-quality fields. That’s OK because it’s playable. That’s not what we do. We want high-quality surfaces for our players to play on and practice on. I don’t think we have that.”

The UNLV practice field falls within the NFL’s safety threshold but is on the low end of the spectrum. One official familiar with the situation said the surface was “unbelievably soft” and well below the firmness level the 49ers are accustomed to at their practice facility and Levi’s Stadium. The firmness was similar to that of MetLife Stadium, which is universally reviled by the 49ers after several players, including Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas, suffered serious injuries in a game against the New York Jets in 2020.

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy said Wednesday’s session was not an aggressive practice and involved only light running. The true full-speed practice is scheduled for Thursday and the 49ers have no plans to change venues.

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(Photo: Chris Unger / Getty Images)

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