49ers dissatisfied with Super Bowl practice fields at UNLV, weighing options: Sources

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The 49ers are trying to figure out where they’ll practice this week after finding the surfaces at UNLV far softer than expected.

The university 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 explained, the fields had a sponge-like feel.

The 49ers’ advance party, including equipment, groundskeeping and training officials, was so concerned that general manager John Lynch went to UNLV separately to check out the field. 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.

The 49ers deemed the fields suitable for Monday’s walk-through but not a full practice. The 49ers are leaning toward practicing at UNLV on Wednesday, though a firm decision on the week has not been made. Kyle Shanahan undoubtedly will be asked about the practice situation at Monday’s media event.

The UNLV practice field falls within the NFL’s safety threshold but is on the low end of the spectrum. The 49ers’ fields are on the high end, which is why they balked so loudly about the MetLife field and are concerned about practicing on the UNLV field.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday the league has had 23 experts and the NFL Players Association visit UNLV’s field and “all of them think it’s a very playable surface.”

“It’s softer than what (the 49ers) have practiced on, but that happens,” he said. “It’s well within all of our testing standards. It is something that we think all our experts as well as neutral field inspectors have all said unanimously that it’s a playable field.”

The 49ers were so unhappy that they initially considered flying back from Las Vegas following Monday night’s media event and practicing in Santa Clara before the game but have since backed off that plan, according to league sources.

Another option is to use the sprawling Raiders facility the Chiefs, as the home team, will use as their home base this week. That would require significant adjustments to their practice schedule.

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(Photo: Ryan Kang / Getty Images)

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