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49ers unhappy with Super Bowl practice field at UNLV, Goodell says

Updated February 5, 2024 - 8:50 pm

The first controversy of Super Bowl 58 arrived, and it’s only Monday.

The 49ers weren’t satisfied with the temporary natural grass practice field installed by the NFL at UNLV and expressed concerns to the league. The team sent an advance group to Las Vegas last week to see the facilities and said it was too soft to practice on.

San Francisco is set to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.

“I’m not worried about it at all. It is what it is. We’re here. We won’t change anything,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said during Super Bowl Opening Night. “It improves each day. It should. Hopefully it will keep getting better and better.”

The 49ers arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday night and conducted a walkthrough Monday afternoon at UNLV. The league put the grass fields over the artificial turf at Fertitta Football Complex. Commissioner Roger Goodell insisted there were no safety issues ahead of the 49ers’ practice Wednesday.

According to a report from CBS Sports, the league uses something called the “Clegg” test to measure the firmness of a field. The NFL requires fields to be at or below 100g (units of gravity) to pass. The temporary field at UNLV reportedly measures approximately 50g. The 49ers’ preference is for a field to be near 70g, CBS Sports said.

“That work is being done every single day. We’ve had 23 experts out there. We’ve had the union out there. All of them think it’s a very playable surface,” Goodell said. “It’s softer than what they’ve practiced on, but that happens. 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 it is a playable field.”

The 49ers could have brought in new sod to be installed or possibly requested for its practices to be moved to the Raiders facility, where the Chiefs are holding their workouts in preparation for Sunday. It appears San Francisco will remain at UNLV for the week.

The NFL traditionally sets up practice during Super Bowl week for the designated home team at the local NFL team’s facility, while the visiting team is usually given the facilities at the nearest college to use. Kansas City is designated as the home team for Super Bowl 58.

When the Chiefs played in the Super Bowl last year as the away team, they practiced at Arizona State. The Philadelphia Eagles used the Arizona Cardinals’ facilities.

UNLV’s Fertitta Football Complex is only equipped with artificial turf fields. NFL players have been critical of practicing and playing on artificial turf, citing the increased risk of injury and the impact it has on their bodies. A UNLV spokesperson did not return a message seeking comment.

“It was a little soft,” 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said. “It’s a little weird with the grass on top of the turf. We’ll see on Wednesday how it plays.”

Last year, the NFL was criticized for the slick playing surface at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Several players slipped throughout Super Bowl 57.

The Raiders field at Allegiant Stadium came under scrutiny at the end of the regular season after photos surfaced on social media that appeared to show severe wear and tear in one end zone.

“I’m not concerned at all,” 49ers defensive back Charvarius Ward said. “I can run full speed on any surface. I played football in the street as a kid.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on X.

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