From a purely football perspective, Wednesday's practice brought a decent amount of good news for the San Francisco 49ers. It was far from perfect, but there were positive reports on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, the session was undermined by more bad news about the field.
Scary looking for #49ers RB Mike Davis, who loses footing in grass divot, goes down in heap but jogs off field.— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) August 6, 2015
I'd report that Levi's Stadium sod is getting shredded again, but that's like telling you the sun is setting #49ersCamp— Cam Inman (@CamInman) August 6, 2015
The 49ers had scheduled eight practices on the Levi's Stadium field, in hopes of further getting used to the facility, and having more of a home field advantage when the season started. Unfortunately, that was cut short after only two sessions. The team conducted practice last Saturday and Sunday on the field, but divots and other issues with the surface resulted in the team moving their Monday and Tuesday practices over to the practice facility connected to team offices.
The team was back at Levi's Stadium on Wednesday, with 20,000+ SBL holders on hand for an open practice. The SBL holders had been promised the open practice earlier in the offseason, and so the 49ers were back out there. The slip by Mike Davis was the only notable potential injury mentioned. The team played at half speed in the last session, cutting things short, but the team said that was due to lack of depth at inside linebacker following a muscle strain by Philip Wheeler.
There has been slipping a bit, but Davis was the first notable almost injury on the surface. Even if that's the case, that is one too many. You can't prevent all injuries, but when your playing surface is likely the reason for the slip, and this playing surface has a recent history of being rather shoddy, this is a serious problem. Aside from just having home field advantage, there is a serious issue with basic player safety. Bay Area Sports Guy put it best, "[t]he 49ers are playing with fire here, and they know it."
The team now has Thursday off, then returns for three straight days of practice on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All three were originally scheduled for Levi's Stadium, but I would imagine the first two will be moved to the practice facility. The question is what will happen with the third. It was opened to the public by way of a lottery, and 20,000 fans are expected. They likely would not fit on to the practice facility grounds, and so it seems likely that the team will have that practice in Levi's Stadium.
Tim Kawakami suggested the team likely just goes with another half speed session before placating fans by throwing some footballs into the stands. The team is replacing the turf later next week after Taylor Swift's concert. That's all well and good, but that is just a sort term solution to a problem that seems unlikely to go away anytime soon.
That’s the issue. If the field had a month or two to root undisturbed, it would be perfect, like Candlestick. https://t.co/XsHurHIjsM— Chris Biderman (@ChrisBiderman) August 2, 2015
The stadium has hosted numerous events, and will continue to do so. For example, the team announced that they will have the second annual Friday Night Lights event on Monday September 18. This will feature three high school games starting at 4 p.m. The 49ers will not be playing at home until October 4, so there will be time to re-sod the turf. But there will be plenty more events mixed in with 49ers games.
And of course, there's that little thing called the Super Bowl, taking place in early February. The good news is that even if the 49ers end up hosting the NFC title game, they will have two weeks to re-sod the field and get it ready. I imagine nobody would be allowed to touch it once it goes down, so it would probably be OK for the game.
But even still, this team is playing with fire. They seem to have avoided a bad injury to Mike Davis, but will it get any better anytime soon? It should not take an injury to realize things need to get cleaned up ASAP.