The San Francisco 49ers’ complaints about the new MetLife Stadium turf prompted NFL and players’ association officials to conduct an extra review of the field on Wednesday, according to sources.
Further scrutiny is standard operating procedure when a team raises a concern, as the Niners did after several players sustained severe injuries in last Sunday’s road win over the Jets. The league and union also are reviewing every Niners injury from that game “frame by frame” and examining what footwear players used, a league source told the News, per that standard protocol.
Niners GM John Lynch was in direct communication with NFL executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent about the issue earlier this week, preceding Wednesday’s field review.
League sources told the News that the MetLife Stadium field has been tested about 20 times by multiple inspectors since installation was completed June 8.
The Niners’ own division rival Seattle Seahawks are one of several teams that have FieldTurf down in their stadium, but Shanahan did not recall an issue there. The Giants’ and Jets’ turf is brand new, though neither the Giants or Steelers mentioned any problem with it in Week 1.
No. 3: SF 49ers must rely on the running game
Additionally, coach Shanahan has a number of ways to effectively use his receivers and tight ends in the run game. In fact, per Sharp football analysis and Sports Info Solutions charting, last season, the Niners had the third-most rushing attempts from wide receivers and tight ends (22), trailing only the Los Angeles Rams (31) and Carolina Panthers (31) in that category.
Utilizing end-arounds and similar-looking formations with multiple options from that set, Shanahan and the San Francisco offense had great success creating running plays from the receiver/tight end position. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel was the big benefactor of many of these plays in 2019, and while he is out on injured reserve until Week 4, rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk may step into that role over the next few weeks and see some of those play designs.
Recently signed veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu is familiar with Shanahan’s offense from their Atlanta days, so he may see a carry or two as well.
Once Samuel returns, it will add one more option in the run game, and set up the offense to use the same personnel to run similar-looking plays that confuse defenses.
“At 34, he’d be the team’s oldest defender,” Barrows wrote in a recent mailbag article. “But he had eight sacks last year, which would have ranked third on the 49ers last season. Should Ford be out a while, Matthews seems ideal for the nickel pass-rush role, or at least as ideal as you’re going to get in late September.”
If you are excited about the prospect of the 49ers adding Matthews, you may want to temper those hopes.
Added Barrows: “Alas, as of Tuesday morning, I was told there’s ‘nothing there’ as far as the 49ers and Matthews.”
“I’m obviously disappointed,” Shanahan said during his Wednesday call with Bay Area reporters. “No one ever wants to have to spend that type of money, but the biggest disappointment was — I think our organization is taking this stuff very seriously. I think our organization has been unbelievable with the protocols that we’ve done and the ones that have been given to us and what we follow.”
But he also admitted he could do better while on the sidelines.
“Obviously, I can do a better job during the game of wearing it and I got the message and I will do a better job,” he said. “But, I don’t want to take away from the fact of how good our organization has done in this stuff, in the buildings, with all the players, how we’ve traveled, the money we’ve put into it to make it safe. But yeah, I got the message and I will do better.”
The former 49ers tight end’s mind went racing back to the 1999 NFL season.
“I hit the rock and I heard the crack,” Clark told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday. “I’m lying there, and I can’t breathe. And I know right away because the last time I heard that same sound and had that same feeling was the Seattle game.”
Clark sustained five broken ribs on his right side in a preseason game against the Seahawks. He missed the first three games of the 1999 regular season, but he managed to play in three games before asking the 49ers’ medical staff for anything that would help him cope with the discomfort.
“I was just at a point where I felt like I needed to have a game where I could have a little pain relief,” Clark said. “You’re still dealing with these sub-acute fractures. I just mentally wanted to have a break from the pain. I’d asked to get a block, just to numb the areas.”
“I’d be lying to tell you we’re not going to be thinking about it or it’s not going to go across our minds,” Williams said Wednesday. “But when you’ve got 300-pound linemen in front of you that’s trying to put you on your back, I think the surface falls on the back burner.”
Giants coach Joe Judge appeared unconcerned with the issue. His team played on the same surface in Week 1 without any significant injury issues.
“I’ve had no conversations with the NFL, period, on the field,” Judge said. “I’ll let them take care of that. We’ve been fine with it.”
“I’m a big believer of controlling the controllables, doing what I can,” Warner said. “With the playing surface that we’re going to be playing on on Sunday, I have no control over that. I’m letting everyone else handle that in the building and outside.
“The only thing I can do is prepare for the New York Giants.”
“Obviously with seeing people go down, and feeling that turf knowing where it’s at as a playing surface, you do get a little nervous, but I just pray before the game and take it in,” Williams said. “I’m going to go out there and give it my all and whatever happens, happens I guess.”