NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced a controversial decision regarding the San Francisco 49ers’ frustrations with the practice fields assigned for their Super Bowl preparations at UNLV. The 49ers, set to face the Kansas City Chiefs in one of their franchise’s most significant games, have raised concerns about the practice field conditions, arguing that it puts them at a clear disadvantage compared to the Chiefs, who have access to the renowned fields used by the Raiders.
Sources revealed to CBS Sports that some 49ers staffers are dissatisfied with the practice field at UNLV, where the NFL designated the NFC champions to practice during Super Bowl week. The main point of contention is the firmness of the natural grass laid over UNLV’s artificial turf for the 49ers’ practice sessions. Members of the 49ers’ advance group, including equipment staff and the grounds team, visited Las Vegas last week to assess the facilities and concluded that the grass is too soft for effective practice. The team has explored alternative options in response to these concerns.
The issue, as per sources, is more about preference than health and safety. Despite meeting all NFL, NFL Players Association, and independent standards, the grass at UNLV measures around 50g on the “Clegg” test, which assesses firmness. In comparison, the 49ers prefer a firmness level around 70g. While the field technically passes the NFL’s standards, the team is considering three options ahead of their scheduled walkthrough: a) practicing on the field as scheduled; b) bringing in new, firmer sod for practice later in the week; or c) negotiating with the NFL to use the Las Vegas Raiders’ practice facility where the Chiefs are currently practicing.
Traditionally, the NFL designates one team as the home team and the other as the away team for the Super Bowl, alternating each year. This year, the AFC champion (Chiefs) is considered the home team. Typically, the home team practices at the local NFL team’s facilities, while the away team utilizes nearby college facilities. However, the Raiders’ new complex has both artificial and natural grass fields, while UNLV’s Fertitta Football Complex only has artificial turf. Despite studies showing minimal differences in injury rates between natural grass and artificial surfaces, players often express discomfort after practicing or playing on artificial turf.
In a press conference, Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the situation, stating that he sent experts to UNLV and declared the fields “playable” despite the 49ers’ complaints. The decision follows the league’s annual practice of designating a home and away team for the Super Bowl, with the home team using local NFL facilities. Last year, when the Chiefs were the away team, they practiced at Arizona State, while the Eagles used the Cardinals’ facilities.
As of the latest update, it remains unclear whether the 49ers’ walkthrough at UNLV improved their perception of the fields. If not, it raises the question of whether they will take further action, turning what seems like an unnecessary distraction into a potential challenge for the team as they prepare for the crucial Super Bowl showdown.