The 49ers’ concerns about their own playing field prompted the team to follow through with just three of the team’s eight scheduled practices at Levi’s Stadium.
But those issues were a result of a completely different field on which the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys will play Sunday night in an exhibition game.
The Levi's Stadium grounds crew began installing the new field on Tuesday -- three days after Taylor Swift concluded her two-night stand at Levi’s Stadium. The old turf was ripped out, and the new sod was put into place just days before the Cowboys arrive in Santa Clara.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett admitted having some concern about the playing surface, he said Thursday via the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.
“We’re going to go up there, and we’re going to go over to the stadium once we get there, before we go over to the hotel, and have a little bit of a walk-through, and we’ll take a peek at it,” Garrett said. “But it sounds like it has been an issue, and they’re trying to address it as best they can. We’re going to play a game on Sunday afternoon, so we’ve got to figure it out. Hopefully they’ve taken care of their end of it.”
The 49ers believed they had the issues with the playing field solved last summer after then-coach Jim Harbaugh pulled his team off the field during a public practice due to safety concerns.
The 49ers determined the root of the problem was an inadequate composition for the soil-sand base under the sod. The base was too loose and caused the sod to, in essence, roll when under the strain of football players making swift cuts.
The 49ers played last season with few public complaints about the condition of the playing surface. But there was a clear health concern when the team practiced at Levi’s Stadium in the early days of training camp.
The final practice included some frightening moments, including rookie running back Mike Davis getting up slowly on a non-contact play when he fell awkwardly while making a routine cut on an outside running play. After that practice on Aug. 5, the 49ers canceled an open practice for approximately 20,000 fans that was scheduled for four days later.
Team officials believe that the shipment of grass at Levi’s Stadium for the pre-Taylor Swift practices did not have the proper root structure within the mud that anchors the sod atop the soil-sand base.
Garrett, in his remarks to Dallas-area reporters, was reminded about the field issues at Candlestick Park, which was situated below sea level and could become treacherous in wet conditions. The playing field for the NFC Championship Game in January 1995 -- featuring the 49ers and Cowboys -- was less-than ideal, Garrett recalled.
“There were a lot of issues with Candlestick,” Garrett said. “I remember they used kitty litter on the field one year and all of that. But that’s the nature of it, and we talk about 'be your best regardless of circumstance,' so what’s our role in this whole thing? Make sure your cleats are right. Our equipment guys do a fantastic job. Players get out there early. Make sure you’ve got the right gear on so you can go be your best.
“I’m confident that the league will make sure that field is safe for everybody to play or we won’t play the game.”
The 49ers players have not spoken ill of the playing surface this summer.
“I don’t worry about it," quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. "To me, I’m out there playing football, regardless of the surface. I’ve played on worse stuff than that growing up.”
Country music star Luke Bryan is scheduled to perform at Levi’s Stadium on Aug. 29, and a new field is scheduled to be installed for the 49ers’ final exhibition game on Sept. 3 against the San Diego Chargers. The regular-season opener is Monday, Sept. 14, against the Minnesota Vikings.
The 49ers committed to a plot at West Coast Turf in Stevinson to accommodate eight full re-sods through the Super Bowl, which is scheduled for Feb. 7.