— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) August 2, 2015
— John Dickinson (@JDJohnDickinson) August 2, 2015
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
49ers say practice was dialed down late in the session because of a shortage of inside linebackers not because of field concerns.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 6, 2015
The 49ers were back at Levi’s Stadium because they were playing in front of thousands of season ticket holders. The divot issue that cropped up during Saturday’s and Sunday’s training-camp practices at Levi’s returned, and rookie running back Mike Davis went to the ground awkwardly when he cut on a particularly chewed up portion of the field. Davis got up slowly but returned.
Late in the practice, the full-team session was run at half speed. And the practice ended after two hours, which is shorter than normal. The 49ers said afterward that the abbreviated session was predetermined because they only had four healthy inside linebackers and did not want to overburden them. They said it was not due to the field conditions. The 49ers have a day off on Thursday and are back on Friday. They have not said where Friday’s and Saturday’s sessions will be held, but Sunday’s will be back in Levi’s Stadium in front of 20,000 fans.
Amazingly enough, this story isn’t going away. And it’s not cute anymore, since the stadium stopped being “new” from the moment the 49ers gave up that big lead to the Bears. The sod is just as bad as it was last year, and non-football events will still be held at Levi’s Stadium, including three days of concerts (two Taylor Swift shows and one Luke Bryan show) before the regular season starts. Despite the condition of the field, they’re still holding open practices at Levi’s, because PSL holders paid crazy money for the privilege and were willing to make the trip.
As a result, the team — supposedly the main attraction when Levi’s Stadium was constructed — is being compromised. Football is dangerous enough when it’s played on pristine grounds, and players are being put at risk unnecessarily when the footing isn’t secure. One can only imagine what it’d be like if the 49ers were on “Hard Knocks,” because that show’s producers would’ve tried to catch players talking about the grass (and divots) during these Levi’s Stadium practices … and it probably wouldn’t have been too difficult to pick up some newsworthy quotes.
The 49ers are playing with fire here, and they know it. They may escape this training camp without any serious injuries related to the condition of the field at Levi’s, but what’s the long-term plan here?
It seems silly to have to play on the artificial stuff in Northern California, especially when a moving field allows the Cardinals to play on grass in their weird biodome-looking home in Glendale. But something’s fishy. They’ve had plenty of time to figure this out since last December. They’ve had just 13 official events since then. As long as they’re paying for regular field maintenance, an event every two or three weeks doesn’t seem like it’d be all that taxing. But how many private events — like the “Cisco Rocks w/Christina Aguilera and Keith Urban” show on July 27 — is the place hosting?
It’d be silly to use a brand new stadium for two preseason games, eight regular season games, and nothing more. It makes sense to hold concerts, Wrestlemanias, NHL outdoor classics, soccer matches, Pac-12 Championships, and even high school games there. But if the groundskeepers can’t keep up with the workload, some sort of artificial turf — which isn’t great for players’ feet, but would demand much less water and wouldn’t get chewed up like this — might be the only solution.
Levi’s Stadium is supposed to represent the height of Silicon Valley innovation. It boasts a “living roof.” The groundbreaking was over a year ago, but the ground is still broken.