49ers making Arizona land grab for practices plus games after Santa Clara County expulsion

The 49ers leave Wednesday for a desert oasis in Arizona, where they’ll frolic on lush lands, find shelter in a four-star hotel and, ideally, enjoy safe passage in this month’s playoff push.
Such is their plan upon being exiled from Santa Clara County, due to COVID-19 concerns that prompted health officials to ban contact sports.
A sports and entertainment complex in Glendale, Ariz., will serve as the 49ers’ home base for at least the next three weeks, if not to their season’s end.
They will play their next two “home” games there, at the Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium, against the Buffalo Bills on Monday night then the Washington Football Team on Sunday, Dec. 13.
Amid the stadium parking lots are practice fields – grass ones, like the stadium offers, to the 49ers’ injury-weary delight. (They’ve had many a player’s season end or sidetracked by injuries on artificial turf.)
This plot, some 20 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix, also comes with an 11-story hotel where they’ll be the first NFL team to essentially enter a secured bubble. However, coach Kyle Shanahan said players can stay off-site with their families, if they choose to relocate, too.
“My biggest concern and I told the players, we’re very comfortable with protocols we’re at and we feel pretty safe and how to avoid it. But now we’re going to a new environment,” Shanahan said. “We have the same exact rules but covid is bigger there than here.
“We’re not trying to go anywhere. I plan on guys staying in the hotel and being safe.”
Shanahan is striving to keep players in contact with their families, albeit in a safe manner as they’ve done in Santa Clara this season.
“I just try to tell our guys, I don’t care what happens, but we’re not going to spend Christmas without our families,” Shanahan said. “We’ll figure it out.”
The 49ers play against the Cardinals on Dec. 26, so it sounds like the franchise will set up travel plans for families, if they choose to come to Arizona. It’s unknown if the 49ers’ families can attend State Farm Stadium, something the Cardinals’ families are allowed to do.
All playoff teams might have to enter similar quarantine next month if the NFL deems necessary because of the coronavirus surge, so the 49ers could be getting an advanced taste of it. That is, if they rally to defend their NFC title in the postseason.
Shanahan hopes to use the coming week to get a better feel for the 49ers’ relocation.
Going on an extended business trip is nothing new for the 49ers, not after last year’s 10-day layovers in Ohio and Florida between September and December road games. This one, however, is exceedingly long, and Shanahan noted that everyone gets “sick of each other” after a week in a hotel.
This relocation will keep team members from their families during the holiday season, and Shanahan noted several are expecting the birth of babies over the coming month, so Santa Clara County’s quarantine for out-of-state travel complicates travel plans. Many players have spent this season apart for loved ones for safety measures.
The 49ers’ facility is essentially shuttered, along with Levi’s Stadium. All players will travel and rehab in Arizona, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who Shanahan is hoping to return with tight end George Kittle in the final weeks of the season.
“Our building is not going to be open for any aspect,” Shanahan said.
Shanahan spoke glowingly about State Farm Stadium, where the 49ers beat the Cardinals in the last visit on Halloween night last year.
“I like the stadium. Seems nice, clean,” Shanahan said. ” Glad there’s not Cardinals fans in there when we’re the home team. The field’s fast. Have always like that. And it’s nice weather.
“It’s as good of a situation we can have. I’m pumped they’ve made it so convenient for us.”
— Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is to come off COVID-19 reserve list today with D.J. Jones, Daniel Helm and Jordan Willis.
— Shanahan said it’s “not looking like” defensive end Dee Ford will play again this season because of a back injury that came to light after the season opener. Center Weston Richburg (elbow, knee) and defensive end Ronald Blair (knee) are not expected to play this season after setbacks from their initial surgeries, Shanahan said.
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