If the NFL relies on local jurisdictions to determine the extent to which fans can occupy stadiums this season, it could create a disparity of home-field advantages throughout the league.

“At the end of the day, the true advantage is just the energy at home,” Ford said Friday on a video call with Bay Area reporters.

“I definitely feel it’s an advantage, or a disadvantage if you don’t have it. And I guess I do feel like it would be a little unfair.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The start of the NFL regular season is more than three months away, and there is no telling at this point what will be advisable due to the uncertain nature of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some states might allow full stadiums. Others might insist on social-distancing measures. And other teams might be in locations where large gatherings still are not allowed when the season is scheduled to kick off in September.

“It would definitely be, in my opinion, an unfair advantage, if some teams have fans and some teams don’t,” Ford said. “On the offensive side, you’re dealing with crowd noise. And on the defensive side, it’s more so snap count, chaos.”


Ford said he has also heard of the possibility that some teams might pipe in crowd noise in an attempt to artificially create atmosphere.

“I heard things about the virtual crowd noise,” Ford said, laughing. “I’m going to go out on the limb and say, a couple teams already have that going on, so they won’t have any issues with it.”

Ford did not specify which teams he suspects are producing crowd noise.

[RELATED49ers' Dee Ford rehabbing from knee surgery after playing 'on blown tire']

While some opposing players have expressed skepticism whether Seattle’s decibel levels are authentic, the Atlanta Falcons are the only organization in recent years to be punished for pumping in crowd noise.

The NFL fined the Falcons $350,000 and the franchise had to forfeit a fifth-round draft pick in 2016 as punishment. Also, team president Rich McKay was suspended nearly five months from the NFL competition committee as a result of the violation.