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How Shanahan plans to get 49ers ready for games in pandemic

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SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers moved inside Levi’s Stadium on Friday for a practice session that will serve as their first dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Coach Kyle Shanahan plans to use the day to test the tablets, headsets and the game-day operations, in general.

He also hopes to get some clarity from the NFL on the guidelines for the decibel levels and allowable pumped-in crowd noise that can be used for games this season.

“Right now, I'm hearing you’ve got to press play on the noise at the beginning of the game and you can't turn it off until the end of the game,” Shanahan said. “So that means we're helping both D-lines when we're at home. There's lots of stuff that I really don't know about, yet.”

The 49ers canceled what would have been their 11th practice of training camp on Thursday to allow the team’s 80-man roster to rest their weary bodies. Such prominent players as Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Kyle Juszczyk and Brandon Aiyuk are out with muscle strains, and All-Pro tight end George Kittle experienced hamstring tightness on Wednesday that forced an early end to his practice day.

The practice Friday is scheduled to include more move-the-ball periods and organic situational football where things are less scripted.

“You try to make it a little bit more like a game atmosphere, but we're going into the stadium just because, one, it's nice to get a break from our practice field; and, two, so that we can check out the noise, stuff like that,” Shanahan said.

 

The 49ers open the regular season on Sunday, Sept. 13 against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers announced this week that no fans will be allowed inside the stadium for at least the season-opening game.

There is a strong likelihood fans will not be permitted for most, if not all, of the season due to state and local regulations designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

This could be an interesting season in the NFL with, perhaps, the usually significant advantage for home teams being greatly minimized.

“Crowd noise is a huge effect in the NFL and that's why I truly believe home-field advantage is a bigger deal in football than any other sport because the communication that's involved when an O-lineman cannot hear a snap count,” Shanahan said. “It is extremely hard to block defense alignments.”

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Like all 32 teams across the NFL, the 49ers will hold high-level discussions on how to operate the sound system and other details at Levi’s Stadium during games this season. On Friday, the 49ers will get their first clues of the look and feel of regular-season football during a pandemic.

“I’ve got a lot of ideas, but try not to waste too many extra thoughts when I don't know the exact parameters, yet,” Shanahan said. “So, hopefully, we'll get that sooner than later and then we can come up with whatever decision gives the Niners the best chance to win.”