Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan says COVID-19 is unavoidable, but 49ers can lessen its impact

Aug 8, 2020 at 2:43 PM--

San Francisco 49ers players and staff walk by one another with masks over their faces and monitors around their necks, tracking if they come within six feet of each other. They add time to the start of the day, accounting for the process of just getting in the door.

"Your morning takes longer to come in," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo told reporters this past week. "You've got to go through all the testing, answer the survey, and all that. There's a lot of little pieces that go into it, but it's like anything; it's part of your routine now.

"It's just kind of getting used to it, and you adapt to it. But, I think the biggest difference is just the time efficiency I would say. You can't really go from one thing to the next real fluidly. It's different than it was before."

Garoppolo, by the way, said that to an auditorium full of empty seats. Off in the distance was a television monitor showing him the faces of reporters asking questions via a Zoom video conference call.

Just before Garoppolo sat down to speak with reporters — virtually — a 49ers staff member thoroughly sprayed and wiped down the chair, table, and microphone. That's because cornerback Richard Sherman had just been sitting there answering questions — and he did so while wearing a face-covering throughout the entirety of the interview.

All of this, of course, is to avoid COVID-19 from running rampant throughout the building, infecting players, staff, their loved ones, and anyone with whom they might come in contact. The 49ers are attempting to lessen the impact of the virus amid a pandemic.

Lessen the impact, not avoid it altogether. The only way to prevent it would be not to play football this season.

COVID-19 impacting the 49ers and the NFL seems inevitable. It's just a matter of limiting the damage when it does. Head coach Kyle Shanahan knows that. When he first sat down and started reading the 40-page memo sent out by the NFL, laying down the rules needed for teams to open training camp, his first thought was, "This is impossible."

But it was possible, and the 49ers started to get to work. The team knocked down walls, where necessary, to open up rooms and allow for social distancing. The 49ers prepared to utilize neighboring Levi's Stadium for meetings, with some position groups going over the playbook installation in areas meant for fans to socialize and enjoy games.

"I didn't know how it was possible, but then I got here a few weeks ago and saw the meeting rooms moved to some (areas) of our stadium," Shanahan said Thursday on KNBR's Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks show. "I saw how our team room that used to fit 90, now it can only fit 20, and that's where our O-line will be. And I start to see all this different stuff, and I start to see how it is possible."

Shanahan grew more and more confident in the NFL's and his team's plans to play amid a pandemic. The coach feels getting back to work was something he and his players needed. His family members, after all, were getting a little tired of him hanging around their house 24/7. They wanted him to shave his beard and stop wearing sweatpants all day.

"I [got] to spend a few weeks here before our players get in," Shanahan continued. "And now we've got them in, and we've gone through all the tests and everything. And everyone in our building, we feel very safe. And we're trying to get a feel on how we can do this, really social distance in our building while we all meet, and really get the right to go out there and play football, which obviously when you play football, you're not social distancing.

"But you realize how we've been able to not spread it before that, and if we can keep it from coming in here — which I know, eventually it will, whether it's one person (or) two people — but as long as we keep spread out, it shouldn't ever take out too many people is what you're hoping for. It's hard to comprehend until you get here, but I do feel it's got a good chance."

While his family is glad to have him back at work, Shanahan added that the transition was toughest on his new dog. His family got the puppy at the beginning of the quarantine, and the pet just assumed Shanahan was around all the time.

"Now, he's like wondering [why] I ditched him," Shanahan shared. "No, this is actually what people do. I don't just sit at the house all day."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Shanahan below.

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