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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Notebook: Why not practice in Mexico City? Is Kyle Shanahan still tough on WRs? Adjusting to the altitude

Nov 19, 2022 at 4:36 PM--


On Saturday, the San Francisco 49ers finished up their last of three practices this week. They'll depart Colorado Springs, where they have spent the week to get acclimated to the altitude, for Mexico City on Sunday afternoon. The 49ers and Arizona Cardinals play on Monday night at Estadio Azteca, where the elevation is about 7,200 feet above sea level.

The team had to practice indoors on artificial turf the last two days due to some snowfall this week.

"It's not ideal, but it's not the end of the world," head coach Kyle Shanahan said after Saturday's practice. "We made it through it, and I'm happy we did it now. ... Everyone would rather be on nice, soft grass, but most of the places I've been at this time of year, there isn't soft grass. We're fortunate to have that in California."

Why not practice in Mexico City this week?


Some have questioned the decision to practice this week in Colorado Springs rather than heading straight for Mexico City and practicing there. Why wasn't that the plan?

"Great question," Shanahan responded. "I heard [the United States Air Force Academy] has really good facilities. I heard they had everything that could accommodate us. [We] talked to New England coaches and Chargers coaches. They said that. We flew our guys down here to check all that. They thought it was pretty nice. I've been here. I think it's pretty nice."

Shanahan added, "[We] didn't have the same connections in Mexico City," before joking, "[OL] Alfredo [Gutierrez] didn't know the people, so it's harder to trust."

Getting acclimated to the altitude


How do the 49ers feel about the altitude now? Do they feel like the trip to Colorado has helped?

"Yesterday, we kind of felt it a lot because we was able to get a lot out of practice," wide receiver Deebo Samuel said. "But today, we felt it a little bit with one full-speed period. But I feel like we'll be ready to go."

Shanahan, who hasn't had to endure going through any practices himself, is not immune to the altitude's impact. He admitted that he was " a little out of breath" just climbing the stairs after Saturday's practice to meet with reporters.

"We were at Denver a little bit over a month ago, and you can feel the altitude there, but being at Air Force, it's two thousand feet higher, and it's a big difference," Shanahan said. "... We had our biggest practice on [Friday], and that's where they really felt it. [Thursday] was not quite as much, and today was not quite as much. But [Friday], they really felt it then, and that was the first time they were like, 'Oh, this is pretty real.'"

49ers leave Colorado relatively healthy


The good news is that the 49ers remain relatively healthy. The only player ruled out for the Week 11 matchup is defensive lineman Arik Armstead (foot, ankle), who will miss his sixth consecutive game and seventh of the season.

The team listed defensive end Samson Ebukam as "questionable" due to a quadriceps injury. He was a limited practice participant on Friday and Saturday.

Cornerback Charvarius Ward, better known to his teammates as "Mooney," missed Thursday and Friday's practices due to a personal matter. He practiced on Saturday, though.

Shanahan getting softer with WRs?


Samuel was asked if he and Brandon Aiyuk can sympathize with rookie wideout Danny Gray, who has yet to register a catch in his 33 offensive snaps this season. Shanahan has been notoriously tough on young receivers. Samuel laughed when reminded of that. Of course, everyone remembers last year's Aiyuk-doghouse storyline.

"Just a jokingly thing, Kyle ain't as hard as he used to be," Samuel told reporters. "And me and Brandon joke with him a lot about how hard he was on me and Brandon, but he's got guys like us in this room that kind of help him with that, so he don't be on Danny as much. But he do still get a piece of it here and there.

"As a rookie, I feel like Danny's doing a pretty good job. The opportunities that he gets in Kyle's offense, I mean, it's hard to learn. And with him being a rookie, and we kind of need him to play a good bit, I feel like it's a lot of pressure on his back.

"As far as being a rookie, I feel like he gets a little anxious at times, and it kind of takes control of your body. Me and Brandon have been there, so that's when we step in and just kind of be like, 'Just calm down and let things happen.'"

Samuel added, "Once he gets the first catch—I feel like it's the first hit, honestly—but once he gets that out of the way, and he gets all the jitters out of the way, he'll be all right."

The star receiver remembers getting cussed out by Shanahan at practice as a rookie.

"Kyle used to be a little rougher than what he is now," Samuel noted.

That led to a reporter asking if Samuel feels Shanahan has gotten softer on receivers since that rookie season.

"We just get away with a good bit of stuff that some people wouldn't be able to get away with," Samuel responded with a laugh.

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