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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Dre Greenlaw on whether Super Bowl practice fields led to injury, rehab status

May 9, 2024 at 9:17 AM

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Dre Greenlaw initially thought someone had stepped on his foot as he returned to the football field during Super Bowl 58. The idea that he had suffered a severe injury didn't cross his mind. Even after he made his way onto the sideline, the San Francisco 49ers' star linebacker didn't anticipate exiting the game permanently.

It wasn't until he started trying to put pressure on his foot that he realized more was going on with the injury. Further tests confirmed what the training staff suspected: Greenlaw had torn his Achilles. His absence was a blow for the San Francisco 49ers, who had to continue the game without him.

Ultimately, the 49ers lost Super Bowl 58 to the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, a devastating defeat for Greenlaw, who watched from the sidelines as the game concluded.

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, the 49ers practiced at UNLV. However, the team found the practice fields unsatisfactory, describing the surface as "spongy."

Rather than search for a solution, commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL dismissed the 49ers' concerns, leaving the team with no choice but to utilize the fields leading up to the big game.

"We're here, we're practicing on it," head coach Kyle Shanahan later commented. "I mean, everyone has their preferences. I wish things were better, but we'll deal with it how it is."

Speaking to NBC Sports Bay Area, Greenlaw discussed those practice fields and whether the conditions might have contributed to his injury.

"I remember going out there early that week and just kind of feeling the turf a little bit and feeling the ground, and I know there was just a lot of complaints about it and stuff," Greenlaw told Matt Maiocco on the "49ers Talk" podcast. "It wasn't the best field that I felt like we could have had, but to me, it don't really make a difference as long as the field doesn't have holes and it's not slippery. So I felt like it was fine."

Leading up to the Super Bowl, Greenlaw had been dealing with issues with his right Achilles, and he noticed the soreness was heightened from practicing on the UNLV fields. However, the injury sustained in the game was to his left Achilles.

"I don't necessarily blame the field that we played on," Greenlaw continued. "Yeah, it probably didn't help, but I just think that just compensating and all those things will do it."

Coincidentally, defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks also suffered a torn Achilles in Super Bowl 58. When asked about the unusual injuries and whether there was any contributing factor, like say, the practice fields, Shanahan smiled and stated, "Nothing I want to get into," before acknowledging his frustration.

Greenlaw added, "It definitely is an interesting case. Like I said, I don't necessarily think that it didn't have an effect. Like I said, they weren't great fields, but I just kind of go and go and go. But I do remember that week that my right Achilles was really, really sore, and [maybe] my left one started to feel like a little sore from just compensating something, so I don't really know."

Greenlaw acknowledged that his recovery is progressing as expected.

"It's coming along," the linebacker shared. "It's a long, slow process that you just kind of gotta be ready for every day to wake up and attack whatever it is that I'm trying to work on. And for me, that's, right now, just the strength and the mobility, just trying to get good range of motion in it.

"But also, just making sure I'm getting the strength while I'm getting that range of motion, too, because, you don't want to get all just range of motion in it and with no strength and all that kind of stuff. So just trying to get better, get stronger and all that good stuff."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Greenlaw below. It begins at about the 8-minute mark.

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