SANTA CLARA -- Let's say the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl. ... We're not engaging in this exercise to be dreamy and optimistic. And, please, no blockhead emails and tweets saying, 'It's a moot point because ... something-something-whiny-something."
No, the question is in the vein of, 'What happens when a team that's hosting the Super Bowl plays in the Super Bowl?" It's never happened in 49 years of previous Super Bowls. The 49ers played Super Bowl XIX in Northern California, but the game was at Stanford Stadium, not Candlestick Park. The Los Angeles Rams played in Super Bowl XIV in Southern California but the game was in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena not the Rams' home field.
The 49ers play at Levi's Stadium, the site of Super Bowl L on Feb. 7 and their headquarters and practice facility are literally a few feet away. Not only that, the 49ers only have one locker room now, and it's inside the stadium. Some of the coaches' offices are in the stadium as well.
The NFL provides the two Super Bowl contenders with practice facilities, in this case San Jose State and Stanford University. But teams are not obligated to use them. That is, the 49ers could stay at home right up until the big game. That would be hugely advantageous, right?
"I would venture to say we wouldn't want to," Jim Mercurio, the vice president of stadium operations, said last week.
Mercurio said the ultimate decision would be up to coach Jim Tomsula, general manager Trent Baalke and other team bigwigs. But he noted that four weeks before the game, the 49ers will give access of the stadium to the NFL, which will start building so-called 'Super Bowl City," lay new sod and otherwise begin preparing for the Feb. 7 game.
"I think it's too big of a distraction, there's too many people, there's too many areas where your practice facility could be viewed from," Mercurio said. "I'd venture to say that we, as an organization, wouldn't want that."
Still, it's something the team theoretically would have to put up with even if it merely made the playoffs. The NFL and its construction crews will start rolling in Jan. 7, one month before the Super Bowl. The Wild-card round of the playoffs begin on Jan. 9 and 10.
It's a predicament that is rarely encountered. The Cardinals, for instance, made the most recent playoffs, which culminated in a game at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals' practice facility, however, is in Tempe, Ariz. while the stadium is in Glendale. The Cardinals also lost in the wildcard round.
If the 49ers did make the Super Bowl, they would use their own locker room, Mercurio said. However, they may have to use a different side of the field. The 49ers last year gave the visitors the east sideline because during day games it faces the sun and is hotter than the west side. They would line up on the east side if they became the first team ever to play on its home field.
Sun and heat, obviously, will be less of an issue during a late-afternoon game in early February.