The 49ers haven’t won a game away from Levi’s Stadium in more than 20 months.
So Kyle Shanahan’s club is doing things differently this week before traveling to sweltering Tampa Bay for Sunday’s season opener against the Buccaneers.
“Humidity is always a concern too,” Shanahan said. “I coached in Tampa when I started my career so I know how big of an advantage that was for us early in the year. (I’ve) been in a lot of humid places to begin and it is tough for guys if they aren’t prepared for it.”
The 49ers erected a tent that gets as hot as 110 degrees next to their practice field with exercise bikes inside. And the heat has been blasted in the weight room to replicate the expected mid-90s temperatures with 70 percent humidity Sunday.
“You’ve got to be mindful of it,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to make sure that you don’t just start hydrating when you get to Florida and realize how humid it is. That starts Monday and you’ve got to do that for a full week, which will help and you just hope that you’re hydrated and that you prepared the right way.
“We’ll keep trying to stuff water down their throats for the next week and after that and then I don’t want to talk about it. It’s going to be hot. It’s not going to be fun, but it’s hot and not fun almost everywhere right now, so let’s make sure we’re prepared and go try to win a game.”
The 49ers’ second game is in Cincinnati, which is within driving distance of Youngstown, Ohio, where the 49ers stayed a few years ago and practiced after playing the Bengals before traveling to Philadelphia the following week. That turned out to be a successful trip. They came back to beat the Eagles in what wound up being a big victory early in the Jim Harbaugh era.
San Francisco is going to stay in Youngstown next week before playing the Bengals rather than flying back to the Bay Area. Shanahan was asked about the reasoning for taking his team on the road rather than enjoying the comforts of home.
“Just going through it for two years, I just realized how much it takes a toll on your team traveling from coast to coast,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been in the NFL for a while and I was mainly on the East Coast for most of my career, so I didn’t think it was as big of a deal traveling from coast to coast when I was there.
“But I think it will help us be a lot better next week because when you go there and go through the time difference, travel back, the long plane ride and everything, which everyone deals with, it makes injuries a little longer to recover from and things like that with the swelling, but when your sleep-wake cycle gets messed up, especially for athletes, but I think (it affects players).”
The last time the 49ers practiced away from the Bay Area during the season wasn’t so successful. The team late in 2016 stayed in Orlando following a loss to the Dolphins before playing the Bears. It went from practicing in warm Florida weather to playing in Chicago, where it was snowing and 33 degrees.
Hurd could miss multiple games
Rookie receiver Jalen Hurd isn’t expected to make his 49ers debut this weekend – and it might take more time before he returns to the field as he deals with what the team calls “back tightness.”
“I’m thinking it’s more week-to-week as opposed to day-to-day,” Shanahan said.
Hurd initially felt pain during joint practice sessions with the Broncos last month before the Aug. 19 preseason game. He played eight snaps before exiting and hasn’t practiced since. His injury, along with Trent Taylor’s foot surgery, led to San Francisco keeping seven receivers on the active roster.
The five healthy options – Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne and Richie James Jr. – all seem likely to be part of the 46-man active roster in Tampa Bay. Though Shanahan wouldn’t say which receivers will start or how they’ll be deployed.
“That’s going to be interesting as we go through each game,” Shanahan said. “A lot will do with how they practice in these three practices, what routes we have on, what personnel we have on, a lot goes into blocking, running routes the right way. That’s something that isn’t set and it depends on the play called and the personnel in.”
Hurd, Taylor and left tackle Joe Staley were the only active players to miss Wednesday’s practice. Staley was given his typical vet’s day off.
The 49ers had five players limited during the afternoon session: defensive end Nick Bosa (ankle), Pettis (groin), center Weston Richburg (knee) and cornerbacks Jason Verrett (ankle) and K’Waun Williams (knee). It seems likely those five could be available Sunday.
Pass rusher Dee Ford, who missed the entire preseason and most of August to get treated for knee tendinitis, was listed as a full participant.