The ominous skies hovering over Levi’s Stadium haven’t yet forced the San Francisco 49ers to change their plans, but it’s something they and the NFL will have to keep tabs on as they head toward Sunday’s opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
With more wildfires burning all over California combined with a recent heat wave, Bay Area residents woke up to eerie orange skies and falling ash on Wednesday. It created a strange atmosphere for the Niners and coach Kyle Shanahan as they conducted a walk-through and a practice outside the SAP training facility.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said the air quality in the Bay Area isn’t as bad as the viral pictures of orange skies have shown. He said if the air quality hits 200, there can’t be football, either in practice or game form. It’s currently under 100 for now.
— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) September 9, 2020
“We just got back in from walk-through and it’s orange out here, too,” Shanahan said. “I feel like I’m in ‘The Book of Eli’ — it’s like an apocalyptic state out there.”
Despite the dark pall over their practice fields, the air quality, at least for now, has not surged into dangerous territory. According to Shanahan, the team’s measurement on the air quality index was a healthy 69 during the team’s walk-through Wednesday. That number remained in the 60s during practice.
Look at conditions of 49ers practice. Air quality index is moderate pic.twitter.com/cEF3IEFq5j
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) September 9, 2020
That’s notable because the NFL will not allow teams to play or practice outside should that number surge to 200 or above on Sunday. To this point, the wildfires that have been burning for the past three weeks have not caused the Niners to cancel practice because of air quality.
On Aug. 21, the team did alter its practice schedule by about an hour because of concerns that winds would shift and the air quality would reach the threshold to force the Niners to cancel or move practice. The team also excused two players from practice early as a safeguard against the effects of the climbing air quality index number.
At that time, the air quality hovered between 150 and 155, and it has reached as high as the 160s at various points over the past few weeks.
“It’s dark out there,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “It’s not clouds. I mean, just with the smoke and everything, we just did a walk-through a little while ago and there’s the ash falling all over the place. It’s different, but [I] send best wishes to all the families out there that are dealing with it. It’s tough times, and stay safe.”
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