By Jerry Mcdonald
The 49ers will be living the high life with a 5-4 record this week as they prepare for their Monday night game against the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City.
Given that the elevation is more than 7,200 feet, the 49ers will depart Tuesday for Colorado Springs (elevation 6,035 feet) to get acclimated. Practices will be held at the United States Air Force Academy.
They will do so with a healthy roster, as the only player who showed up on an injury report following a 22-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers was rookie wide receiver Danny Gray, who rolled an ankle during warmups.
Gray, who has played sparingly, is “day to day,” according to coach Kyle Shanahan.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to playing in Mexico City — find someplace to prepare that will simulate the altitude, or arrive the day before the game and get it over with before symptoms of altitude become apparent.
It’s Shanahan’s first experience playing in Mexico City, so he relied on the research of the 49ers organization.
“They thought getting there earlier and getting acclimated to it earlier would help us on Monday night, so that’s why we made the decision,” Shanahan said in a conference call Monday. “We’re taking off tomorrow. We’ve got eight days, with the extra day.”
The 49ers will begin full scale practices on Thursday, rather than the usual Wednesday, because the game is a day later than usual. Then they’ll leave Sunday for Mexico City.
Shanahan said he didn’t expect practices to be any different other than keeping an eye on players to see how they’re faring.
“If guys are struggling, you stop and take a break or you take that guy out and have him not go,” Shanahan said. “But you want to practice in that altitude because the more days you spend in it the more your body gets used to it. So hopefully it will be easier for us Monday night.”
Arizona, which improved to 4-6 with a 27-17 win over the Los Angeles Rams, will practice at its facility and treat it at as a normal week.
When the Raiders played in Mexico City in 2016 and 2017, they determined going in the day before the game would make them best prepared to handle the thin air. In 2016, when the Raiders were very good, they beat Houston 27-20. The following season, when they were struggling, the Raiders lost to New England 33-8.
The good news for the 49ers is it is designated as a road game against a division opponent. They play their home game against Arizona in Week 18.
Shanahan, who said he’s no fan of long road trips, prefers Mexico as opposed to London or Germany as an an international site for that reason, and is looking forward to the atmosphere.
“The fact that we’re going to Mexico, I think is awesome,” Shanahan said. “Not too far away. I feel like Mexico is a second home to us. I think our fan base here in California and in Mexico is unbelievable. I go to Cabo a lot and there’s a great group of Mexican fans down there. I’m hoping it’s the same in Mexico City.”
By Sunday, however, Shanahan will see it as business as usual.
“You go to the hotel that night, the next day you take a bus over to the stadium and as soon as it’s over, you head to the airport,” Shanahan said. “But it will be cool to see a different fan base.”
The Greenlaw hit
Shanahan said general manager John Lynch discussed the ejection of linebacker Dre Greenlaw with the NFL and hadn’t yet been briefed on the conversation. Greenlaw was penalized and thrown out of the game after hitting Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert as he was sliding on a scramble.
“He definitely hit him with the helmet so I fully understood the penalty,” Shanahan said. “We’ll get the information and try to help other players and see how they can avoid it.”
Regarding Greenlaw’s intent, Shanahan said “He was trying to stop him from getting a first down and nothing more.”
Greenlaw is subject to a fine, although Shanahan doesn’t believe a suspension would be involved.
“I’d be very surprised if he was,” Shanahan said.
Yardage, but not enough points
The 49ers’ point total against the Chargers mirrored their 22.0 points per game total which is ranked No. 18 in the NFL.
Shanahan rejected the premise that the 49ers offense wasn’t “clicking” based on their yardage total but said things have to get better near the goal line. Place kicker Robbie Gould had three field goals of 26 or closer.
The 49ers rushed for 157 yards and had 237 yards net passing, converting 9 of 17 third downs.
“We got inside the 10-yard line five times and scored two touchdowns,” Shanahan said. “When you do that it’s tough to score 30 points.”
— Shanahan is holding out hope that defensive tackle Arik Armstead could return after missing six games with plantar fasciitis and a hairline ankle fracture, but said more would be known Thursday when the 49ers begin practicing in earnest.
The 49ers put in a waiver claim on Chargers defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, a former first-round pick. However, so did seven other teams and he was awarded to the Raiders based on their 2-7 record. He said he didn’t see the claim as related to the injuries to Armstead and Javon Kinlaw.
“He’s just a good player that came available and we wanted to take our shot at it,” Shanahan said.
— Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray remains “day to day” with a hamstring strain, coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters. Murray missed the win over the Rams, with Colt McCoy leading the Cardinals in his absence.
The 49ers were swept by the Cardinals last season, losing to Murray in Arizona and to McCoy at home.
— When asked of the 49ers’ interest in wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the wide receiver who hopes to select a team to play for by the end of the month, Shanahan gave his stock answer.
“We consider everything,” Shanahan said.
Source: Paradise Post