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Takeaways from 49ers’ first chilly practice at Air Force Academy

By Cam Inman

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Submerging themselves in a frozen margarita is apparently now part of the 49ers’ training process for Monday night’s game in Mexico City.

Snowflakes fell, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees, and the wind chill made it feel like, fittingly, 9 degrees in the Niners’ debut practice Monday at the Air Force Academy, just north of Colorado Springs.

Of course, the 49ers and their parkas are here because of the altitude (6,788 feet), to help acclimate their lungs for Estadio Azteca (7,218 feet) — and for the Arizona Cardinals, Monday night’s hosts who remain at their Tempe, Arizona, facility, where it was sunny at 70 degrees.

“The cold is kind of a pain, and I don’t like being cold, but it hasn’t changed anything at practice,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s been all about the altitude, which they say helps us. Hopefully that will.”

Shanahan said Friday’s practice could move to the Falcons’ indoor facility, but only because of field conditions from overnight snow rather than the cold conditions.

This was playoff weather, although George Kittle said it wasn’t as rough as last season’s divisional playoff win at Green Bay, when snow flurries escorted the 49ers’ second-half comeback.

The 49ers (5-4) certainly could go on another playoff run and endure similar, chilly conditions in, say, Philadelphia or New York. But Thursday felt more like an attempt to just survive the day, and not look past this week’s bid to win a third straight game.

“Do we want to be out here practicing in 20-degree weather? Probably not,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “But it is a test of your discipline and how willing are you to be atop your assignments, that you won’t let the elements affect you? We did that today.”

Players said the cold was more menacing than the altitude adjustment, the latter being their main purpose here, two months after losing up the road in Denver. Kittle said he heard from Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce that Denver’s mile-high altitude won’t compare to Mexico City, which last hosted a NFL game in 2019 between the Chiefs and Chargers. “He said the altitude was just difficult,” Kittle added.

How is how some 49ers dealt with the chill factor:

— Warner and tight ends Charlie Woerner and Ross Dwelley were the only players not wearing sleeves, and Woerner went so far as to suit up in shorts. “Charlie is just built different, from the mountains of Georgia,” Kittle said. “He didn’t even wear a shirt under his jersey.”

— Defensive end Nick Bosa and left tackle Trent Williams, both wearing ski masks, jogged off and headed for a warm bus after ill-named warmups. Both were given veteran rest days.

— Wide receiver Deebo Samuel sought shelter in a bathroom under the stands and peeked his head through a crack in the door until wide receiver drills began. Ray-Ray McCloud caught on at one point and briefly joined Samuel in the shelter.

— Jimmy “No Gloves” Garoppolo grew up in this weather, in Arlington Heights, Illinois, where it was 32 degrees with snow flurries Thursday. He threw without gloves, directed teammates to their spots, then, occasionally, slipped his digits into his hand-warmer pouch around his waist.

— Kicker Robbie Gould, punter Mitch Wishnowsky and long snapper Taybor Pepper mostly braved the elements, but they did sneak up to the press box before full-team drills commenced.

— As injured quarterback Trey Lance walked past the make-shift media room inside the Cadet Gym, the Marshall, Minnesota native and North Dakota State product said: “This ain’t nothing. You see I’m in shorts.”

The defensive line practiced again without Samson Ebukam (quadriceps), Arik Armstead (foot, ankle) and Javon Kinlaw (knee), the latter of whom is eligible to come off Injured Reserve but will not this week, Shanahan has said.

Source: Paradise Post