Nothing is certain about the upcoming NFL season, including whether there will even be an NFL season.
But the 49ers are certain in their approach.
Club officials are preparing as if the season will proceed uninterrupted by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We’re preparing to play the 2020 season as scheduled. And that’s the only thing we can do right now,” 49ers CEO Jed York said during the organization’s annual State of the Franchise event, which was held virtually and released through the club’s website.
“We have to make sure that our primary focus is keeping our players, coaches and fans and all the people who work around the game healthy. And that’s what we’ve done.”
The NFL canceled the offseason programs for all 32 teams this spring. Coaches and players could meet through virtual technology, and players around the league organized their own workouts.
The 49ers quarterbacks and receivers met at San Jose State and Brentwood Academy, just south of Nashville, for workouts. Receiver Deebo Samuel sustained a fractured foot during a workout last week and underwent surgery.
One player who participated in at least one of the workouts in Tennessee tested positive for COVID-19.
Despite the complications and risks associated with playing football during a pandemic, team president Al Guido said he believes the season will go forward. The 49ers are in constant contact with Santa Clara medical and health officials, he said.
“We’re working really hard with our county, and our county has been fantastic,” Guido said. “Our leaders, our political leaders, in California have done an unbelievable job maintaining safety. So we’re working literally every single day in communication with them around our return to sports and our return to games. And I’m confident that we’ll have an NFL season.”
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The NFL released its 2020 schedule in May, and the 49ers are scheduled to open defenses of their NFC West and NFC titles on Sunday, Sept. 13, against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium.
Then, the 49ers are slated for back-to-back games in East Rutherford, N.J. against the New York Jets (Sept. 20) and New York Giants (Sept. 27).
“We’re so excited,” York said. “Obviously, every game is going to be a big game. Every game is going to be important.”
The 49ers have five scheduled prime-time games, four of which are scheduled to be played on their home field. The 49ers have big expectations after a disappointing end to the season. The 49ers blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Kansas City Chiefs to lose Super Bowl LIV.
The 49ers are coming off a season in which they went 13-3 during the regular season and clinched the division and home-field advantage in Week 17 with a dramatic 26-21 victory over Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.
But even the last-place Arizona Cardinals gave the 49ers problems last season, and bigger things are expected this season with second-year quarterback Kyler Murray, whom York compared to Wilson.
“The Seahawks, the way the regular-season ended last year, obviously there’s a huge awesome rivalry between us and the guys up north,” York said. “You just look at our division. . . . Is there a better division from top to bottom in the National Football League?
“You’ve got a young quarterback who reminds you a lot of Russ and things he can do to make plays from anywhere on the field. And you have the Rams who, by the way, were in the Super Bowl a few years ago. This is not an easy division so it’s got to start with the NFC West, and it’s going to be a very, very difficult place to start but there’s going to be a lot of awesome football this year.”