Why Are the San Francisco 49ers Playing Their Home Games in Arizona?

The year 2020 hasn’t gone according to plan for the San Francisco 49ers. When the year began, the team was en route to the Super Bowl; they, of course, blew a late lead in the Big Game. While the new season brought hopes of redemption, the club has been decimated by injuries and currently sits below .500. Heading into Week 13, though, things got even tougher.

On Monday night, the San Francisco 49ers will host the Buffalo Bills for a primetime ESPN matchup. There’s only one catch, though: the game will be taking place in Arizona, not the Bay Area.

The San Francisco 49ers have had a year to forget

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In the world of sports, virtually every team will go through some peaks and valleys. After a strong 2019, though, the San Francisco 49ers have slipped into a bit of a tough stretch.

While the games were technically part of the 2019 campaign, the Niners started the 2020 calendar year with a run to the Super Bowl. While they seemed to be in control of the big game, Patrick Mahomes had other ideas; San Francisco, of course, ended up blowing a late lead and had to fly back to California empty-handed.

While that defeat surely stung, it seemed like the 49ers were in a strong position to defend their NFC crown. 2020, though, didn’t go according to plan.

This season, the club’s roster has been decimated by injury. While the running back and receiving corps have returned to more or less full health, Kyle Shanahan’s squad is still without Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle; even if you don’t think Jimmy G is a legitimate star, it’s tough to do much without your starting quarterback and do-it-all tight end. On defense, Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are both done for the year.

Heading into Week 13, San Francisco sits at 5-6. While they still have a chance to make the postseason, the margin for error is pretty slim.

Why are the San Francisco 49ers playing football in Arizona?

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As if injuries and on-field inconsistencies weren’t tough enough, the San Francisco 49ers are now facing another challenge: they literally aren’t allowed to play in California.

As explained by Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports, Santa Clara county officially banned all contact sports through at least December 21 in an effort to counteract rising COVID-19 numbers. While the NFL can usually throw its weight around to various extents, there was nothing to be done; the 49ers needed to find somewhere new to practice and play.

As of now, the team has relocated to Arizona and will be playing their next two home games in the Cardinals’ stadium.

“The San Francisco 49ers have come to an agreement with the National Football League and Arizona Cardinals which allows the 49ers to host their Weeks 13 and 14 home games against the Buffalo Bills and Washington Football Team at State Farm Stadium in Arizona,” the 49ers said in a statement cited by Maiocco.

The Niners are taking the move to Arizona in stride

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For everyone, especially a pro sports team, there’s no place like home. The San Francisco 49ers, however, are taking their relocation to Arizona in stride.

As spelled out by Chris Biderman of the San Francisco Chronicle, the team has set up a soft bubble in the Glendale Renaissance Hotel’s event space. “There’s still a locker room, training room, makeshift food area, and even a newly constructed weight room available;” practice fields are nearby, and the players can change in the hotel and then take golf carts over in their gear.

Barring the change of location and being separated from their personal lives, the 49ers players are more or less doing the same things they always did. During the NFL season, for better or worse, most people are on a tight schedule.

“It’s honestly just the exact same as we were in Santa Clara,” linebacker Fred Warner explained. “It’s just a matter of staying locked in, making sure we’re full steam ahead going into this week against the Bills.”