Jim Harbaugh ends open practice at Levi’s Stadium after 45 minutes

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers have been talking about the Levi’s Stadium grass all week. Its roots haven’t set, the 49ers say. The footing is no good and patches of sod are coming up. Stevie Johnson slipped on the grass 45 minutes into practice, got up and started limping. Two plays later, Harbaugh pulled the team off the field and finished practice on the practice field which is closed to the media. The 49ers have to play a game against the Chargers on that Levi’s Stadium grass in four days.

The 49ers’ P.R. just tweeted this: “We have determined the appropriate measures necessary to have the field ready for Sunday and look forward to hosting the San Diego Chargers.”

Getting the field ready should have been the No.1 priority on the 49ers’ to-do list this offseason. Getting the field ready earlier would have ensured the safety of the players and the integrity of the game.

Here’s what stood out to me before Harbaugh ended practice.


1. Tramaine Brock. Broke up a Colin Kaepernick pass that was intended for Quinton Patton. Patton ran a short comeback route. Brock jumped the route and easily knocked the ball away. About 15 minutes later Brock intercepted a McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass and returned it for a touchdown. Brock was covering David Reed, who ran another short comeback route. Brock seems to read those short comeback routes well.

2. Jimmie Ward. Broke up a Kaepernick pass that was intended for Anquan Boldin. Boldin lined up in the slot and ran a short outward-breaking route. Ward sprinted past Boldin and broke up the pass. This was the first time Ward broke up a pass intended for Boldin during an open practice this offseason.

3. Patrick Willis. Practiced for the first time since he sustained a stinger against the Ravens in practice last weekend. Willis participated in team drills while wearing a blue no-contact jersey. He blitzed up the middle on second-and-six and “sacked” Blaine Gabbert. Willis played the Stack backer, or the “Jack” – the position he has played the past three seasons. Michael Wilhoite was the starting “Mike” – NaVorro Bowman’s position. Up until today it had been the opposite – Willis at Mike and Wilhoite at Jack.

4. Bruce Ellington. Beat Jimmie Ward for a 10-yard gain on third-and-five during an 11-on-11 drill. Ellington has given Ward big trouble all offseason. Ellington may be the third-best receiver on the 49ers right now. He rarely drops a pass, he’s fearless over the middle and he has an extra gear when the ball is in the air. It’s very difficult to overthrow him on deep passes.

5. Aaron Lynch. Beat his man three of four times in one-on-one pass rush drills. First he tried to beat Al Netter around the edge and got blocked. Then Lynch beat Netter with a bulrush. Then Lynch beat Jonathan Martin around the edge. Then Lynch beat Michael Philipp around the edge. Lynch has quick, violent hands which he uses well.


1. Colin Kaepernick. Completed just 8 of 16 passes during team drills. He was far less accurate today than he had been any other day this offseason. His passes were all over the place – too far, too short, behind receivers, etc.

2. Stevie Johnson. Targeted three times. First, he dropped a back-shoulder fade down the left sideline. Next, he dropped a deep pass that was underthrown, but he got two hands on it. Finally, he slipped on an outward-breaking route and limped off the field.

3. Quinton Patton. Targeted three times. Brock broke up the first target. Patton dropped the second target – a deep pass down the middle of the field. And Patton caught the third target for a five-yard gain.

4. Corey Lemonier. Beat his man just once out of four attempts during one-on-one pass rush drills. First he tried to bulrush Jonathan Martin and got blocked. Then Lemonier beat Michael Philipp with a bulrush. Then Lemonier tried to beat Carter Bykowski around the edge and got blocked. Then Lemonier tried to bulrush Dillon Farrell and got blocked. Unlike Lynch, Lemonier hardly uses his hands when he rushes and that’s a big reason he gets tied up so easily.

This article has 68 Comments

  1. Grant,
    The more I read about this year’s draft picks, the more I feel it could resemble the 2011 draft class (which was very good). Obviously it’s still very early in the process, but how do you feel about this year’s class?

  2. Not sure Lynch would be active on game day. Ellington is no surprise, and he doesn’t get headaches…..

    1. Razor, I know you stuck your head out on Ellington, and you were absolutely right. Another thing to point out is that he’s not made of crystal, unlike other shortish receivers with his kind of speed and elusiveness. In addition to The Duke, maybe we’ll also call him Bruce Almighty.

    2. You don’t think Lynch could be that 3rd down pass-rush specialist, similar to the role Aldon played his rookie year?I think it’s a possibility at least until Aldon comes back from his suspension, especially if Lemonier is as ineffective as a pass rusher as Grant makes him out to be.

      I hope Lynch has finally got his head on straight and is willing to put in the work. He could be a huge steal.

      1. Lemonier/Skuta filled in nicely, so I don’t see Lynch getting a chance unless there’s an injury. He’ll be on the 53 but it’s not realistic to think he’d be active on game day at this juncture….

  3. “…. {Willis}…. blitzed up the middle on second-and-six and “sacked” Blaine Gabbert …”

    Good on P-Willy .. but, I fear, this will be a common sight, should
    Gabbert ever see the field in real games

    1. I don’t think the 49ers would allow Willis to play for the other team’s defense.

  4. I understand practice today was free to the public and i appreciate what Coach did for his team today, but I couldn’t help but feel cheated, much like a few years ago when Coach Harbaugh had the team practice in the field farthest away from the stands during 2011’s last open practice. I mean, we understood why he did it, then, too, but it still sucked. You should’ve seen and heard the fans today when the team trotted off the field with nary a glance nor wave to the stands.

  5. It sounds like the reports of Ellington being a steal might be true..Same with Lynch but man this draft is looking promising..Not feeling the Niners brass right now..They priced out all the true fans then they just ran off the field with acknowledging the fans that were there..They gave out free passes to the 49ers museum….wow thanks….where are all the banners in the stadium? Maybe our championship flags flying somewhere on the stadium? This is a huge money grab not feeling this whole santa clara thing so far

    1. The bay area is the ultimate money grab. It’s full of bandwagon riding people that are willing to pay big $ to be a part of the next big thing, which is currently the new stadium. 80k+ PSL’s for the right to purchase season tickets? Those are the type of “fans” that will tell you you’re cheering too loud-right up to the point where they leave early in the third quarter. Everybody knew this was coming, unfortunately.

      1. I was raving with friends the other day, after the dismal on field performance at Levi. I said I’d rather have a real good team in a dinky stadium than posers in the Taj Mahal. I envisioned a rebuilt Kezar (on site, with some miracle for parking) and no seats and no boxes. SRO terraces with railings between levels. Nice and steep to focus the voices on the field.
        Real efffing fans. Stand and deliver to the final gun. But modern restrooms.
        My Field of Dreams.

        1. until recently for almost 10 years i lived a block and half from Kezar stadium. I love that community stadium (used to run there in the early morning or in the evening) but how awesome would just an exhibition game at Kezar be?

          screw parking, make everyone take the N Judah to the game!

          1. Anchor Steam Beer, Lemonade, local coffee, sourdough soft pretzels.
            That’s it! Only concessions. OK, peanuts too, like baseball.
            Yeah, give Muni folks some massive OverTime. Run the N Judah every two minutes. People,will work it out with parking. Maybe some underground parking for Emergency personnel, team busses, and TV array vehicles. I’m enjoying the fantasy.

          2. now your talking affp-kezar pub across the street -quick trip to amoeba records walk to the stadium ….beautiful!

            1. on Thursday afternoon/evenings Off the Grid gourmet food trucks meet at the park across from the Kezar Pub. and there’s a North Beach Pizza place that sells by the slice near there too (not as good as North Beach Pizza used to be…but it’s convenient and tasty…especially after midnight). If we want to continue to dream of our perfect stadium, you could allow people to bring in food and drink…there’s a corner convenience/liquor at Stanyan and Fredrick and a Whole Foods at Stanyan and Haight (where Cala Foods used to be).

              1. Yeah North Beach Pizza has slipped ,but it’ll do in a pinch. Escape to New York on Haight will do for a quick slice too.

        2. You guys are crazy. I’ve been to a lot of 49er games at Kezar. Having a reserved seat didn’t mean that you would have somewhere to sit, and the field was more like a cow pasture than a football field. The list could go on for pages. ;-}

          1. ht
            You’ll note I said a REBUILT Kezar with no seats for anyone; entirely SRO. Think the English Soccer Leagues, although we’ll leave the singing to our local musicians. The Olde Globe Theatre for Football (American). Oh, but one ring for disabled folks.

            1. Yeah, I’m sure the NFL would allow a team to have a stadium with no seats

              Although I do admire your passion. I’m the same way (I’d have no problem standing the entire game)

              1. My son paid $80 for a standing room ticket at Levi’s. I used to pay $1.50 for an endzone seat at Kezar, then, before they got wise, I would go to the bathroom that was on the other side of the fence and find my way to an open seat between the goal lines. Later on my dad had a friend who ran a concession. I would meet him at about 9AM on game day and he would say I worked for him. Watched a lot of games in good seats for free!

          2. Yep, Kezar was a mud pit when it rained because the drainage was horrible.
            But Gale Sayers never had problems running there.

            Kezar will always be a sentimental place because that’s where I seen my first 49ers game.

            Thank you Berkeley Farms :-)

          3. there’s a small paid parking lot right next to the stadium.

            i park on Willard when i go back to visit the neighborhood.

        3. Brotha, Sounds good to me, but those days are gone. It blows my mind how much money people are willing to spend on something many of them don’t even care about. Playoff tickets will be absolutely ridiculous. I sense some serious disappointment from many of the ticket holders after the new car smell wears off, especially if their seats are on the eastern side of the stadium. “The sun is in my eyes!”

          1. To shade fans the 49ers should install exact copies of Seattle’s “rain” guards. If they happen to redirect sound back onto the playing field, we will just have to live with that. *shrug*

        4. Wow, we were just talking about Kezar today…but for a soccer team. Same concept about terraces, anchor steam, public transit.

      2. BIIINGO!!! I’ve butted heads with the old section fans before. They even tried to call ushers FOR CHEERING!!
        Lol they started selling their tickets to anyone who would buy them. And this was the maroon and gold days. All the way up to 2012.
        Even had a guy at pole m actually come over an ask me to turn down my personally made boombox. I think the look of “you’re kidding me right” have his answer. Wonder what the new neighbors are like. Better get use to this loud idiot… Real quick. And by the sound of it, idk if most Bay Area residents will make it in the sun. 80 degrees and they’re whining and falling out. :-/
        Go NINERS!!! Lol

        1. The last game I went to at the ‘Stick was a few years ago. I had season tickets there from 1972 – the late 90s but had sold them a few years earlier. Anyway, my bother and I were standing up drinking our beer at half time when a lady behind us asked if we would sit down so she could watch the halftime show. You could say that she went to watch the halftime show but a game broke out. I’m strictly a TV fan now. The Disneyland they call ball parks now are too much for me.

    2. @NorCalMafia

      You know I’m getting really tired of hearing from Whiners like you saying…

      “49ers priced out true fans”


      “It’s a money grab”

      First off you are completely Clueless & Uninformed on the 1st Whine. How can somebody like myself a Middle Class fan from Folsom make it happen & buy Season Tickets?

      The 49ers gave every potential Season Ticket Holder a 2 year Time Table to pay the PSL ($2,000). That is a “reasonable” amount of time to pay that off. Then once it was paid off I decided to share my Season Ticket ($425 each) for this year with my neighbor.

      So don’t give me that BS that the 49ers priced the “true fans” out. If anybody really wanted to make it happen they could have. There’s no valid excuse that you couldn’t and I just proved it.


      Calling out the 49ers for a “Money Grab”?

      This is America where thank god Capitalism still thrives. It’s ALL about Supply & Demand. And clearly you are on the WRONG side of this argument because the 49ers sold out every seat this season including all the PSL’s.

      You are the perfect example of a “49er Whiner” . It’s no wonder other NFL fans continue with a Broad Stroke to call all 49ers fans that.

      1. 2 tickets @ $425 = $850
        That’s a brand new 50″ LED
        2more tickets pays for cable and HD broadcast for the whole season for ALL NFL games.
        2 more tickets buys a great new chair with cup holder.
        2 more tickets buy 10 team jerseys for wear and tear
        2 more tickets will buy another seat and buddy privileges
        2 more tickets will upgrade our food and drinks
        2 more tickets will get our 2nd screen
        At mid season, I’ll start thinking about saving up for going to the SB

  6. Oh and three people have died at our stadium already and the grass wont take root and looks like its dying…Hope this place aint curs…….ah I wont say it.

  7. Had a good feeling about Ellington from day one. I thought he would definitely pass Patton ( no slam on Patton) but it now appears he might not stop there. He just seemed like a very difficult person to cover to me.—–

    Claude- Your Willis remark wasn’t funny. It was hilarious.

  8. “Unlike Lynch, Lemonier hardly uses his hands when he rushes and that’s a big reason he gets tied up so easily.”

    that’s some good observation there Grant. Keep it up!

    1. Yeah, its something Grant touched on in an earlier entry too. Lemonier relies almost exclusively on his strength and motor, and in college he got by with that as he was often too strong for the guys trying to block him. But in the NFL he’s going to have to learn how to keep OL away from his body, not get locked up. Good thing is it is a technique issue, and is correctable.

  9. With the food prices what they are, maybe fans might consider keeping a scrap book of post-snack bowl photos so the memory at least can linger

  10. Getting the field ready should have been the No.1 priority on the 49ers’ to-do list this off season. Getting the field ready earlier would have ensured the safety of the players and the integrity of the game.
    So, it’s the entire organizations job to make sure the field is ready? Or are there certain people who have specific titles whose job that is? Did you ask any of those people with specific titles whose job this is what’s going on or did you just want to wave a big wide beam of blame at the organization because someone wee’d in your Wheaties this morning?

    1. They should have talked to Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount. Those guys know a thing or two about grass.

      1. Our field would end up resembling something at Bushwood Country Club; “a cross between Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent and Northern California Sinsimilla.”

        1. The positive is it could do wonders for concession sales.

          The negative is the crowd would be the most mild of any team in the league.

    2. Yeah, Grant seems all too willing to pass judgment despite possessing only the barest of facts.

  11. If the field presents the same problem during the game Sunday, will Harbaugh halt the game and move it over to the practice field as well.
    As Okoye would say ” The pitch is a b!tch.”

  12. Did they cheap out on the synthetic stuff? It’s like they bought tons of dirt weed. Natural is out. Get the good stuff York. It’s softer than natural grass.

  13. I don’t know why the short pass breakups are listed in the good section. From what has been shown in two preseason games and the three practices against Baltimore, no team is interested in passing short against SF. The corners can’t cover deep. Also, we all have seen Kaepernick and every other SF QB struggle. Is it indicative of some great play by the defense or is it the poor play of the QB position? From what I’ve watched, it’s mostly the latter.

      1. They switched out the turf in the Rose Bowl between the Rose Bowl game and BCS Championship game.

      2. It can’t, unless they use staplers . . .

        As well as being embarrassing, it’s perilous to the players. Sunday’s game is gonna be interesting. He who cuts is risking his season.

      3. They’ve done it at Candlestick for the playoffs before, and it happens often at a natural grass SB venue. I think they tried a brand of grass that hadn’t been used before and it failed. They are likely changing it to a style they know can hold up.

        Honestly they should just go to the fake stuff. It’s so good now it’s better than some natural grass fields.

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