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49ers Specialists Adjust to Levi's® Stadium Confines

Posted Aug 5, 2014

We caught up with long snapper Kevin McDermott and punter Andy Lee, who along with veteran kicker Phil Dawson, will go from working in windy Candlestick to the relative unknown of the team's new home.

For the first time as a full team on Monday afternoon, the San Francisco 49ers practiced inside Levi’s® Stadium.

But some 49ers have sneaked off in small groups to test the new building’s amenities.

Take the specialists as an example.

Kicker Phil Dawson, punter Andy Lee and long snapper Kevin McDermott have ventured into their new home in the morning, at midday and during evenings to test out the gameday confines.

After all, elements such as the field and the wind directly affect their day-jobs.

“Talked to Phil about it, and he’s encouraged,” Jim Harbaugh said of Dawson, who adjusted quickly to Candlestick Park in 2013, making 32 of 36 regular-season field goal attempts. “He feels like it’s going to be a great place to kick.

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“It’s part of the process. We’ve got to get used to it. We’ve got to get used to the new stadium, new wind, new grass, everything. We can mark our territory soon as we possibly can. Get used to it as much as we possibly can before we play our first game there.”

Harbaugh pointed out that the team’s practice fields, which face north and south, run parallel to the field inside Levi’s® Stadium. The coach previously compared the natural, Bermuda Bandera grass to that of a fairway at Augusta National Golf Club.

McDermott, who bested veteran Brian Jennings in a training camp battle this time last year, said he won’t be affected nearly as much as his teammates.

“The length of my snap usually isn’t affected unless the wind goes above 30 or 40 miles per hour,” the second-year pro said. “For them, it’s important to know which direction the wind is blowing and in that stadium, it’s blowing all different directions.

“They’re the best in the game, so they’ll be able to handle anything.”

Lee, for another, relies on the weather when deciding how he sends the football off of his right foot. He and the other members of San Francisco’s three-man group of specialists are looking for “keys” like whether the flags atop the stadium’s northeast corner reflect the wind pattern.

“Not really sure about how the ball is going to fly,” Lee, who punted for 10 seasons at The ‘Stick, said, “but the wind is definitely a little swirly. You can walk in five-yard increments, and it could be doing something differently.

“Hopefully, we have enough time to get in there, get things figured out and – hopefully – have a little bit of an edge over our opponents.”

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