The San Francisco 49ers weren't just dealing with elevation in their first practice of Week 11 in Colorado Springs. Thursday, the team was met with cold temperatures and snow flurries as they began training for the 7,300 feet of elevation they'll face Monday night in Mexico City versus the Arizona Cardinals. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has his team practicing at the United States Air Force Academy which sits roughly 6,700 feet above sea level and is one of the few places domestically that will mimic the conditions, at least in terms of elevation, of Estadio Azteca.
"The cold is kind of a pain. I don't like being cold, but it hasn't changed anything with the practices," Shanahan said. "But it's all about the altitude, which they (player health and performance staff) say helps us, so hopefully that will. I do think it's supposed to snow tonight so that could change some stuff up tomorrow."
Per the head coach, the only thing that the inclement weather would affect would be practice location. Snow would move practice to an indoor facility.
"The main thing is just getting used to the altitude," Shanahan said. "I remember coming back from college and how hard it would be for me doing the workouts and stuff, and to be here and Monday going to a place that is 2,000 feet higher, glad we are here."
Several players echoed the sentiment given the fact that many of them do not have much experience with altitude like that of Mexico City.
"I've talked to guys that played in Mexico before that said it's way different than playing in Denver, so I know it's going to be something," tight end George Kittle said. "I'm glad that we are here getting adjusted to it."
"You feel it most when you start to string plays together in a series and you're sprinting back and forth and your heart rate doesn't come down as quickly" linebacker Fred Warner said. "It's good that we are out here doing it now so when we get to Monday, it's not just a complete shock to us."
"Running back from plays, you're trying to figure out why you feel it in your chest, your lungs getting tired," wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk said about when he felt the elevation most.
Temperatures reached low twenties throughout practice. Players were, for the most part, decked out in long sleeves, face masks, gloves and hand warmers to protect themselves from the cold. The only visible exception to this was tight end Charlie Woerner, who spent the portion of practice open to the media running drills in a jersey and shorts.
"Charlie is out of his mind," Shanahan commented.
"Charlie's built different. He's from the mountains of Georgia," Kittle said. "He didn't even wear a shirt underneath his jersey. He said 'I'll be fine as long as my hands are warm.' I said, 'They're not going to be warm.' That's Charlie."
Another player that is familiar with the winter-like conditions of Colorado is running back Christian McCaffrey. This is a homecoming of sorts for the 49ers newest back; he is a Castle Rock native and was a standout at Valor Christian High School.
"It feels like home," McCaffrey said. "It reminds me of my childhood. Obviously, the altitude is the reason we're here, so it's nice to be able to adjust to that. It's a lot of fun. I've played in a lot of games in that kind of weather in high school and little league, so definitely brings me back to the good old days."
The 49ers are dealing with just a few injuries heading into their primetime matchup. Wide receiver Danny Gray, who was day-to-day at the start of the week with a minor ankle injury, was limited in practice on Thursday. Defensive linemen Arik Armstead (foot, ankle) and Samson Ebukam (Achilles, quad) both did not participate in practice.