Energy was high as the 49ers entered the week's series of practices that began Wednesday afternoon. It's no secret that game week, and in particular, the start of a brand new season, ushers in a different air at the SAP Performance Facility. Following the past five months of conditioning, training and, as of late, installing game plans, head coach Kyle Shanahan is content with where his team stands heading into the Week 1 matchup against the Detroit Lions.
"I feel great about our team," Shanahan said, feeling more comfortable this season being closer to his players in team meetings rather than the previous socially distanced year.
The team also looks forward to the excitement that comes with fans filling stadium seats, as they prepare for a gameday environment that hasn't been experienced since the 2019 season - to be exact, the NFC Championship Game at Levi's® Stadium. Ford Field will open their gates to a full capacity stadium on Sunday, holding up to 65,000 people.
"There's nothing like the regular season, especially having fans back. That just brings that extra kind of level to it," 2021 team captain Fred Warner said. "At the end of the day, how you compete out here on Wednesdays is how you're going to compete on Sunday. So I'm just really looking forward to this (week)."
Anticipation for Sunday is only building as the 49ers reflect on their preseason training, entering the regular season with a 2-1 exhibition record and leading the NFL with an average of 188.3 rushing yards per game in the preseason.
Sizing up their competition, the 49ers have won 10 of their previous 11 games against the Lions. However, this season's Lions team looks vastly different. Making his NFL head coaching debut, Dan Campbell will be supported by offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and general manager Brad Holmes – all new to Detroit's organization. Also making his Lions regular season debut is new starting quarterback Jared Goff, a North Bay native and former division rival.
Goff was traded to Detroit from the Los Angeles Rams in March. But what's most striking about the quarterback's history is Goff stands just 3-5 versus the 49ers in his career, the worst record against any other NFL franchise.
"I know Jared pretty well… I'm sure he wants to prove himself, just as much as all of us," Warner said. "I'm really looking forward to that challenge and going up against him again."
Opening the season on the road and preparing to face a new head coach with the addition of the noise that comes from a full crowd, the 49ers are approaching a game full of unfamiliarity.
For new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, drawing up a scheme that is ready to take on anything and everything, especially a Lions run game headlined by second-year ball carrier D'Andre Swift, who notched 10 total touchdowns as a rookie, is essential for a 49ers win.
"We've been looking at a lot of different things from these guys, from all the places that they've been," Ryans said. "With the first game, it's always kind of a toss-up for everyone, but you can't really get focused in new coordinator, new team. There's not a lot of things that we have on tape versus these guys, so that's why I say it has to always be about us and what we're doing defensively."
The 49ers wrap up practice on Friday as the team heads to Detroit to take on the Lions at 10 a.m. PST, Sunday, Sept. 12.