SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The 49ers let the early birds catch the worm this week while they concentrate on grounding the Seahawks.
Whatever problems they have in attempting to take a commanding lead in the NFC West, being sleepless in Seattle won’t be one of them by edict of coach Kyle Shanahan.
Safety Ji’Ayir Brown is a rookie making his first start and has already realized Shanahan is serious about his players getting their Z’s – especially during a short week.
“Kyle don’t play when it comes to sleep,” Brown said Tuesday.
As romantic as it is in a football sense to play on Thanksgiving, there are few if any coaches or players who relish the opportunity to play a game on Sunday, then streamline their entire operation to prepare for a game on Thursday.
“We pretty much do everything (Tuesday) instead of four days spread out,” 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa said. “Everything is packed into one.”
The NFL began expanding its Thursday night package starting in 2012 to put more eyes on the product and more money in the pockets of the ownership, and it’s grown to the point where each team has at least one Thursday night game. The 49ers already beat the New York Giants 30-12 on a Thursday in Week 3.
Thanksgiving used to be exclusive to Detroit and Dallas each playing at home, with a third prime-time game added in 2006. The 49ers (7-3) visit Seattle (6-4) in that game Thursday night and from then on it will be five Sundays and one Monday night (Christmas against Baltimore) to end the regular season.
After the 49ers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-14 on Sunday, Shanahan had his coaches take the rest of the day off.
“We enjoy Sunday night, knowing how miserable the next few days are going to be,” Shanahan said.
While coaches prepare game plans into the wee hours on a short week, players do some of their most important work with their eyes closed. Those not rehabbing injuries don’t return to the 49ers’ facility until Tuesday, and instead of arriving at 7:30 a.m. or earlier, they don’t have to roll into the facility until 10 in order to get plenty of sleep.
By order of the head coach.
Bosa isn’t much of a napper but considers sleep a big part of his preparation.
“I do get good sleep at night,” Bosa said. “I get to bed early, stop eating a few hours before bed. I think that helps a little bit. No caffeine after morning, a couple of cups. I just make sure to get to bed early.”
How much sleep does Bosa get?
“I try to get nine-plus (hours),” Bosa said. “Go to bed at 9, maybe before.”
Bosa’s X/Twitter handle is@nbsmallerbear (his older brother Joey is@jbbigbear) and teammate George Kittle believes Bosa is part grizzly.
“Don’t get me started on Nick,” Kittle said. “Bosa’s a guy that can fall asleep at 9 and get up at 9 and I’m like, ‘How do you do that?’ But he’s a bear and he hibernates and he does it a lot, regular season and training camp. He’s had a lot of practice at it.”
Sleep science and sleep data have been discussed in sports for several years, and for recovery time in a brutal week-to-week league, it’s regarded as an important part of preparation.
While not getting into specifics, Shanahan is a believer in sleep at all times, but especially in a short week.
“I try to let them get as much sleep as possible,” Shanahan said. “That’s why we push back our schedules. It’s stuff we didn’t talk about back in the day, but we have for about the last 10 years.
“We feel it as coaches, you can see it on players … the best way to recover is sleep. We’re going to do that as much as we can.”
The ability to shut it down at night varies from player to player.
Left tackle Trent Williams has said his offseason workout program includes pumping iron at 2 a.m. As a 13-year veteran, Williams doesn’t carry those habits into the regular season.
“I wouldn’t say I’m disciplined with sleeping, but when you have weeks like this, it’s a short turnaround,” Williams said. “We emphasize it here and I emphasize myself sleeping a little more to accelerate the recovery.”
Brown, on the other hand, is like Bosa in terms of getting plenty of shut-eye.
“I’m one of those guys who can flatline for 10 hours,” Brown said. “I actually hit 10 hours before the Bucs game. It takes awhile to wake me up.”
Kittle can’t hibernate as Bosa does, and occasionally struggled with the natural 6 a.m. alarm clock. But he finds the downtime even if he’s not snoozing as a welcome part of preparation.
“Whether you’re asleep or not, to have that time at the house where you can kind of relax and take a deep breath and not just go-go-go, it’s very good for your mental health,” Kittle said.
Linebacker Fred Warner looks at adequate sleep as a season-long goal, but it’s even more important with a game on Thursday.
“Just because it’s Thursday night doesn’t mean sleep is important,” Warner said. “It’s important every week that we play, but even more so now because of the recovery aspect.”
Running back Christian McCaffrey, whose almost maniacal attention to detail with regard to his body rivals Bosa, is another believer.
“I take it very seriously,” McCaffrey said. “When you don’t get enough, you feel the difference.”