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Break out the air mattress: Short week means long hours for 49ers

Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers coaches were focused on the Rams as soon as Sunday's game ended. Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan isn't the type to judge how hard he's worked by how many air mattresses he's exhausted during the course of an NFL season. But if ever there's a week in which Shanahan will find himself staying late at the office and, yes, even catching a few Z's there, this is it.

It's the Niners' week to play on Thursday Night Football, facing the Los Angeles Rams. As both teams deal with the quick turnaround that comes from playing just four days after Sunday games, everything happens much faster than normal.

"You know, I'm a guy who doesn't sleep at the office, but I definitely do during this week," Shanahan said. "There's a lot to do. We've got to catch up on it."

In a normal week, the Niners can take a bit more time to digest the game they played on Sunday before turning the page to the next opponent. That's not necessarily the case in the week leading up to a Thursday night matchup.

After returning to the Bay Area following Sunday's 12-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Shanahan made it a point to get home and get to sleep so he could have some energy to push through long work days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Shanahan and his staff arrived early on Monday morning and began putting together the game plan for Thursday night.

Because of the schedule, the only true practice of the week takes place on Tuesday afternoon. That practice is scheduled for late in the afternoon to give the Niners more time to recover from Sunday's game. At that practice, they will install almost the entire game plan, condensing a process that usually takes three days into one. That leaves Wednesday to put in any additional wrinkles in a walk-through.

Making matters more difficult for the Niners going into this week is that they have a defense recovering from a heavy workload in a physical game against Seattle. The defense was on the field for 82 snaps, though only a few of the players were on the field for all of them.

Regardless, Shanahan is well aware that both teams have to deal with all that goes into the sprint to prepare for Thursday night games.

"They were out there definitely more than we would like, without a doubt," Shanahan said. "But even if they were out there a normal amount of plays, if they were out there 60, nothing would have changed. We've got to do everything we can to get the players fresh for Thursday, and that's on all three sides of the ball. That's the exact same thing L.A. is trying to do.

"I've played a number of Thursday games. It's always a challenge for the players because your body is never quite ready by that time. But the good thing about it is you get more time off after it. So there's about three days, you know, starting here in about half an hour, we're exactly three days away from kickoff, and we've got to take advantage of every moment.

"We can't go too hard in practice. It's got to be a lot more assignment-based to try to get this all in. Players got to get their sleep. They've got to start hydrating right now, and we've got to take advantage of every extra thing we allow them to do with massages and things like that. This game will be here before you know it, and there's no time to do anything but prepare for Thursday."

And if the Niners can get their first win of the season, it will go a long way toward erasing all the stress that comes with the short week.