SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After moving their entire football operation to Arizona for what they initially hoped would be just a three-week stay, the San Francisco 49ers will finish the 2020 regular season in the desert.
A team spokesman said the decision was made to remain in the Phoenix area through the end of the NFL season after Santa Clara County announced it would be extending its COVID-19 restrictions, including a ban on contact sports, through at least Jan. 8.
When the season ends, the Niners will have played three "home" games and one road game at State Farm Stadium over the season's final month.
Santa Clara County's extension of protocols was something the Niners expected when they moved, which is why coach Kyle Shanahan told his team that he and the operations staff would do all they could to try to get the players' loved ones down to Arizona for Christmas week.
"The day we were made to leave, we pretty much assumed that would happen," Shanahan said. "That's why we made the decision early. We weren't going to wait for something that we knew was inevitable, so we have been planning on getting our families down."
That process is already underway. Shanahan on Friday said his family is heading to the Phoenix area Saturday and they will get COVID-19 tests that, if they come back negative, will allow him to see them as soon as the Niners get back from Sunday's road game against the Dallas Cowboys.
"I know not everyone can do it, but anyone who can, we're getting our families down [here]," Shanahan said.
The 49ers relocated to Arizona on Dec. 2 after the initial announcement of enhanced guidelines from Santa Clara County on Nov. 28. They have since lost "home" games to the Buffalo Bills and Washington to drop to 5-8 and seen their postseason hopes dwindle.