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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

49ers-Packers preparations Thursday: Kittle calls Lambeau aura ‘dream come true’

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers moved practices later closer to Saturday’s start time of 5:15 pm PT kickoff, and they’ve worked not on theior normal training grounds but under Levi’s Stadium’s lights.

Nothing can replicate what awaits them in Green Bay, however.

“Lambeau is going to be awesome,” tight end George Kittle said. “Historic stadium. Haven’t played there since 2018. Very excited to go there.

“It’s really kind of a dream come true, so looking forward to that experience of playing a night playoff game at Lambeau, 0 degrees. I mean, what more can you ask for?”

Well, obviously an upset win is on the wish list for the 49ers, who’ve won back-to-back elimination games and next try upsetting the top-seeded Packers on their home tundra.

Jimmy Garoppolo sure looks ready to make his Lambeau Field debut. He practiced Wednesday through shoulder and thumb injuries, throwing with zip and showing no signs of pain. He’s as excited as his teammates about what’s to come.

The 49ers can’t afford to get overwhelmed by the iconic scene. Their 2013 team certainly did not en route to a wild-card win at Lambeau (5-degrees at kickoff).

Winning indoors amid the climate-controlled conditions of Los Angeles and Dallas actually should have some carry-over effect. It introduced high-stakes football to players who weren’t on the 2019 49ers’ Super Bowl team, such as running back Elijah Mitchell and wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings.

“I didn’t see anyone flinch,” Kittle added.

Aiyuk, a 2020 first-round pick, acknowledged that the AT&T Stadium environment was awesome, as was the entire week leading up to his playoff debut, which ended up as a 23-17 wild-card win.

Wide receivers coach Welker briefed Aiyuk and others this week on what to expect in venerable Lambeau Field, which opened in 1957. Adding to Aiyuk’s “awesome” expectations are the 49ers-Packers rivalry and the challenge of facing the reigning NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers .

“We already know the atmosphere is going to be very exciting. But football is football,” Aiyuk said. “I haven’t walked into a stadium where I’ve been awestruck. But I do look around, take it all in and get excited. I stay where my feet are, look around, enjoy it and just go play football.”

Playing, rather than sitting on the heated bench, is Kittle’s recommendation to overcome the forecasted single-digit temperatures and sub-zero wind chill. Kittle recalled playing in sub-zero conditions at Iowa, shivering on the sideline as a scrawny freshman without a coat nor long sleeves, “shivering, not trying to get frostbite.”

“If you’re on the field, you warm up pretty quick,” Kittle added.

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