SANTA CLARA — Phil Dawson converted 49 of his 50 pregame kicks, even a pair of 58-yard field goals going from each direction.
That’s about as accurate as San Francisco’s veteran place kicker has been in recent years.
So it was a bit startling to watch as he sailed his only two chances during Sunday’s 34-0 loss to Denver wide right — first from 55 yards then again from 44.
Dawson planned to return to Levi’s Stadium on Tuesday afternoon to get back to work learning a new field and its quirks.
“Honestly, I don’t know that I’m going to have that place figured out any time soon,” Dawson said. “The best you can do is show up on those game days and figure out a way to get them through. A lot of information was gathered Sunday, in a painful way. I would have enjoyed to learn differently, but I’ll take every kick I can get in there.”
The grass, like with any new sod, is still getting its roots established and has come up in places. It is dry in others. Not that Dawson is complaining about the conditions, given that he can now walk some 100 yards from the practice fields to the stadium to kick.
He never had that luxury at Candlestick Park, where he missed one of his first attempts last August, also against the Broncos.
“I got off to a slow start there, too, and then kind of halfway got confident in what I was doing there. I expect the same to happen here.”
The 39-year-old Dawson had only kicked four times in the new $1.2 billion stadium before missing the two first-half kicks.
“It only took me about 10 years to get comfortable in Cleveland,” he joked. “We’ll see how long it takes here.”
In his first year with the 49ers following 14 seasons in Cleveland, Dawson converted 32-of-36 field goals and set a franchise record with 27 successful field goals in a row. He was rewarded with a new two-year contract in March.
“We know Phil, he’s got to make those kicks. He’s going to make those kicks,” said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “It’s another part of everybody playing together as a unit and making sure the protection is sound and the snap is good, the hold is good and the kick is good. All of those things have to work together and it didn’t on the first long one. All areas we know are correctable. We’ll count on Phil to make those kicks.”
Dawson understands plenty about the growth of grass, new or old. He grew up mowing lawns and doing other yard work and still enjoys gardening.
While there might not be the tricky winds off San Francisco Bay and ever-changing conditions of Candlestick, there are still elements.
“One thing we’re going to run into around here is your pregame warmup, we come out around 11:30 and the wind hasn’t really picked up,” Dawson said. “Anyone who lives around here knows the wind starts generally around 1 p.m. What you learn in pregame may not necessarily help you at all once the game starts.”
Dawson said farewell to his wife and three kids earlier Tuesday as they headed home to Austin, Texas, for the school year.
Then, it was back to business with his special teams mates preparing for Sunday’s home game with San Diego.
“We’ve been in there a lot. He’s made the kicks, no problem, no issues whether he will or not,” said San Francisco punter and holder Andy Lee. “Things happen. Luckily he got them away in the preseason. I don’t see any reason of concern at all. He’ll get it straight, get it figured out and we won’t have to worry about it.”
Notes: On Monday, the Niners signed injured defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey to a two-year contract extension through 2016. … Safety Antoine Bethea is going through the concussion protocol following his injury Sunday, and there’s no timetable for his return. … Quarterback Colin Kaepernick said a foot injury he dealt with most of last season didn’t require offseason surgery, only rest. … Harbaugh announced Monday that wide receiver Michael Crabtree is in Texas, where he welcomed a son, Michael. “Didn’t get a wing span on him yet,” the coach cracked.