NFL executive vice president of communications Jeff Miller said Wednesday that the Buccaneers’ scheduled game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night is still on track to be held in Tampa, but contingencies are being made.
Miller said that the NFL is in contact with local authorities on the matter, and that if Hurricane Ian should force the game’s location to be changed, the contest would take place in Minnesota at the Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings play the Saints in London this Sunday.
NFL Network’s Judy Battista reported that the question of whether the game is played in Tampa or not is not just based on whether the hurricane hits the area, as the league said they will also consider whether playing the game would sap important resources that are needed for disaster relief and recovery. The NFL will consult with the teams, local officials and disaster relief agencies when making a final decision.
Hurricane Ian grew to a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane overnight with top winds of 155 mph, per the National Hurricane Center, and the storm’s strongest winds began to reach Florida’s southwest coast on Wednesday.
The Buccaneers are practicing in Miami this week due to the threat of the storm, with the team able to use the Dolphins’ facilities because Miami is already on the road to Cincinnati for a Thursday Night Football showdown. The entire Buccaneers team and staff made the relocation with their families, something head coach Todd Bowles said on Wednesday was the first priority for the organization.
“Miami came up and it looked like it wasn’t going to hit us hard [here], and it was an easier trip,” Bowles said. “So people who have pets and everything else, and older grandparents and parents that were with them could drive down. They wanted to be closer to their families, so that played into it a lot.
“We’re going to try to go about business as usual, and it’s a little different, but everybody’s families are safe, so hopefully we can concentrate.”
Bowles said that despite the extenuating circumstances that are affecting this week’s practices and the leadup to the game, his team is trying to stay as focused as possible. Echoing what quarterback Tom Brady said earlier this week, Bowles said he knows that wherever the game ends up being held, the Bucs will still be expected to play at their usual level.
“Hopefully it is Tampa, and everything is fine, and that means we’re not damaged too much,” Bowles said. “But if we have to play elsewhere, we just have to focus and lock in. No one’s going to feel sorry for us, so we’ve got to be ready to play.”
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