With Hurricane Wilma threatening to hit Florida this weekend, the NFL announced today that the Miami Dolphins' home game against the Kansas City Chiefs has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.
The game had been scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Dolphins Stadium. According to Chiefs President Carl Peterson, consideration was given to playing the game Sunday in Kansas City.
"The other suggestion was to play in Kansas City at noon Sunday," Peterson said in a telephone interview from Kansas City. "We don't expect any hurricanes here. That was considered, but the league made its decision. It creates some real problems for us with travel, and with trying to squeeze a Thursday, Friday and Saturday practice all into Thursday. But we have to do what the league orders us to do."
The Chiefs were informed of the decision late this morning. Peterson said the Chiefs will be at a competitive disadvantage because they will fly to Miami early Friday, play the game and then fly home Friday night.
"It's probably a first," Peterson said. "At this late hour, there was no way we could get out of here tonight. If we could even get a flight, we wouldn't have gotten into Miami until 1 or 2 in the morning. It wouldn't have been worth it.
"The league never solicited my opinion. The league called and said, 'Would you be capable of hosting the game on Sunday?' I checked with our people, then got back to them and said yes. They called back and said, 'It's Friday night.' . . . It's like how it goes every year with the schedule. They call and ask you what you think. But if you don't like it, it doesn't matter."
A league spokesman declined to respond to the Chiefs' concerns. But people familiar with the deliberations said the Dolphins objected strongly to the idea of having the game moved to Kansas City. "It's Miami's home game," Peterson said. "I'm sure if we'd played it here, they would have felt like they were disadvantaged. The only thing is, it's very late notice. It's not like a trip to St. Louis. It's a 31/2-hour trip for us. It makes it a short week for Miami, too, but they don't have to travel. . . . It's their home game. We really don't have much input. It is unfortunate we found out so late. Hopefully our players will get a lot of rest tonight. We'll tell them to. It is what it is. The commissioner makes his decision, and we abide by it."
Peterson said a precedent for possibly moving the game to Kansas City was set when Commissioner Paul Tagliabue moved a New Orleans Saints home game last month against the New York Giants to Giants Stadium after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Saints Coach Jim Haslett has strongly criticized that decision, saying the game could have been played somewhere other than the Giants' home field.
Peterson said the possibility of playing the Chiefs-Dolphins game at a neutral site never was discussed.
Wilma, which was a Category 5 storm at one point before being downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, is following an unpredictable path. Some of the ever-changing projections indicated that the storm might reach southwest Florida early Sunday.
The University of Miami already had postponed its game against Georgia Tech, scheduled for Saturday, until Nov. 19.
It is the third time since the beginning of last season that the Dolphins have had a home game rescheduled because of a hurricane. Last season, one game was played a day early because of Hurricane Ivan, and the starting time of another game was pushed back 71/2 hours because of Hurricane Jeanne.
Dolphins officials had said Wednesday they were monitoring the storm path and discussing possible contingency plans with the league. The team already had postponed a ceremony scheduled for this weekend to commemorate former quarterback Dan Marino's selection to the Hall of Fame.
"Our players were concerned about it," Peterson said. "Nobody wants to play in harm's way. . . . I'd never watched the Weather Channel as much as I have in the last 24 hours."
Television arrangements still were being completed, but it's possible the game will be televised only in Kansas City and Miami.
The league fined New Orleans Saints Coach Jim Haslett $20,000 for the critical comments about the officiating that he made following last Sunday's loss to Atlanta, in which the Falcons were given a second chance at a game-winning field goal by a rare defensive-holding penalty called against the Saints. . . .
The indignities never end for Haslett's team. They can't practice in the Alamodome temporarily because of a home builders' convention. Their morning walk-throughs have been shifted to a concourse in the stadium, where they occasionally are interrupted by fans heading to the ticket windows. Their practices again are taking place at a nearby sports complex. . . .
Many observers are increasingly convinced that Saints owner Tom Benson will attempt to move his franchise permanently to San Antonio. That notion was reinforced when Benson this week fired a team vice president, Arnold Fielkow, who was among the leading proponents of the club's commitment to New Orleans needing to be stronger than ever in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The Saints have been based in San Antonio since being displaced from New Orleans by Katrina. The team has played two of its scheduled home games at the Alamodome in San Antonio and is to play another one there in December. The club's other four scheduled home games are to be played in Baton Rouge, La., beginning Oct. 30.
Benson has strong ties to San Antonio and was thought to be interested, even before Katrina struck, in relocating the team there. A clause in the club's Superdome lease might enable the Saints to break the lease as soon as next month. The team reportedly is already seeking to break its lease at its training facility in the New Orleans area, citing damage to the facility sustained while it was used by federal agencies during relief efforts.
In an appearance Wednesday in the French Quarter, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sharply critical of Benson.
"For them to be openly talking to other cities about moving is disrespectful to the citizens of New Orleans [and] disrespectful to the Saints fans who have hung in with this franchise through 30-something years under very trying times," Nagin said, according to the Associated Press.
Nagin said that people in the city "want our Saints" but "may not want the owner back," and indicated that he might ask NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to give New Orleans "the Cleveland plan," referring to the arrangement by which that city retained the Browns name after the team left for Baltimore and later was awarded an expansion franchise. The Saints declined to respond.
But any thoughts of the Saints moving to San Antonio might be ill-conceived or at least premature, given that the league clearly seems to be against it. Tagliabue has said the league wants the Saints, if possible, to be part of the rebuilding process in New Orleans. He pushed for the club to play more games in Louisiana than in San Antonio this season and plans to explore the possibility of having the team play next season's home games in Baton Rouge if it can't play in New Orleans. Those talks could begin next week leading up to the Saints' first game at LSU's Tiger Stadium.
Green Keeps QB Choice Secret
Arizona Cardinals Coach Dennis Green indicated that he'd picked a starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans but, for competitive reasons, he would not reveal yet whether it will be Josh McCown or Kurt Warner. . . .
Jeff Garcia and Joey Harrington split the snaps with the starting offense during the Detroit Lions' practice Wednesday, but it was not clear which will be the team's starting quarterback Sunday at Cleveland. Garcia is returning from the broken leg and a severe ankle sprain that he suffered in the final preseason game, and he could take over for Harrington if he demonstrates to Coach Steve Mariucci that he's sufficiently healthy. . . .
The Lions re-signed guard Tyrone Hopson, who'd been released in training camp. . . .
San Diego promoted guard Wes Sims from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. . . .
The Indianapolis Colts signed linebacker Mike Labinjo, who'd been released by Philadelphia, to their practice squad. Labinjo started the Eagles' opener, a loss at Atlanta in the season's first Monday night game, after Jeremiah Trotter was ejected for his participation in a pregame scuffle. . . .
The Dolphins signed linebacker Nick Rogers, who'd been released by the Colts in training camp. . . .
Wide receiver Nate Burleson is to return to Minnesota's lineup this weekend after missing three games because of a knee injury. . . .
Linebacker Aden Durde, a member of the Carolina Panthers' practice squad, left the team Wednesday after being informed that he'd tested positive in August for steroids. Durde, who was assigned to the Panthers through a league program to place international players on teams' practice squads, said in a written statement that he tested positive for nandrolone that he was unaware was contained in a supplement he purchased in England.
The Panthers already were involved in a steroid scandal this year when it was reported that current and former players had steroid prescriptions filled by South Carolina physician James Shortt. . . .
The New York Jets are moving veteran Pete Kendall from guard to his former position, center, to replace perennial Pro Bowler Kevin Mawae, who's sidelined for the rest of the season after tearing his triceps. . . .
Tampa Bay officially placed quarterback Brian Griese on the injured reserve list and re-signed fullback Rick Razzano, who had been released Tuesday when the club traded for quarterback Tim Rattay.