For the second time this season, the NFL is confronted with a scheduling problem caused by weather and, this time, the solution will result in a rare Friday night game.
With Hurricane Wilma threatening to strike Florida this weekend, the NFL yesterday rescheduled the Miami Dolphins' home game against the Kansas City Chiefs for tonight at 7.
The Chiefs were left scrambling to make last-minute travel arrangements and planned to travel to Miami this morning, play the game and then fly home late tonight. The game had been scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Dolphins Stadium. It will be televised by the CBS affiliates in Kansas City and Miami, officials from both teams said.
According to Chiefs President Carl Peterson, there had been consideration given to playing the game Sunday afternoon in Kansas City.
"We don't expect any hurricanes here," Peterson said in a telephone interview from Kansas City. "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 yesterday morning. Peterson said the Chiefs will be at a competitive disadvantage because of the travel schedule.
"It's probably a first," Peterson said. "At this late hour, there was no way we could get out of here [last night]. 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."
For a game scheduled on a Sunday, an NFL team usually has its heaviest practices of the week on Wednesday and Thursday, has an easier practice Friday and then has a light walk-through and travels Saturday.
A league spokesman declined to respond to the Chiefs' concerns. But people familiar with the deliberations said the Dolphins objected to the idea of having the game moved to Kansas City.
"You don't want to deprive your fans of an opportunity to see your team," Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene said by telephone. "If you can't play it when and where it was supposed to be played, you at least play it where."
Peterson said: "It's Miami's home game. 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 [last night]. 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 forced the Saints from New Orleans. Saints Coach Jim Haslett has strongly criticized that decision, saying the game should 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, to his knowledge.
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. The Dolphins lost both of those games.
Wilma, which downgraded from a Category 5 storm to a Category 4 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. The Dolphins 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."