TAMPA – The NFL has decided not to take chances with Hurricane Irma and will move the Buccaneers-Dolphins season opener to Week 11, the bye week shared by both teams.
“Due to the potential impact of Hurricane Irma on South Florida, the Miami Dolphins home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Hard Rock Stadium, will instead be played there in Week 11 on Sunday, November 19,” the NFL wrote in a statement.
“The NFL announced yesterday that in the interest of public safety in light of the continuing state of emergency, the league, in consultation with state and local officials as well as both clubs, would not play an NFL game in South Florida this week. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the impacted area.”
In some ways, especially for the players, this is a worst-case scenario. The two teams will now be forced to play 16 straight weeks without the break that other teams get to re-evaluate their play or heal up from nagging injuries. In the end, though, the NFL made the right decision.
Player safety is an issue, for sure, but the league can’t allow a game to take precedence over a situation that could impact millions of lives. Even moving the game to a different locale while Hurricane Irma spins in the Atlantic and threatens to strike the U.S. coast near South Florida would have been bad optics.
There are players, coaches and staff members on both teams who have never experienced a hurricane before and to ask them to put work ahead of their families at a time when one of the most vicious hurricanes on record is threatening to strike would come off as uncaring.
And it’s not like this is an unprecedented decision. The NFL has rearranged the schedule of games before to avoid conflict with hurricanes. In 2008. for example, the NFL gave the Ravens and Texans a Week 2 bye and played the matchup in Week 9 after Hurricane Ike caused enough damage to the stadium in Houston to force a change.
That said, the NFL has also relocated games before, too. Just a few years ago, the league moved a Bills-Jets game to Detroit after a snowstorm made it virtually impossible to play the game in New York.