Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images
The NFL is going ahead with Sunday night’s matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium amid the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
League executive vice president Jeff Miller said on Wednesday that the NFL had chosen US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis as a contingency site for the game if it could not be played in Tampa Bay. The Minnesota Vikings are playing the New Orleans Saints in London this week, making the stadium available as a fallback plan.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the many thousands in the Southwest Florida region who have been severely impacted by Hurricane Ian,” the Bucs said in a statement. “We are also very thankful that the Tampa Bay area was spared the most damaging consequences of this powerful storm. We have informed the NFL, after consulting with local and state agencies, that we are ready to play Sunday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. at Raymond James Stadium as originally scheduled.”
The Buccaneers relocated to the Miami Dolphins’ facilities to practice this week with Hurricane Ian making landfall on the west coast of Florida.
“It’s bigger than just a football team, number one,” head coach Todd Bowles told reporters. “Number two, it’s just making sure the players’ families are safe and the coaches’ families are safe and everybody on the staff is safe so they can concentrate on football. So we brought a lot of them down here. Everybody that wanted to come could come, family-wise and otherwise, including pets. We’re going to make sure those people are fine first because you really can’t concentrate on football without taking care of your family.”
For some Buccaneers players, it was a familiar situation.
“I’ve been through Katrina, as a kid,” running back Leonard Fournette said. “I know how severe and serious it is … I think the Bucs did a great job with evacuating everyone, making sure everyone’s families are OK. And I hope you’re doing OK too, look like some of you are at home. But I just know how it is … and I just thank God that we got out there and we’re just praying for the families up there in Tampa.”
As for the game on the field, a rematch of Super Bowl LV—which the Bucs won 31-9 over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs—is one of the top games on the Week 4 slate. Both the Bucs and Chiefs have started 2-1 and appear to be legitimate title contenders this season.
The two teams will face off Sunday Night Football at 8:20 pm ET on NBC.