The Dolphins-Bucs season opener won’t be an opener after all. The NFL decided Wednesday morning to move the game at Hard Rock Stadium to Nov. 19, the bye week for both teams, because of Hurricane Irma.
The decision was reached after the league, in consultation with officials from both teams and government agencies, deliberated since Monday on the best course of action.
The Dolphins’ new season-opener will be at 4:05 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Bucs game originally was scheduled for Hard Rock Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday, when Irma would be too close to South Florida for anyone to be outside. The league finally admitted as much Tuesday afternoon, when it issued a statement saying the game would not be played in South Florida this week.
“In the interest of public safety in light of the current state of emergency, the NFL, in consultation with state and local officials as well as both clubs, has decided that playing an NFL game in South Florida this week is not appropriate,” the league said in a statement.
Among the options considered were moving to a neutral site or playing it later in the season. Both teams had a bye Nov. 19, but this now means the Dolphins will play 16 consecutive weeks, something Dolphins players were reluctant to do.
But there were no options that would please everybody. Scheduling it upstate this weekend, perhaps Orlando or Jacksonville, was risky because Irma could affect those cities, too. Moving it out of state would mean taking the players away from their families when some may be experiencing a hurricane for the first time.
“I’m definitely concerned about the community in South Florida, really the whole state, especially with our State of Emergency,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “Luckily my family doesn’t like me, so they’re up in Portland, Ore., and Detroit and up north. They’re safe for the most part. Myself, we’ll figure something out.”
Quarterback Jay Cutler, who arrived a month ago from Nashville, said, “I’m in a different situation than most of these guys because my family’s not here. A lot of these guys have a lot on their plate, moving their families and your house and your cars.
“I’m one of the few lucky ones that I’ve got a car here and a bag full of clothes, and that’s kind of it. You’ve got a lot of guys in that locker room that are going through a lot of things in their head, and we’ve got to be mindful of that and kind of help them in any way possible.”
Moving the Bucs game out of Hard Rock would have meant only six true home games this season, since the game against New Orleans will be in London.
This is the second time in recent history that weather affected a Dolphins opener. In 2004, has been changed because of weather. In September 2004, the opener vs. Tennessee was shifted from Sunday to Saturday because of concerns about Hurricane Ivan.