As the week began, tropical storm Ian was forecast to become a Category 4 hurricane that would make landfall on the western coast of Florida somewhere between Tampa and the panhandle. Since the Kansas City Chiefs are scheduled to travel to Florida to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football this weekend, this raised the possibility that the game could be rescheduled or moved to another location.
So head coach Andy Reid’s opening statement to the media during Wednesday’s press appearance was — for the first time in a while — somewhat different.
“We look forward to the challenge of playing the Bucs,” said Reid in his customary opening. “We know they’re a heck of a football team. We’re not sure where we’re going to play — but wherever we need to go, we’ll go. We’ll get ourselves ready for that — and when the league announces it, then we’ll go ahead and move forward. But right now, we don’t know.”
But even as Reid spoke, the situation was getting clearer.
NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport broke the week’s first hard news about the possibility of a change to the game.
According to NFL exec Jeff Miller, there is no change to the #Bucs-#Chiefs game on Sunday as of now. They are discussing all matters with local authorities. Should Hurricane Ian force a change, the game would be played in Minnesota at US Bank Stadium.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 28, 2022
So while a final decision about where the game will be played has not yet been made, we now know where it will be played in the event it cannot be played in at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa: U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The stadium is available because this weekend, the Minnesota Vikings are playing the New Orleans Saints in London.
Reid told reporters that he expects the final decision to come “in the next couple of days.”
As of 1 p.m. Arrowhead Time on Wednesday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Ian (which, as predicted, is now a Category 4 hurricane) is coming ashore a bit further south than originally expected.
The [National Hurrican Center] said the center of Ian was located about 25 miles west-southwest of Fort Myers, about 50 miles south-southwest of Punta Gorda and 145 miles south-southwest of Orlando moving north-northeast at 9 mph.
According to the most recent prediction of Ian’s track, the hurricane will just miss the Tampa area as it moves up the center of the state toward Orlando before going out over the Atlantic and curving back to make landfall again somewhere near Savannah, Georgia. The Tampa area will still receive very strong winds and heavy rainfall as the storm edges past, but it doesn’t now appear that it will take Ian’s full force head-on.
Whether that means the Chiefs game is more likely to remain in Tampa is not yet known. But Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes said that it will make no difference in his preparation.
“For us, it’s an away game — regardless.” he told reporters. “You’re going to be going somewhere else to play. So you just kind of focus on the game plan and try to prepare yourself that way.”
Mahomes said it wouldn’t even matter to him if the game is played in the domed U.S. Bank Stadium — rather than outdoors in Tampa.
“You have to go out there and execute the game plan,” he explained. “Obviously, weather would be one thing that you could kind of think about — and stuff like that — but it looks like if we are in Tampa, it’s going to be sunny anyway.”
Mahomes was well-informed. By Sunday, the weather in Tampa is expected to be sunny, with a high in the mid-60s. The only question will be whether the area has suffered significant damage as a result of its near-miss with the storm.
Just as Reid noted, that probably won’t be known for a day or two. But even as he prepares for this big game, Mahomes is thinking about the people in Ian’s path.
“I mean, obviously, thoughts and prayers to everyone in the Florida area. Hopefully, they got out of there — but if not, then they’re buttoned-down and safe.”