TAMPA — As Hurricane Irma continues to move west toward Cuba, the potential threat in South Florida could impact the Bucs' season opener against the Dolphins, scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday in Miami.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said the NFL is "working on multiple contingency plans, too numerous to mention," and based on the storm's current path it's certainly possible the game will not be played when or even where it's scheduled to be.
Q: The Bucs and Dolphins both have byes in Week 11. Could the game be moved to Nov. 19 in Miami?
A: Yes, and that move would eliminate any public safety risks associated with a game this weekend. That would also mean both teams play games 16 weeks in a row, which is less than ideal from a competitive standpoint.
"What do you think?" Koetter said Monday. "Nobody wants that." There's precedent here, as a Texans-Ravens game in 2008 was shifted to a bye week when Houston's stadium was damaged by Hurricane Ike.
Q: Could the game's kickoff be moved ahead, to get it played earlier to lessen any danger from the approaching storm?
A: There's ample precedent for that. In 2004, the threat of Hurricane Ivan prompted a Dolphins home game against the Titans to move up one day to noon Saturday. In 2005, the threat of Hurricane Wilma moved a Dolphins-Chiefs game up to Friday night in advance of the storm.
The Dolphins already have one of their home games being played in London, so while the priority is always for public safety, moving the game's kickoff time up might be preferable to moving the game's location and playing Sunday.
Q: Could the game be played elsewhere besides Hard Rock Stadium?
A: Miami would certainly not want the game played in Tampa for competitive reasons, but if an earlier kickoff in Miami isn't viable, the game could be played at a neutral site. Orlando's Camping World Stadium, which hosted the Pro Bowl in January, would be an option, as would Jacksonville's EverBank Field, since the Jaguars are playing in Houston this weekend.
Q: When might a decision be made?
A: The NFL and both teams will wait and watch the hurricane's path to see if it changes to lessen the risk of the storm impacting Sunday's game. You'd expect at least two days' notice of the game being moved up for the sheer logistics of coordinating a home NFL game. If it's between playing Sunday or in Week 11, the league could wait longer, but it's hard to imagine anything later than Friday.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.