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NFL: Bucs-Chiefs game on for Raymond James Stadium on Sunday

The Tampa Sports Authority told the league Thursday morning that emergency resources are available to cover the game.
Tom Brady leads the team onto the field during the home opener last Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Tom Brady leads the team onto the field during the home opener last Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sep. 29|Updated Oct. 1

Tom Brady remembers playing NFL games after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and Sept. 11.

That’s why he was hopeful the Bucs could play the Chiefs on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium to at least bring some relief and entertainment to Southwest Florida, which has been impacted so severely by Hurricane Ian.

The NFL decided Thursday that the game will be played as scheduled at 8:25 p.m. in Tampa.

“I always feel like sports has brought people together over a long period of time,” Brady said. “Watching different adversities, whether that was 9/11 or whether that was Katrina, sports has an amazing way of healing wounds and bringing people together and bringing communities together. ... Any time you can participate in things like that it’s a great feeling.

“I know it means a lot for us to have the opportunity to go out and play for our fans always. But after what so many people have gone through in our state, it’s great to go out there and give them something to cheer about.”

In a statement released Thursday, the Bucs thanked everyone who had worked to allow the game to be played as scheduled. The league is planning relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Ian and details will be provided later.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the many thousands in the Southwest Florida region who have been severely impacted by Hurricane Ian. We are also very thankful that the Tampa Bay area was spared the most damaging consequences of this powerful storm. ...

“We would like to thank all of the local government agencies and the thousands of emergency personnel who worked tirelessly over the past few days to ensure that our area would be ready to respond if needed. We would also like to acknowledge the Miami Dolphins organization for their assistance and hospitality in allowing us to use their practice facilities this week.

“We also want to express our sincere appreciation to the first responders and emergency personnel who are already battling the elements, saving lives, and helping our neighbors in those most impacted areas to our south.”

Earlier Thursday, the Tampa Sports Authority and Tampa mayor Jane Castor informed the NFL that it has the emergency and safety resources available to host Sunday night’s game.

Holding a Bucs flag, Castor tweeted: “On another note, we’re doing out best to keep the @Buccaneers game here Sunday. I have assured the @NFL the only disturbance here Sunday is when the Bucs kick ass.”

The league was evaluating whether playing the game in Tampa Bay would negatively impact safety efforts in the areas affected by Hurricane Ian. US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of the Vikings, was designated the alternative site if the game had not been played in Tampa.

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The Bucs lost their home opener 14-12 to the Packers. Prior to that, they had not played a game in Tampa since hosting the Dolphins in a preseason game Aug. 13.

On Tuesday, the Bucs moved their football operations to south Florida and have been practicing at the Dolphins’ facility. The team invited the family members of players, coaches and staff to join them and many chose to evacuate Tampa.

Brady said the Bucs are just getting preparations underway for the Chiefs but allowed that they have had to adapt to a new routine this week. The Bucs will remain in south Florida and work at the Dolphins facility until the end of practice on Friday before returning home.

“We’ll use every minute we have right up to game time to prepare,” he said. “It’s not like we’re preparing for an easy team, either. We’re facing one of the best teams in the league. We’re just going to do the best we can do with the circumstances presented in front of us, knowing that we’re definitely in a different routine, but we’re going to have to focus the best way we can in order to put our best performance out there.”

Receiver Mike Evans, who was suspended for last Sunday’s game against the Packers, said he was looking forward to returning to the lineup.

“I’m happy I get to go out there and entertain,” he said. “You know, it’s a blessing. I don’t take it for granted. I know we’re going through a tough time right now so hopefully we can be a bright spot.”

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