On Wednesday, the Bucs and Miami Dolphins announced the season opener scheduled for Sunday in Miami, will instead be played on November 19, the scheduled bye week for both teams. That means Tampa Bay will open the season against the Chicago Bears at Raymond James Stadium next Sunday.
The impending arrival of Hurricane Irma has turned the South Florida sports world upside down for the weekend. If Irma makes landfall, it is expected to happen sometime on Sunday.
“The number one thing we should be thinking of is the safety of everyone involved,” said Tampa Bay Coach Dirk Koetter at a press briefing. “This is a natural disaster. Football takes a back seat to that”.
Both teams and the NFL were considering playing the game at a neutral site, but too many obstacles prevented that from being a plausible substitute. There was much more involved than just getting players to another site.
“I just don’t think that’s feasible, whether I would have liked to or not,” Koetter said. “I don’t think you could ask all of the people that would have to travel on both teams to say ‘Hey, leave your families in the hurricane and let’s go play a game in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia.’ I just don’t think that’s feasible.”
So instead, the Bucs and the Dolphins will be the only two teams in the NFL that will play for 16 consecutive weeks without a break. Being with their families during the storm is something for which the players and coaches will be grateful.
The Buccaneer organization will feel the same way, but that will not make the November schedule any easier to navigate. Week 11 will kick off a three-game road trip for Tampa Bay without the benefit of a week off.
After playing in Miami, they head to Atlanta to play the Falcons on November 26 and then face the Packers in Green Bay on December 3. The revised schedule now means the Bucs will play three of their first four games at home.
After facing the Bears next week, they will head to Minnesota to face Dalvin Cook and the Vikings, before returning home to take on the New York Giants on October 1, followed by the New England Patriots on Thursday night, October 5.