Greg Cote

NFL right to delay Dolphins opener, with football an afterthought lost in Irma’s path

Hurricane Irma forces NFL to reschedule Dolphins-Buccaneers game to Week 11

With Hurricane Irma approaching Florida, the NFL decided to move the Dolphins-Buccaneers game to Week 11, meaning the teams will have to play 16 games in a row.
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With Hurricane Irma approaching Florida, the NFL decided to move the Dolphins-Buccaneers game to Week 11, meaning the teams will have to play 16 games in a row.

No complaining, please.

Not from the Miami Dolphins. Not from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not from anybody.

No bemoaning the difficulty of playing 16 NFL games in a row without a break — because playing is the key word there, after all.

Hurricane Irma ain’t playin’.

This is real life about to attack and ravage South Florida in a ruthless maraud of nature at its most violent. Oh how I wish the preceding sentence were hyperbole. It may be closer to understatement, even as the Wednesday path of this Category 5 hellstorm jogged slightly east, offering some hope we might not feel the worst of it.

Greater Miami remains in peril as the weekend moves closer. The keys south of us on the peninsula are evacuating. Homestead, so ravaged by Hurricane Andrew a quarter century ago, is bracing again. Store shelves are barren as people scramble to buy water, batteries, bread.

We know our homes will be left without electricity. We pray we have homes at all after Irma is done with us.

Amid all of this, seldom has football — or sports in general — been put in its place more forcefully, yielding to far greater concerns.

So the NFL announced Wednesday morning that this Sunday’s scheduled Dolphins season opener vs. the Bucs at Hard Rock Stadium would be played instead during the 11th week of the season, on Sunday, Nov. 19, when both teams had bye weeks.

Head coaches Adam Gase of the Dolphins and Dirk Koetter of Tampa already were on record hoping that didn’t happen, saying it was a disadvantage to play 16 games in a row without a break. But the alternatives were worse.

They could have rushed it and played the game here Thursday, but Dolfans have more important things on their minds in readying for Irma, such as how to survive this thing, and whether to stay or evacuate. This isn’t the week for a football game.

The Category 5 storm is expected to bring strong storm surges. Part of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos is under a hurricane warning.

They could have played the game Sunday as scheduled but at a neutral site. I’d heard one as far away as Pittsburgh or Philadelphia mentioned. But why rob Miami fans of a home game, and play a game at all on the very day when Irma is likely to wreak its worst havoc.

There was some talk of still trying to play the game Monday night here, but that may have been the worst option of all. Even if Irma is kind enough to veer east or west, South Florida still will get the brunt of it. You’re going to ask fans without electricity, picking through the rubble, trying to contact their insurance company about the roof, to drive through the flooding to attend a football game? And cheer a first down as if their lives hadn’t just been walloped and socked? Absurd.

Yes, it has been an inconvenience to the Dolphins and Bucs to not be sure, until Wednesday, when, where or whether they’d bee playing this weekend. I get it. In a very structured sport, algorithms have been upset. But this isn’t a great week to talk about inconveniences, either.

Besides, the Dolphins and Bucs still get a bye week. It just happens to be Week 1 now. In Miami’s case, the benefits are more time for players to get completely healthy, and more time to prepare for Miami’s new season opener: next Sunday, Sept. 17, at the Los Angeles Chargers. (And based on what I’ve seen of the Fins’ pass defense so far, extra time to get ready for Philip Rivers might not be a bad thing).

The biggest benefit, of course, is that Dolphins coaches and players — fathers, husbands and sons — can now attend to what matters most as this anxiety-filled weekend bears in.

That’s family — not football.

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