Qualcomm Stadium available for Sunday, mayor's office tells paper

Updated: October 26, 2007, 5:27 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Qualcomm Stadium would be available Sunday for the Chargers, the San Diego mayor's office said Thursday, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

"Should they decide to play in San Diego, the stadium will be ready on Sunday," said Fred Sainz, the mayor's spokesman, according to a report on the paper's Web site. "It's their decision to play in San Diego or not."

The Chargers worked out, waited and wondered Thursday in Tempe, Ariz., where and when they will play their next game.

With their home stadium being used as an evacuation center for people fleeing wildfires in the San Diego area, the Chargers went through what coach Norv Turner called "one of our best practices of the year."

The Chargers are scheduled to host the Houston Texans.

"No decision has been made at this time," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told The Associated Press. "When a decision is made, we will certainly let you know."

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders indicated the decision to proceed was up to the NFL and the team.

"It depends on what the NFL wants,'' said Sanders, according to the AP. "We believe it could be played, but I think the NFL and Chargers have concerns. They're talking them out, about air quality and about taking public safety personnel off the street if this continues in the backcountry.

"They're going through a process that we appreciate. They're thinking about public safety and what's best for the community.''

Fires alter sports schedules

The massive wildfires in Southern California disrupted high school football championships, San Diego Chargers' practices and scholastic soccer and volleyball matches this week.
List of canceled sports events

The team shifted its practices to the Arizona Cardinals' training facility Wednesday. Daily workouts are scheduled through Friday. Where the Chargers go after that remained a mystery.

Among the possibilities were keeping the game in San Diego but moving it to Monday night.

Texans owner Bob McNair told KRIV-TV in Houston that he hoped the game would be played on Sunday unless it is moved to Houston.

"We would like to see the game played Sunday, and we understand there are problems in San Diego and if those can be overcome then certainly the game ought to be played there because that's where it was scheduled," McNair said, according to the Fox affiliate's Web site. "But on the other hand if it can't be played there on Sunday it puts us at a competitive disadvantage to delay the game and play it on Monday because we have to go back out on the West Coast again for the following Sunday to play Oakland.

"That would mean if we played somewhere on the West Coast, other than Houston on a Monday night, we'd get back Tuesday," McNair added. "Our people are worn out. They get back at 5 in the morning and we have a very limited amount of time to do anything. So we really would like to see the game played on Sunday."

Qualcomm was scheduled to close as an evacuation center at noon Friday.

"All options are still being discussed," stadium general manager Erik Stover said.

At best, the game would serve as a diversion from the grim task at hand, Turner said.

"If we could provide a little bit of relief, a 3½-hour relief and a little bit of excitement and drama, hopefully that would help," he said.

Dallas and Houston were also mentioned earlier as potential sites for the game. The Cardinals' stadium in Glendale is booked for a motorcycle show through Sunday.

The Chargers issued a statement Thursday night saying they "are working with the mayor's office and the NFL to ensure that all aspects of this situation are carefully evaluated and that the best possible decision for the people of San Diego ultimately is reached."

Chargers officials Dean Spanos and Jim Steeg didn't return phone calls from the AP seeking comment.

Four years ago almost to the day, wildfires led to a decision on short notice to move a Monday night game against Miami from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego to Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State campus.

As is the case now, the stadium was being used to help evacuees and the air was fouled by smoke.

Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal said the situation at home dwarfs any concern about where a football game would be played.

"It's just that four years later you're in the same situation," Neal said after Thursday's practice. "You work so hard to build your dream home and your life and everything is gone in a matter of hours -- memories that you can't replace, pictures and different things that can't be replaced even if you do have insurance."

Some 46 players, coaches and staff members had to evacuate their suburban homes starting early Monday morning. Among them were Turner, quarterback Philip Rivers, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, linebacker Shawne Merriman, and general manager A.J. Smith.

As far as anyone knew, none of those homes had burned.

"It is home, and obviously we care about our community," Rivers said. "A lot of people are going through a tough time. Hopefully we can get back there as soon as we can, but right now we're focusing on getting a win."

The team canceled practice Monday and then flew to Phoenix on Tuesday night. They were staying in a north Phoenix hotel and taking buses across the city to the Cardinals' facility.

Turner was pleased that the team had such a good workout after a poor practice on Wednesday. The Chargers had the facility to themselves Thursday because the Cardinals have a bye week.

"I thought our guys had great energy," Turner said. "I thought they did a good job of focusing in on Houston and focusing on the things we have to do."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.