Chargers' Nov. 9 home game still in jeopardy

Updated: October 30, 2003, 12:34 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- With raging wildfires in Southern California still virtually unchecked in some areas, NFL and team officials conceded here Thursday that they have already begun considering alternative sites for the San Diego Chargers' next home game.

The Chargers, who are on the road Sunday, playing the Bears here, departed early for the trip because poor air quality in San Diego was affecting their practices. Instead, they're preparing in Champaign, Ill., home of the University of Illinois.

San Diego is scheduled to meet the Minnesota Vikings at Qualcomm Stadium on Nov. 9, and commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Chargers president Dean Spanos said that, while they hope the situation improves in the next few days, they must prepare contingencies.

The Chargers were forced to move last Monday night's game with Miami to Sun Devil Stadium, in Tempe, Ariz., where they attracted more than 70,000 spectators who were supplied admission-free tickets.

"We certainly can't wait until the last minute on this," Spanos said. "For obvious reasons that go beyond football, we're praying the situation is controlled soon, but this absolutely is an incredible disaster. We can't keep our heads in the sand. We have to look down the road another week or so and make sure we have [contingency] plans in place."

As was the case last week, there are three sites being considered: Phoenix, San Francisco and Oakland

The Raiders are home on Nov. 9 so Oakland's Networks Association Stadium would be eliminated unless the Chargers played Saturday or Monday, both very unlikely scenarios.

The Arizona Cardinals play at Pittsburgh on Nov. 9 and San Francisco has a bye week.

Sources said that other sites in Southern California, such as the Rose Bowl or the Los Angeles Coliseum, aren't likely to be considered, given that the air quality is not much better in either of those areas.

Spanos said he would prefer not to move the game to the Metrodome in Minneapolis, which would make it a Vikings home contest, and force the Chargers to play in front of a typically raucous crowd.

There is a chance, Spanos said, that the Chargers may be forced to move their practices next week to their training camp site in Carson, Calif., north of San Diego, if air quality does not improve at their in-season practice facility.

Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, who received a standing ovation here from his peers on Wednesday during a league meeting, said Thursday his organization is again prepared to step up and aid the Chargers, if necessary.

One sidelight on the matter: The Chargers bought a full-page ad in the Thursday editions of The Arizona Republic, thanking fans of the area, city officials and Cardinals officials for the assistance last week. In the ad, Bidwill's name was misspelled, appearing as "Bidwell" in print.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.