Qualcomm being used by evacuees

Updated: October 27, 2003, 3:57 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- The NFL moved Monday night's Chargers-Dolphins game from San Diego to Tempe, Ariz., because of wildfires in the San Diego area.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement Sunday night that the City of San Diego advised the league it could not play the game in Qualcomm Stadium.

California Fires
AP PhotoDeadly fires in Southern California forced the NFL's hand.

The sky throughout the county was choked with smoke and ash from three fast-moving fires that burned more than 264,000 acres, killed 13 people and burned nearly 850 homes by Sunday evening. The state's largest fire, in eastern San Diego County, caused at least nine deaths.

Mayor Dick Murphy urged the NFL to either postpone or move the game and Tagliabue complied.

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said he also told the league the game shouldn't be played in San Diego.

"I just can't see us turning around and going to our stadium and playing Monday night football," he said. "There's too much devastation going on for that. Too much.

"I think the league did the right thing. To turn around and run out of the tunnel at Qualcomm with all the things going on, it wasn't right for me."

Monday night's game was to be a homecoming for linebacker Junior Seau, who played his first 13 seasons in San Diego before being traded to the Dolphins this year.

"Moving the game is very disappointing to everyone," Seau said, "but obviously for the safety of everyone it is probably the best decision to make right now.

"Our prayers are with the San Diego residents and everyone that is affected by it."

Qualcomm Stadium's parking lot was turned into a major evacuation center as residents from several surrounding neighborhoods were ordered out of their homes by authorities.

The Dolphins left Miami on Sunday morning aware that the San Diego airport could be closed when they arrived. But the airport reopened by the time they reached California.

They left their equipment on the chartered plane, held their scheduled meetings as planned Sunday night in a San Diego hotel, and were scheduled to leave early Monday morning for Tempe.

"The game of football is secondary right now, and I hate to see it happen to my hometown or any hometown," Seau said.

The NFL moved a game between the Patriots and 49ers from Candlestick Park in San Francisco to Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif., on Oct. 22, 1989, after the Bay Area earthquake damaged Candlestick.

In 1992, the league rescheduled the season opener between New England and Miami from Sept. 6 to Oct. 18 because of damage from Hurricane Andrew.

Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe is the home of the Arizona Cardinals, who beat San Francisco 16-13 there Sunday.

This will be the fourth Monday night game at Sun Devil Stadium. The last one was in 1999, when 49ers quarterback Steve Young's career was ended on a hit by Aeneas Williams of Arizona.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press