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