Wilma causes Chiefs-Dolphins to reschedule for Friday
Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas apologetically skipped his normal interview availability, saying he needed to cram two days of film study into a few hours. The Chiefs scrambled to revise travel plans, and league officials worked on new television arrangements and other details.
When Wilma makes its expected arrival in Florida sometime Sunday, the Chiefs will be long gone. Their visit to Miami was switched to Friday night because of the looming Category 4 hurricane -- which would be the eighth to affect the Sunshine State in the past 15 months.
The game originally scheduled for Sunday will now be played at 7 p.m. Friday.
"As in the past, we recognize unusual circumstances and will address them appropriately on a case-by-case basis," said Dolphins Enterprises CEO Joe Bailey.
"This is only about the fifth one of those we've had this year," said Dolphins coach Nick Saban, who learned of the schedule switch during Thursday's practice. "So it's not our first rodeo when it comes to these things, and we know how unpredictable they can be, and we know how dangerous they can be."
The game will be televised by CBS affiliates in primary secondary markets in South Florida and Kansas City. But there will be no national telecast.
"We are not extending the telecast to more markets because we want to adhere as closely as possible to the spirit of our longstanding policy not to conflict with high school and college football during their seasons [which means Friday night and Saturday]," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
It's the third time since the start of the 2004 season that a Miami home game was rescheduled because of a hurricane. The Dolphins lost to Tennessee in last year's home opener pushed up a day by Hurricane Ivan, then were beaten by Pittsburgh in a deluge -- remnants of Hurricane Jeanne -- two weeks later.
"They couldn't have picked a better team to send down there and play well," said Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, whose team will fly to South Florida on Friday morning. "That's the way we're approaching it. We'll go down there and play our best football game of the year. The guys are in a good frame of mind. They accept it. We would have liked it to be a different way but we have no choice."
A celebration of the team's 40th anniversary and Dan Marino's induction into the Hall of Fame has also been rescheduled, the Miami Herald reported.
Marino will now receive his Hall of Fame ring at halftime of the Nov. 6 game against the Atlanta Falcons, the Herald reported.
Moving the game would seem to put Jason Taylor's streak of 87 straight starts in jeopardy. The Dolphins' standout defensive end hasn't practiced this week because of a foot injury, and linebacker Junior Seau is still bothered by an injured calf.
Clearly, the Dolphins would have liked the extra time to get those two players ready to face a Kansas City rushing attack that's averaging more than 127 yards per game.
"We've got to play sometime," said Miami's David Bowens, who may start in Taylor's place. "It gives us a chance to show how we react to an adverse situation. ... It has been 11 years since I played on Friday night -- high school. It definitely takes me back."
Vermeil lobbied for the game to be played in Kansas City, and the prospects of a long plane ride followed only hours later by a game didn't exactly overjoy the Chiefs.
"Everyone's concern is the safety of the players and the coaches and the fans. And that's what most paramount," Chiefs president and general manager Carl Peterson said. "Obviously, I've never watched the Weather Channel as I have in the last 24, 48 hours."
The teams have two common opponents. Kansas City (3-2) beat the Jets 27-7 in the season-opener; one week later, the Dolphins lost to the Jets 17-7. And the Chiefs were beaten 30-10 by Denver in Week 3; Miami downed the Broncos 34-10 in Week 1, Denver's only loss so far.
"Look at that game and Denver doesn't look like the same team because Miami didn't allow them to be," Vermeil said.
The Chiefs will face a two-runner attack by Miami, with Ricky Williams set to make his home regular-season, post-suspension debut alongside rookie Ronnie Brown, the No. 2 overall draft pick who's rushed for 343 yards in his first five games.
"Both those guys are great backs, and they can do different things," said Chiefs safety Patrick Surtain, who spent seven years in Miami before being traded after last season. "We're going to have to be on our P's and Q's because both those guys can hurt us at any time. That's the key to the game -- stopping those guys."
Surtain said he was pleased Williams is back with Miami, saying he hopes the 2002 NFL rushing champion "regains the form he had a couple of years ago."
For this game, though, Surtain would prefer Williams have the last weekend's form. Williams had five rushes for 8 yards and six catches for 22 more yards last week in Miami's loss to Tampa Bay, his first game since the end of the 2003 season.
"Once we get through the mental part and get on the field, it will be fun," Williams said of the schedule switch. "We don't have any Monday night or Sunday night games this year, so it's a chance to take advantage of the national attention and make a name for ourselves."
All, of course, before Wilma becomes the only name on the minds of most Floridians.
"It's inconvenient, no question," said Joe Bailey, the CEO of Dolphins Enterprises. "But it's also an adventure."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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