- Disrupted and scattered by the storm that swept through Florida, the state’s three NFL teams have been improvising as they prepare for Week 2
- Facilities and stadiums in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville appeared to have been spared the worst by Irma, though some structural analysis by experts remained to be done
- In Houston on Monday, the Jaguars worked out at a local Y, while Dolphins and Bucs players made their way from around the country to regroup
While matters much important take place around Florida, Hurricane Irma has created some manageable but nonetheless weird circumstances for the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Jaguars over the last week.
And it would hard to top the one that took place inside Houston’s downtown YMCA location on Monday morning. In a position where improvisation was required, a scrambling Jacksonville team—fresh off a statement rout of the defending division champion Texans—showed up at around 10:30 a.m. local time to get some lifting in.
It’s a good bet that Bob from Accounting didn’t expect to see an NFL team when he ducked out of the office to the Y for a lunch-break workout.
There were other unsual sights, too. The Jaguars brought in local massage therapists and converted conference areas in their Houston hotel into recovery and training rooms in an effort to best replicate a normal Monday for all the players coming off an NFL game.
It wasn’t perfect, of course, but understanding what was going on back home—storm surge had caused parts of the St. Johns River a mile from EverBank Stadium to spill water two feet deep onto the streets—kept the complaining at a minimum. As for what’s waiting for the Jaguars when they get there?
As Doug Marrone said among staff, “We have to see it with our eyes.”
That, in fact, may be the best way to describe where the NFL’s three Florida teams stand as the new NFL week begins. There’ll be plenty of unknowns to tackle. Here’s where they all were as of Monday evening …
For now, more than 120 players, coaches and staff are huddled in Charlotte—the Glazer family chartered four small planes on Saturday to fly those who wanted to leave Tampa up to Carolina for the weekend. Others left the Tampa area for other parts of the country when the impromptu bye week was declared last Wednesday. And then some decided to stay and ride the storm out.
There’s relatively good news in this corner, at least. Tampa, at one point over the week, looked to be getting the brunt of Hurricane Irma. Fortunately for many (not necessarily all) in the area, the storm wound up weakening considerably before it reached that part of the Gulf Coast. The Bucs’ facility did not lose power, and the stadium looks as if it’ll be fine for Sunday’s de facto opener against the Bears.
That means the biggest problem facing the team is merely logistical. Tampa International Airport is expected to reopen on Tuesday, and booking flights back in, as anyone who’s been in one of these situations can attest, won’t be easy for those who didn’t go to Charlotte, something veteran Chris Conte alluded to on Twitter.
The Bucs facility itself was closed on Monday and will remain closed Tuesday, with that day’s scheduled practice now canceled. The tentative plan is to have some sort of team gathering on Tuesday night, in part to figure out how many players were able to make it back to town. Bears week will start in earnest with a practice on Wednesday.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Glazer family has already donated $1 million to the American Red Cross to assist in hurricane relief.
Miami lined up the Greenbrier facility in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., that the Saints and Texans have used for training camps, for next week. But barring any surprises, there’s no expectation that they’ll need to go through with that contingency plan. The team’s facility in Davie, Fla., has power, though both it and Hard Rock Stadium will have to undergo checks by structural engineers before reopening.
Meanwhile, the players who didn’t make the trip to Southern California on the charter last Friday night—after the their opener with the Bucs was canceled, the Dolphins flew to Oxnard, Calif., to practice at the Cowboys’ summer facility in preparation for their Week 2 game against the Chargers in Los Angeles—were filtering in throughout the day Monday. The first official team function is a meeting set for the 10 o’clock hour Tuesday morning in Oxnard. The Dolphins have a weight room and fields on site, and will begin practicing on Wednesday.
The team then will switch hotels on Saturday, heading for the downtown Los Angeles location they were previously scheduled to arrive at on Thursday (coach Adam Gase likes to get his players into a distant road city early to acclimate to the time change). If everything goes to plan, the Dolphins will fly back after their game on Sunday against the Chargers.
Back home, Dolphins security and maintenance are keeping tabs on the facility and stadium, both of which remain closed. A handful of football-side might work out of the facility later in the week. Timing on the stadium’s reopening—much of the Dolphins’ business side is headquartered there—is uncertain, with the University of Miami’s Sept. 23 game against Toledo the next event on its schedule.
In Houston, the Jags had a breakfast window of 8-10 a.m. on Monday, with buses leaving for the Y after that. A 10:30-11:30 a.m. workout followed, followed by lunch, then meetings at 1 p.m. and the day wrapping at 3:30 p.m. On Tuesday the team will leave its hotel at 8 a.m. for a 9 a.m. charter back to Jacksonville, landing around 12:30 p.m. local time.
The good news is that things appeared better late in the day Monday than they had earlier. The stadium was without power until mid-afternoon, the parking lots had standing water in them, and even the playing field experienced some flooding. The practice fields, which sit four feet above the parking lot, were spared much damage, but there was still concern regarding some of the players’ cars.
That’s part of why Marrone said what he did—“We have to see it with out own eyes.” But considering how close the stadium is to where the St. Johns River flooded parts of the city, the Jaguars certainly seemed to have gotten a little lucky. The plan, when the team gets back, is for Marrone, EVP Tom Coughlin and GM David Caldwell to make sure everything is functional before finalizing plans to practice Wednesday.
It should also be noted that Bill O’Brien, a good friend of Marrone’s, and the Texans offered use of their facility on Monday. But knowing that the Texans were on a short week—they play at Cincinnati on Thursday night—Marrone and the Jaguars chose to go to the Y instead. There, the team broke into three groups that rotated through lifting, cardio and stretch stations.
Which, to paraphrase the coach running the show, must’ve been quite a sight to see.
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