MINNEAPOLIS — UPDATE: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Thursday that the game would be played in Tampa after the city was spared the worst of the storm. Our original article continues below:
As Hurricane Ian collides with the western coast of Florida, at least one NFL insider says if a huge Sunday night matchup can't be played in Tampa Bay it will unfold thousands of miles to the north in Minneapolis.
The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted on Wednesday that NFL executive Jeff Miller told reporters on a conference call there has been no change to the scheduled game between the Bucs and Chiefs. Rapoport says the league is in discussions with Florida authorities, but added if Hurricane Ian does force a change in venue, the game will be played at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Earlier reports from multiple sources had indicated Minnesota was a candidate to host along with New Orleans, but Miller's conference call makes it definitive that U.S. Bank Stadium is the alternative host.
There won't be a scheduling conflict as the Minnesota Vikings will be in London Sunday taking on the New Orleans Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Hurricane Ian has already interrupted the Bucs' weekly routine. The team left Tuesday to use the Miami Dolphins facility for the week.
A question many people are asking is "Why don't they just move the game to Miami, since they're already practicing there?"
ESPN's NFL reporter Jeff Darlington cited league sources as saying that if the game has to be moved, the Bucs and Chiefs would play at a neutral site in the Midwest.
Darlington explained that if Tampa is hit hard by the hurricane, the NFL doesn't want to risk using state resources to host a game when they could be better used to help in the aftermath of the hurricane.
The primetime quarterback matchup between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes would be quite the draw for U.S. Bank Stadium, if the plan moves forward. Although it's not yet clear how ticketing would work, Kansas City would have a clear geographic advantage.
Rosie Rosenstiel, the general manager of Maxwell's American Pub near U.S. Bank Stadium, said he's excited by the prospect of an extra game in downtown Minneapolis.
"It's exciting to have two future Hall of Famers here that aren't wearing a Vikings jersey or green and gold," Rosenstiel said. "We'll be open and ready to go. Hopefully, we'll get a lot of Kansas City people driving on up here, and a lot of local people showing off how good Minnesota is for football fans."
Plans remain fluid as organizers wait to see what Hurricane Ian's impact will be when it reaches Florida.
On Monday, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady addressed the issue on his podcast, saying, "It's suited for all of us to stay adapted to the situation. I don't think anyone is really prepared for this. I know I've been preparing all morning trying to get my stuff outside and put it inside. Try to get all the stuff in the ground level up a little bit higher up right here on the bay.
"They're talking about pretty high storm surges and it's a scary thing, I will say that. It's a scary thing when it really hits your doorstep."
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