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Pro talk: NFL’s Florida teams dealing with Irma aftermath

Drew Mattiola, Staff Writer

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It was unusual to see two professional football teams inactive with a week off on Sept. 10, 2017 while the rest of the NFL’s 30 teams squared off against their respective opposition for Sunday kickoff.

Members of the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers watched opposing clubs perform from afar as the 2017 NFL season debuted but mainly shifted their attention to a more pressing matter as one of the intense most tropical storms recorded since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 threatened the state of Florida last weekend.

Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sept. 6, 2017 with relentless force as its intensity measured 185 mph (295 km/h) winds and a minimum pressure of 914 mbar (914 hPa; 27.0 inHg).

The impact of Hurricane Irma left 2.6 million homes in Florida were without power and a vast amount of property damage statewide. The storm also left the Dolphins and the Buccaneers behind as the 2017 NFL commenced and despite the catastrophic nature of the forecast last weekend, the two teams encounter a tremendous setback in their schedule.

Prior to the formation of the hurricane, the Miami Dolphins were to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their home opener however the NFL’s decision to postpone the game to the teams’ bye week vanquished the first outing.

The league discussed moving the game to a neutral site in which Lincoln Financial Field, Heinz Field, Qualcolmm Stadium, and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium were among the few vacant sports arenas that were available for usage.

There was also speculation that the game would be moved up to Thursday night in which NBC would broadcast a double-header but the network feared it would hurt the ratings of the defending champion New England Patriots’ match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs in which the former was coming off a dramatic Super Bowl win and by virtue host the season opener.

Moving the game to week 11 in which the two teams coincidentally shared a bye week would be a last resort.

However, given the severity of the hurricane and Governor calling for a state of emergency in Florida, the league felt it was critical for the players and personnel to be with their friends and families during that period of great duress.

Although there matters greater than football in our world, the verdict of moving the game to week 11 comes at a gargantuan cost for the Dolphins and Buccaneers as they will be now required to play 16 games straight this season – a arduous coup that hasn’t been undertaken by any NFL franchise since 1989.

The league’s decision also puts the Dolphins and Buccaneers at equal risk regarding player health and could easily evaporate any kind playoff aspirations.

While it is somewhat acceptable to support the decision made by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to postpone the game by eliminating the bye especially given the nature of Hurricane Irma, it is undoubtedly a move shrouded by contradiction.

With concussions and illegal hits becoming a growing normality year after year, the NFL has mandated a close protocol on all head-related injuries as well as dirty plays.

Despite being a violent sport from the get-go, franchises invest heavily in the players they draft and sign as they push to grapple longevity from their 53-man rosters. If players were to become constantly beaten to a pulp for 16 consecutive weeks, their shelf lives would rapidly expire especially given the style and attitude of today’s NFL. Although roster depth still exists in the sport, viewers and organizations have both witnessed their positional players dwindle in snaps due to growing number injuries.

The Cleveland Browns fielded five quarterbacks last season due to the hostility of the sport and that was within the first 10 weeks.

With the recent emphasis of player safety entering the 2010s, it comes to much hypocrisy that the league did not muster the care to give the Dolphins and Buccaneers an alternative. The game could have been easily relocated and rescheduled for an earlier date but the league was far too concerned about imagery and revenue projections instead of administering all their clubs with an equal chance to win and stay healthy.

In pertinence to the postseason, both the Dolphins and Buccaneers were favorites to contend for a seed in their conferences prior to the season especially after placing 10-6 and 9-7 in 2016, however with the rigid slate of games that presents itself, zero repose and months of game planning and strategizing for opponents in disarray due to rescheduling, their playoff hopes are now imperil.

The importance of the bye week stems back two decades ago in which the league allowed its 32 clubs to properly rest, rehabilitate and retool their rosters before entering the latter end of the season.

Since 1990 the NFL extended the regular season to a 16-game format providing every team an additional week to recess. In the rare circumstances such as last week’s match-up, the NFL issues that a game postponement that cannot be rescheduled in a week’s span must be veered towards the bye week of that franchise or franchises. The bye week previously has acted as an available date to reschedule a delayed game, substituting the day of postponement with a new “bye week.”

Luckily for the Buccaneers and Dolphins they share the same bye week as according to NFL front office both teams would have to be available on the same bye week in order for the schedule to remain functional.

This move was once enacted during the 2008 NFL season when the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans had to deviate from their Week two meeting in Houston due to Hurricane Ike and in turn registered impact with the Cincinnati Bengals’ schedule. Although the Ravens would qualify for the postseason that year, the team at least had a head start – something the aforementioned do not.

The Dolphins, who recently lost their starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, for the entire season due to a torn ACL, now embark a daunting road with an already fragile Jay Cutler and a mediocre back-up found in Matt Moore. The absence of the bye only adds insult to injury.

The postponement of the Dolphins Buccaneers serves a major disadvantage and one that could break a team faster than it could make a team.

Drew Mattiola is a fourth-year student majoring in communications. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Pro talk: NFL’s Florida teams dealing with Irma aftermath