Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe Buccaneers will play their Sunday night game against the Chiefs as scheduled at Raymond James Stadium and Tom Brady and the Bucs hope it can be a bright spot during a difficult time for the communityScott Smith
On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practiced at the Miami Dolphins' training complex after relocating their football operations to South Florida to avoid Hurricane Ian. In Tampa, fans of the team braced for Ian's impact and, to a lesser extent, wondered if the game against Kansas City Chiefs would still take place at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night.
In between Ian made landfall on Florida's southwest coast and did particularly terrible harm to such communities as Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Sanibel. Powerful winds and storm surges caused catastrophic damage and millions of Floridians have lost power.
The Tampa Bay area was spared the worst of Ian's destruction but did experience heavy winds and flooding in some areas. More than 200,000 people in the area have experienced electrical outages.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers confirmed that Sunday night's game would be played as scheduled in the team's home stadium. The
team's statement on the game's status expressed the Buccaneers' concern for those affected and gratitude that the Bay area was spared the worst consequences of the hurricane. It also thanked the Dolphins, local government agencies and first responders and emergency personnel for their assistance and efforts on behalf of the community.
As a large portion of the state began the process of recovering from Ian's destructions, the Buccaneers continued their preparations in Miami Gardens for Sunday's game against the Chiefs. While working to stay focused on the task at hand, Tampa Bay players can't help thinking about those affected by the storm. In that way, they are grateful that their game will still be played as scheduled within their home community.
"I always feel like sports have brought people together over a long period of time," said quarterback Tom Brady. "Watching different adversities - whether it was 9/11, whether that was [Hurricane] Katrina - sports have an amazing way of kind of healing wounds and bringing people together and bringing communities together, something to cheer for, a common interest, a common good."
The Buccaneers are in the middle of a three-week homestand after starting the regular season with consecutive road wins in Dallas and New Orleans. Prior to the home opener in Week Three against Green Bay, wide receiver Mike Evans encountered Bucs fans while out in the community and they expressed how eager they were to see him play. Unfortunately, Evans missed that game while serving a one-game suspension but he's back with the team now and even more grateful to be playing this week given the circumstances.
"I definitely wanted to be at the home opener," said Evans. "I'm happy that I get to go out there and entertain. It's a blessing and I don't take it for granted. I know we're going through a tough time right now, so hopefully we can be a bright spot during this time."
The Buccaneers drew a crowd of more than 69,000 fans to their first home game of the season, a record for Raymond James Stadium. They fell just short against the Packers, losing 14-12 after a failed two-point conversion attempt with 14 seconds left, but now they have another highly-anticipated matchup with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. That's a rematch of Super Bowl LV, which was one of the most emotional games in the team's quarter-century at Raymond James Stadium. This Sunday's game could have an emotional impact as well, for very different reasons.
"I think anytime you can participate in something like that it's a great feeling," said Brady. "I know it means a lot for us to have the opportunity to go out and play for our fans always, but after what so many people have gone through in the state it's great to go out there and give them something to cheer about."