LT and other Chargers among wildfire evacuees; practice cancelled
9 hours ago
SAN DIEGO - Reigning NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Philip Rivers were among 40 members of the San Diego Chargers' organization who were forced to evacuate their homes as wildfires burned in San Diego County.
The team said it will spend the rest of the week practising in Arizona. The Chargers, who had just returned from their bye weekend, cancelled practice Monday due to poor air quality and so the players could take care of their families.
The Chargers, scheduled to host Houston on Sunday, announced they will fly to Phoenix on Tuesday and practice at the Arizona Cardinals' headquarters in Tempe on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
"It was crazy," Rivers said Monday night, not quite 24 hours after his wife talked him into leaving their suburban home before the evacuation orders came in.
"It was so windy and so ashy and so smelly about midnight that we went ahead and got out of there then," said Rivers, the father of three young girls. He said he heard from Tomlinson and tight end Antonio Gates at about 4:30 a.m. that they were leaving their homes.
The Chargers were housing displaced players at a handful of hotels around town. Rivers and some teammates spent time Monday night watching the Colts-Jaguars game.
Rivers said he got a chance to return to his home briefly earlier in the day and that it was OK. He said he heard that Tomlinson's house was OK, too.
"It was scary," Rivers said. "A lot of us haven't experienced it. A lot of us were not here in 2003. It's such an unknown, too. You don't know what it's doing."
Four years to the week after being forced to move a Monday night game to Tempe on short notice because of deadly wildfires, the Chargers and the NFL said it was too early to know if the fires will affect Sunday's game. As it was in 2003, Qualcomm Stadium's parking lot and part of a concourse were being used as an evacuation centre.
"We are monitoring," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail.
The Cardinals have a bye this weekend.
"Our team is more than willing to accommodate them," Cardinals spokesman Mark Dalton said.
Rivers said the team made sure players had the day to take care of their families.
"The truth of the matter is we do have a game Sunday, who knows where, and we've got to get ready for that," he said.
Wildfires fanned by fierce desert winds forced the evacuations of some 250,000 people in the county.
There was no immediate word if any Chargers employees had lost their homes. Many Chargers players, as well as other current and former pro athletes, live in hard-hit Poway and other suburbs in northern San Diego County.
Trevor Hoffman, baseball's career saves leader, was among a handful of Padres personnel who had to evacuate. Also leaving their homes were manager Bud Black and CEO Sandy Alderson.
Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and his wife left their Poway home at 6 a.m. and were waiting out the fire at their daughter's house in Mission Valley.
"I think we're going to be all right. I hope," Gwynn said. "When we left it was fine, but who knows?"
Gwynn said he and his wife didn't wait for a reverse 911 call notifying them to get out.
"We were up watching the news, they gave a description of what area they wanted evacuated, and it was us," said Gwynn, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29 with Cal Ripken Jr.
"There was lots of smoke," Gwynn said. "It was still dark, but you could see ash falling everywhere. Trees were down and the power had just went off when we left."
Gwynn said they didn't grab much more than some clothes and insurance papers.
"I hope my house is there when it's all over, but that's why you have insurance," he said.
Gwynn, the baseball coach at his alma mater, San Diego State, cancelled practice Monday and was keeping in touch with players whose families live in affected areas.
Hoffman said he left his home in exclusive Rancho Santa Fe at about 6:30 a.m. and was heading north with his family.
"I'm just thinking about San Diego as a whole right now, being under siege by all these fires," Hoffman said by cell phone. "I'm sure everybody is kind of doing due diligence as far as getting their families out."
Tomlinson couldn't immediately be reached for comment. His mother, Loreane, said from Waco, Texas, that he called at 5 a.m. and told her that he and his wife were looking for a hotel. "I told him to keep me posted," Loreane Tomlinson said.
Centre Nick Hardwick said players were asked at a team meeting to raise their hands if they were affected, "and at one point, three-quarters of the room raised their hands. I guess a lot of guys live up there. There were some pretty long faces this morning. A lot of coaches and people upstairs have to deal with this."
Hardwick lives in Point Loma, near the Pacific Ocean.
"It's pretty humbling, for sure," Hardwick said. "You've got guys with families dealing with real situations. You don't normally expect that coming to work. Normally, the worst-case scenario is when you miss a block or something, but if your house is burning down and you have to get your family out of the city, that's a different issue."
Tomlinson's business manager, Lamar Andrews, said he checked on the player at 5 a.m. and he and his wife had already left their home. Andrews said two other players he represents, safety Marlon McCree and linebacker Matt Wilhelm, also evacuated.
Chargers long snapper David Binn said the first concern is to make sure everyone is safe. "Whatever happens after that, you go with the flow," he said. "At some point you have to get back to football. Obviously the NFL is not going to stop for a fire. It'll be a distraction for sure, but not something we can't overcome."
If the Texans-Chargers game is moved to Arizona, Houston coach Gary Kubiak said he heard it could be played Sunday night or Monday night. The Cardinals' stadium, located in Glendale, is scheduled to host a motorcycle show Friday through Sunday.
"They'll figure out a time for us to play the football game," he said. "You're concerned for those people in California in those fires. I've been through that in Denver and that's a horrible thing, so you just keep them in your prayers and we'll figure out what to do with the football game."
The Mountain West Conference said Saturday night's game between BYU and San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium remains scheduled.
AP Sports Writers Bob Baum in Phoenix and Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.