Ike forces NFL to postpone Ravens-Texans

OWINGS MILLS -- The mass destruction caused by Hurricane Ike forced the NFL to postpone the Baltimore Ravens' road game against the Houston Texans for a second time, moving the contest to Nov. 9.

Hurricane Ike struck Texas' Gulf Coast as a strong Category 2 storm early Saturday morning, and its 110 mph winds tore five sections off of Reliant Stadium's retractable roof with large pieces of debris falling inside the $352 million venue.

Initially slated to play the Texans on Sunday, the Ravens' game was first postponed until Monday night and ultimately pushed back to Baltimore's original bye week.

"Our thoughts and prayers are all with those impacted by the hurricane," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We will adjust. Our focus now turns to preparing for the Browns."

The league rescheduled the Ravens-Texans game to the 10th week of the season, which was the Ravens' bye week.=0 A

The NFL shifted the Texans-Cincinnati Bengals game, which was scheduled for Week 10, to the eighth week of the season on Oct. 26, the bye week for the Texans and the Bengals.

"It's Mother Nature, you can't fight it or complain about it," Ravens center Jason Brown said Saturday night. "We just have to let her run her course and manage the effects afterwards. I heard the dome took a beating. Our prayers go out the families and all the disaster crews helping them out.

"It's difficult because we had started to get into that game mode. We had put together a long week of preparation. You have your body and your mind prepared for the whole deal, and then there's no event. It's really unfortunate, but the first thing is safety for the families down there, for the people of Houston and the surrounding areas."

Because of the postponement, Harbaugh has given the players off Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The Ravens (1-0) will begin preparation for the Browns (0-1) on Wednesday for next weekend's game at M&T Bank Stadium.

"Without a bye, we believe we need to20give the players the next few days off," Harbaugh said. "We'll have a Cleveland

The late-breaking development means the Ravens will have to play 15 consecutive games without a break.

Several Ravens players are unhappy with the league's decision and had already made plans with family for the bye, but they are sympathetic to the Texans' plight.

For example, former Ravens safety Will Demps has no power in his Houston residence. Many Texans players couldn't even make it out of their neighborhoods due to fallen trees.

The NFL held a conference call with Ravens and Texans team officials Saturday afternoon and had previously discussed alternate sites, including the New Orleans Saints' Superdome and the Atlanta Falcons' Georgia Dome. Ravens kicker Matt Stover, the team's union representative, and Texans tight end Mark Bruener, his team's rep, were involved in the discussions. game plan ready for them when they come in on Wednesday."

Ultimately, it was determined that it was logistically impossible to pull off the game at an alternate site on such short notice. The Houston airports were closed, too.

Plus, it would have likely been regarded as insensitive to even play the game in light of the devastation in Texas.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided Thursday to wait it out and see how much damage Hurricane Ike would inflict prior to making a final call Saturday evening.

Instead of having the Texans leave town last week to prepare to play at an alternate site or in Baltimore, the league chose to avoid the potential backlash that ensued in 2005 when the New York Giants received an extra home game when they hosted the New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina.

Because of the problems with Reliant Stadium, the Texans may have to play their home games on a temporary basis at Rice Stadium or the Alamodome in San Antonio.

"There are parts of the roof that are completely gone," Shea Guinn, the president and general manager of Reliant Park, told Houston reporters. "It's hard to tell what came from where."

This was going to be the Texans' only home game this month. Now, their stadium is in disarray and all their games are on the road until October.

For the Ravens, they have to quickly shift their focus to the Browns.

"I guess you just have to look forward to our next game," Brown said. "I know a couple of guys have a few nagging injuries, including me, so maybe this gives us a couple of days to regroup and rehab and get ready for next Sunday's game. We'll do what we have to do to move on from this."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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