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Hunt: Chiefs, Rams relocated 100 percent for player safety

While league officials scrambled to make a decision about the location of Monday night’s game between the Chiefs and the Rams, Reggie Ragland was laying around at home.

It was his day off, and he wasn’t worried about where the game would be played.

He saw pictures of the poor field conditions on television and Twitter, but if the game was played as planned at Azteca Stadium, the Chiefs linebacker would be ready to go. If it was moved to Los Angeles, he’d be ready to play there, too.

“We can play in this parking lot, and I’d be ready to go regardless,” Ragland said Wednesday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium where the Chiefs were hosting an event with Lift Up America to distribute food to more than 80 area relief organizations.

The league ultimately decided to move the game from Mexico City to LA Memorial Coliseum, making the call Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s 100 percent (about) player safety,” Chiefs CEO and Chairman Clark Hunt said. “That’s really what the decision was about, was not having the players play on a field that wasn’t safe.”

Hunt added he hadn’t heard any specific concerns from the Chiefs players, and Ragland said he hadn’t talked to any of his teammates about it.

Ragland, who traveled to Mexico with the NFL in July, wasn’t worried about the condition of the playing surface.

“I would’ve figured out how to adapt, like I always do,” he said. “If we would’ve played down there, I would’ve figured it out. But we’re not, and we’re going to LA.”

Though Ragland himself wasn’t overly concerned about his own safety playing on the field, the decision by the NFL to move the game is a major victory for the NFLPA and for the players, after many told ESPN’s Adam Schefter they wouldn’t play on the field if the game remained at Azteca Stadium.

“The NFL did a great job at protecting us,” Ragland said. “Some of the guys wanted to go and some don’t.”

Hunt first learned of significant concerns about the viability of the Mexico City game earlier this week. Some Chiefs officials traveled to Mexico a couple weeks ago, but Hunt said the league ultimately made the final decision to relocate the game.

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“I’m used to situations here, even with the Super Bowl, where the field has to be replaced on short notice,” Hunt said. “That’s something that can happen. The problem in Mexico is that field is a combination of synthetic and grass and you can’t just tear down and just put sod down like you can with a grass field.”

Hunt was obviously disappointed with the inability to have the game go on as scheduled, both for the NFL as a whole and for the Chiefs franchise.

“I certainly don’t think it’s a positive for the league,” Hunt said. “Mexico has been a central piece to our efforts to grow the game internationally. Obviously, the NFL has a lot of fans in Mexico because of the proximity to the United States.

“As an organization, we were looking forward to going down there to represent the Chiefs Kingdom. It was a great opportunity for us to get to grow our fan base down there. It’s just not going to happen this year.”

Hunt said the Chiefs organization would help fans get ticket refunds if they wanted them and would help fans who decide to make the trip to Los Angeles obtain tickets. He also added there have been internal discussions about doing something for season-ticket holders who were going to attend the game in Mexico City, but he didn’t offer any specifics. United and American Airlines both announced Wednesday night they would waive change fees for fans who were scheduled to travel to Mexico City for the game.

League officials are scheduled to meet with partners in Mexico next week to talk about the future of the game. And despite the debacle with this year’s game, Hunt said he wasn’t concerned about playing another game there.

“I wouldn’t be hesitant at all,” Hunt said of scheduling future games in Mexico City. “Usually when you have something like this happen, the correct measures are taken and the chances of having a repeat with the field being a problem, that’s not going to happen going forward. I hope we will have an opportunity to play down there. … “The hope is that we’ll be able to play more games down there, hopefully in 2019 and beyond.”

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Brooke Pryor

Brooke Pryor covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.

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