The NFL’s desire to spread the gospel of football ran into a stumbling block in the form of an overused and under-nurtured field surface in Mexico that created a player safety hazard. It all came to a head earlier this week with the Monday Night Football showcase game between the Chiefs and Rams in Mexico City ultimately moved to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
While players reportedly raised concerns and even voiced the possibility of refusing to play on the unfit field, Rams coach Sean McVay said he received input from his players about the field conditions although the league ruled before it became an issue. Chiefs coach Andy Reid proclaimed from the start of the week that he’d put his faith in the league to handle the situation, and he came away looking somewhat sage.
While Mexico City lost the game and the NFL lost the exposure of such an even, it seems Chiefs players have quickly turned the page and already completely shifted their focus to game preparations with minimal thought now being given to the venue or circumstances.
“We talk about communication all the time, and want to make sure (we know) how our players are feeling with regards to certain things that we’re asking or things they might have to be exposed to,” McVay said during a conference call with Kansas City reporters on Thursday.
“That’s definitely something — when it comes up that the field isn’t in great condition, you don’t shy away from those conversations. It kind of got handled in such a quick manner that it never really got further than addressing it and then the next thing you know they had moved the venue to play at the Coliseum.”
McVay called Tuesday’s decision to move the game a “continued demonstration” of the efforts to think of players’ health and safety first.
The Rams had planned to practice at altitude this week in Colorado Springs, Colo., before going to Mexico City. With wildfires in Southern California causing evacuations and affecting air quality, the Rams will stick to the plan and practice in Colorado Springs and return Saturday to LA.
“I have full trust in the league that they’re going to make the right decisions,” Reid said. “They take consideration of a lot of things. I’m sure there are a lot of things I don’t even know. … Things like this happen. Not very often in the National Football League, but it happened, and they are making the changes that probably need to be made. I will tell you that. If they are doing it, then it’s the right thing.”
Reid lauded Chiefs fans for the support they give the team on the road, and he expressed regret for the fans who made arrangements to attend the game and now can’t go. He also expressed disappointment for the fans of Mexico while stating the the team and the league looked forward to the experience of playing in Mexico City.
“It’s disappointing for sure just because seeing that environment and seeing that fan base and how excited they were for the game,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “I mean, you wanted to get out there and be in front of all those people and be able to show them American football and everything that we’re doing here, but we’re still going to be excited to play on Monday night in LA. That will be another great environment for us to get to go out and play against a really good team.”
The game will feature three potential MVP candidates in Rams’ star running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff as well as Mahomes. Mahomes and Goff rank first and second, respectively, in passing yards. Each team comes in with a 9-1 record.
“I don’t think it affects me or the other teammates,” Chiefs safety Ron Parker said of the game being moved to Los Angeles. “We still stick with our same routine, week in week out. We’ll stay on the same schedule as any other day. Nothing different.”
Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who is seven snaps away from having played 7,000 consecutive snaps since the start of his professional career, gave the impression that all road games are the same from a player’s perspective.
“From our standpoint, it’s easy,” Schwartz said. “We leave the day before the game. We get on the bus, the bus takes us to the airport. We get on the plane. Wherever the plane take us, we play.”