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'Optimism' about Chargers playing at home

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SAN DIEGO -- Mayor Jerry Sanders said Thursday that Qualcomm Stadium should be ready by Sunday to play host to the Chargers' game against the Houston Texans. But he said the decision whether to play the game there as scheduled was up to the team and the NFL.

Sanders said Qualcomm is scheduled to close at noon today as an evacuation center for people displaced by wildfires in the San Diego area. And while people had been waiting for Sanders to make a decision about the game, the mayor indicated the decision to proceed was up to the league and the Chargers.

"It depends on what the NFL wants," Sanders said. "We believe it could be played, but I think the NFL and Chargers have concerns. They're talking them out, about air quality and about taking public safety personnel off the street if this continues in the backcountry.

"They're going through a process that we appreciate. They're thinking about public safety and what's best for the community."

Stadium general manager Erik Stover said "all options are still being discussed."

And NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, "No decision has been made at this time. When a decision is made, we will certainly let you know."

A county supervisor said earlier Thursday it appeared the team would be playing at home.

"I'm sensing some optimism that there will be a game on Sunday," Supervisor Ron Roberts said at a news briefing Thursday morning.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Texas Stadium outside Dallas and Houston's Reliant Stadium were alternative sites being considered for the game. There has also been speculation the game would be kept in San Diego, but moved to Monday night.

Chargers Coach Norv Turner said he hoped a game would be a welcome diversion for the community, when and wherever it's played.

"If we could provide a little bit of relief, a 3 1/2 -hour relief and a little bit of excitement and drama, hopefully that would help," he said.

More than 40 of the team's players, coaches and staff members were among those who evacuated their homes starting early Monday morning. Among them was Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal, who said the situation faced by many San Diegans was a far more pressing issue than where the football game would be played.

"You work so hard to build your dream home and your life and everything is gone in a matter of hours," he said Thursday, "memories that you can't replace, pictures and different things that can't be replaced even if you do have insurance."

The last two days, the Chargers have practiced in Tempe, Ariz.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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