California wildfires affect practices for Rams, Raiders

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The Los Angeles Rams canceled practice and the Oakland Raiders were limited to just a walkthrough because of raging wildfires in California on Friday.

The Rams’ top priority was to ensure the safety of players, coaches, staff members and their families, many of whom live in Ventura and Los Angeles county communities where an estimated 75,000 homes have been placed under evacuation orders because of the Woolsey Fire.

“We just felt like the most important thing was for the guys to be with their families, their wives and their kids and be that support structure and do things the right way and not have them come in and be totally distracted like I know I would be if I was in their role,” coach Sean McVay said.

Forty-five people in the organization, including 20 players and coaches, were evacuated from their homes.

Meanwhile, the Raiders, affected by poor air quality stemming from the Camp Fire in Northern California, also adjusted their schedule from what was scheduled to be a full practice.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he “did not know” if the air quality might affect Sunday’s home game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I just hope that the fires go away,” Gruden said. “I’m more concerned about a lot of people that are being impacted by this. We’ll react to whatever the circumstances are [regarding the game]. Let’s hope that, you know, this ends fast.”

The NFL issued a statement on Friday saying they are “monitoring conditions in California and are in close communication with the clubs and local authorities,” but Sunday’s games are still scheduled to begin at their regularly scheduled times.

McVay said he realized the Rams’ plans for the day would need to be altered when he was a on a text-message chain with coaches around 3 a.m. Friday, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive line coach Bill Johnson said they had to leave their homes.

McVay said, to his knowledge, no homes belonging to members of the organization had caught fire.

Rams right guard Austin Blythe thanked first responders on Twitter.

The Rams’ practice facility at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks has been unaffected by the fire.

The Rams (8-1) are scheduled to play the Seattle Seahawks (4-4) at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. The Coliseum, located 55 miles southeast of the practice facility, is unlikely to be affected by the fires or resulting poor air quality, but team executives have been in communication with the NFL in case the situation were to change.

McVay said the Rams are scheduled to hold a Saturday morning meeting at the team hotel in Los Angeles, and that they will hold a 75-minute practice on the campus of the University of Southern California.

Elsewhere, the San Francisco 49ers moved Friday’s practice in Santa Clara up an hour because of the air quality being affected by smoke. The team remains in contact with the NFL ahead of Monday night’s game against the New York Giants.

“I’ve got to [pay attention to the wildfires]; I’ve got kids,” Niners cornerback Richard Sherman said. “They’re at school and I just talked to my wife, making sure they’re not letting them go outside. Some of these schools, you would think it’s common sense, but you’ve got to make sure when people are dealing with your kids. But there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on out there today.”

The devastating fires come a day after a mass shooting that claimed 12 victims at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, which is just over 4 miles from the Rams’ practice facility and 7 miles from the team’s headquarters in Agoura Hills.

Former soccer player Eric Wynalda, who played at three World Cups for the U.S. national team, confirmed Friday that his family lost its home in Westlake Village, located between Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills.

“We lost our home but we are safe,” Wynalda wrote on Twitter. “You can rebuild homes, replace belongings, you can’t replace life. We cannot forget that now more than ever. Please support the ones who need it the most and continue to honor those who serve to keep us safe. Count your blessings folks- I am.”

Wynalda, now the coach of the USL’s Las Vegas Lights and an analyst for Fox Sports, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he was evacuated in the early hours of Friday morning and later watched his home burn on live television.

ESPN’s Nick Wagoner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source : http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/25227748/wildfires-affect-practices-los-angeles-rams-oakland-raiders