The NFL was ready to take the international stage on Monday night as the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams were scheduled to play in Mexico City. Just days before kickoff, the NFL announced it was moving the game to Los Angeles after there was growing concern over the Estadio Azteca field conditions.
“Until very recently, we had no major concerns,” NFL executive vice president Mark Waller said per The New York Times. “But the combination of a difficult rainy season and a heavy multi-event calendar of events at the stadium have resulted in significant damage to the field that presents unnecessary risks to player safety and makes it unsuitable to host an N.F.L. game.”
According to NFL.com, the league will return to Mexico City in 2019. The specific teams and details will not be announced until the release of the 2019 schedule.
Here’s a couple photos showing just how bad the field looked in the days leading up to Monday Night Football.
According to NFL insider Jay Glazier, a number of Rams and Chiefs players threatened to boycott the game if it was played in Mexico Cit,y including Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt. The NFL moved the game to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum creating a bit of a logistical nightmare given the site was not scheduled to host the game until just a few days ago.
ESPN detailed some of the challenges of getting the Coliseum ready in time for the big Monday night game.
The Rams will now scramble to get security, concessions and all other logistical aspects lined up to host a major prime-time game in six days. USC plays at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, against crosstown rival UCLA, and there aren’t many other sporting events taking place in Los Angeles over the weekend, which helps the Rams with the quick turnaround.
Both teams still will wear their Color Rush uniforms. The Rams plan to honor the community events they scheduled in Mexico leading up to their game, including a charitable 10K race, hospital visits and the construction of a playground.
The inordinate amount of rainfall was believed to be the major factor in the poor field conditions.
The NFL Also Made Changes to the Officials for the Rams-Chiefs Game
The country and venue of the Monday night game is not the only thing that changed. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert reported that the NFL made changes to referee Clete Blakeman’s crew to make sure it was full of the league’s best officials given the magnitude of the game. It is a rare occurrence during the regular season adding even more changes for the Chiefs-Rams matchup.
The NFL took the unusual step this week of assigning an “all-star” officiating crew to the most highly anticipated game of the season, adding to the playofflike frenzy for Monday night’s matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams.
Referee Clete Blakeman will work the game with only two members of his regular crew, umpire Ramon George and down judge Dana McKenzie. The other five officials — including Jim Lapetina, who will handle replay — were plucked from three other crews.
The approach is similar to how the NFL assigns officials to playoff games, a process that is based on performance and seniority rather than crew. But it is rarely, if ever, employed before the postseason.