Air quality concerns leave NFL considering alternate sites for Raiders game

Air quality concerns leave NFL considering alternate sites for Raiders game

ALAMEDA – Air quality around the Bay Area hasn’t been good.

Smoke and particulates emanating from the wildfires raging through Napa and Sonoma Counties has created what the Enviornmental Protection Agency considers “unhealthy’ conditions in several parts of the region south of the fire sites.

While these air-quality issues don’t in any way compare to fires affecting residents in the North Bay – at least 29 people have died, with hundreds more missing -- they could impact Sunday afternoon’s football game between the Raiders and Chargers at Oakland Coliseum.

The game game remains set to play as scheduled. For now, at least.

“We continue to monitor air quality conditions in the Bay Area and are in close communication with both the NFL and Chargers, as well as local authorities,” the Raiders said in a statement. “At this point, the game remains scheduled for Sunday in Oakland.”

The NFL echoed that sentiment earlier in the day, though they are exploring alternate sites.

The Raiders don't want to change the date or the site. They'd prefer to stay put, especially considering they've already lost a home game to Mexico City. They play the New England Patriots there in Week 9. 

Enviornmental factors, however, may force the Raiders hand. 

They have a few options, none of them ideal.

The 49ers are on the road this week, leaving Levi’s Stadium  open as an alternative. A league source NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco that the NFL has reached out about the prospect of using the Santa Clara venue That would avoid travel stresses accompanied by leaving the market. The problem: that stadium is 33 miles south of Oakland Coliseum, and the air quality there hasn’t been much better than near the Raiders home field.

The Los Angeles Rams are on the road, leaving L.A. Coliseum available as well. San Diego mayor Kevin Falcouner offered to host the game at the venue formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium. The NFL might want to avoid putting the Raiders in their old haunts – the played at the L.A. Coliseum from 1982-94 – or bring the Chargers back to a still-angry San Diego market they left a few months ago.

The Raiders and Chargers can’t swap home games, as the StubHub! Center’s primary tenant, the L.A. Galaxy soccer team, as a game set for Sunday.

Moving the game date to a Monday night in Oakland is also complicating, considering the Raiders host Kansas City the following Thursday night.

The Seattle Seahawks are on a bye, and the game could be moved to CenturyLink Field in a pinch.

The EPA considered Oakland and Alameda air quality “unhealthy” on Wednesday and Thursday, recommending even healthy adults limit heavy exertion. Playing football outdoors would fall into that category, and caused the Raiders to pare their practice schedule on the aforementioned dates.

Michael Crabtree, Jalen Richard and receiver Isaac Whitney wore surgical masks during Thursday’s practice to prevent inhaling contaminants. The situation is not ideal for sport, at least not right now.

It’s difficult to forecast air quality, given unpredictable wind changes and fire patterns. The Raiders and the league should have to make a decision Friday to allow the Raiders and Chargers to change/create travel plans and for site plans to be finalized.

There is precedent for moving an NFL game late. A 2003 Chargers-Dolphins game was moved to Monday might in Arizona just 24 hours before kickoff due to wildfires in the San Diego region. Tickets in Arizona were free, with donations directed toward fire relief, and refunds were given to those who bought tickets for the game as originally scheduled.

Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018


Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018

The Raiders signed veteran running back Doug Martin on Thursday, prompting many to believe the move meant the end of Marshawn Lynch's time in Oakland.

But as it has been expected, Martin is just another piece to go along with Lynch in the Raiders' backfield. According to multiple national reports, Lynch will remain in Silver and Black this upcoming season. 

The news will become official when the Raiders pay Lynch his $1 million roster bonus on Sunday. 

“One of the reasons I’m excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. We’ll see what happens," Jon Gruden told Insider Scott Bair at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We have to take a look at the entire roster, but I’m counting on him. I’m counting on him being a big part of this football team.”

Lynch, 31, rushed for 891 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and scored seven touchdowns for the Raiders in 2017. 

New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'


New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'

Rashaan Melvin has the supreme confidence of a No. 1 cornerback, with none of the pedigree. Top cover men are often drafted high, paid well or both, with a steady ascent to elite status.

This undrafted talent bounced around the league without job security, trying and often failing to find NFL footing.

Melvin spent time with Tampa Bay, Miami, Baltimore, New England and Miami again before establishing himself in Indianapolis. The Colts gave him a real shot and he took advantage, evolving into the team’s top cornerback. Last year was Melvin’s best, but it didn’t provide a long-term contract despite a bull market for cover men.

Melvin signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Raiders on Friday, the type of prove-it deal that could establish a big payday down this time next year. The 28-year old doesn’t consider that pressure. Melvin knowns another big year's on the way, one that proves he's an elite cornerback

"I’m here to dominate the league," Melvin said Friday in a conference call. "It might be time for some new faces at the cornerback position. That’s my take on that. I’m excited for it.”

Melvin wouldn’t trade his long road for a conventional path, and believes experience both good and bad has prepared him for a pivotal season.

“I’ve been cut four times,” Melvin said. “I’ve been in four different locker rooms, and I was able to gain my teammates’ trust, my coaches’ trust and the organization’s trust as well. My confidence just grows over time. There are not a lot of players that can say they’ve been cut four times and end up in a situation where I’m at today. Like I said, it’s perfect timing. My work ethic, my style of play and the way I approach the game and the way I approach my job, my business, it speaks for itself.”

Melvin’s work ethic is unquestioned. His reputation as a grinder is well documented, especially after establishing himself in Indianapolis. Commitment to a craft has created a player with consistent coverage and ball skills.

Melvin was excellent last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Melvin created an incomplete pass (combining passes defensed and interceptions) on 23.6 percent of his targets.

Passers had a 60.3 passer rating against him in 2017, with just 29 completions for 328 yards on 55 targets. The passer rating was 86.6 in 2016, his only other season as a regular starter.

The Raiders need that type of player on the outside. They’ve had inconsistent cornerback play (that’s being kind) in recent seasons, and are hoping Melvin provides stability at a key position. The Northern Illinois alum has loftier aspirations, individually and as the leader of a young position group.

“The goal is to be the best player I can be, first-team All-Pro,” Melvin said. “I’m going to show my leadership, help these young guys out this year. They have tons of potential to be successful in their own careers. For me coming in here and being the leader and showing that, hey, this is what it takes to be successful in this football league, that’s what I’m willing to do. That’s what I’m willing to bring to the table. On the football field, but outside as well.”

Paying $6.5 million for all that would be a bargain. Melvin’s the key acquisition in a secondary built around 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph and 2017 first-round cornerback Gareon Conley. This secondary can be solid if those guys can realize potential and Melvin’s a true No. 1 cornerback.

He considers that title appropriate, and is ready to show he’s more that a one-year wonder. The Raiders have great confidence in Melvin, something clear after targeting him early in the free-agent process. Financing’s always a big factor, but Friday’s meeting with head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and secondary coach Derrick Ansley convinced Melvin that Oakland’s a proper fit.

“I can relate to these guys,” Melvin said. “They have big plans for me, big plans for the organization. I was born to be a part of something special; that’s happening in Oakland. It was a good thing. We were able to get everything done, a deal done. I’m just excited to be here and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us as a team and me as a player.”