Raiders still planning to host Chargers after smoke concerns

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The Raiders are still planning to host the Los Angeles Chargers in Oakland on Sunday despite concerns about poor air quality resulting from wildfires in California’s wine country.

The team said Friday that officials will continue to monitor the air quality in the Bay Area and would update fans if there were changes regarding the game.

Thick smoke and ash have filled Bay Area skies since the wildfires started Sunday about 50 miles north of Oakland. The fires have killed 31 people and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses.

The NFL has been monitoring the air quality, which forced the Raiders to alter their outdoor schedule this week and raised the possibility that the game would be moved.

“I think we’re going to be fine,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “Obviously it’s a serious situation what’s going on up north. A lot of people have had their lives turned upside down. Some people have lost their lives so it’s a tough deal.”

Del Rio said that the conditions near the team’s facilities have improved over the past two days. Even so, the Raiders have advised players on precautionary steps to take, including the use of masks while outside.

League spokesman Joe Lockhart had said previously that because of the logistics involved in moving the game, a decision would most likely come Friday. Lockhart also noted that no decision had been made regarding the Raiders’ home game next Thursday against Kansas City.

“Historically when we need to move to an alternative site, we can’t wait until the day before,” Lockhart said. “I think the primary factor here is air quality. If we believe the air quality is at a level that playing the game would not be in the best interest or the safety of our players, we would move the game. If we believe it is at an acceptable level, we would play there.”

Numerous high schools in the Bay Area canceled their Friday night games earlier in the week. Conditions in Berkeley and Stanford, where a pair of college games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights, were also being monitored.

Del Rio said the Raiders “shrunk everything a little bit” when it came to practice.

“The reps that we typically get, we got looks at,” he said. “We didn’t do it in pads on Wednesday like we would have. The pacing was reduced a little but we got the looks we needed to get.”

Del Rio confirmed that quarterback Derek Carr will play after sitting out last week’s loss to Baltimore with a broken bone in his back.

“He’ll be ready to play,” Del Rio said. “I think it was smart to give him the week, which we did. Even though he was pushing for last week. He’s cleared to go and got the green light. Doctors and trainers all gave him the go. He had a full week of practice for the most part, so we’re ready to go.”

Notes: Del Rio indicated that rookie safety Obi Melifonwu is likely to come off injured reserve and could begin practicing next week. The team’s second-round draft pick underwent knee surgery late in the preseason. Wide receiver Amari Cooper (knee), right guard Gabe Jackson (foot) and tight end Lee Smith (knee) all came off the injury report and will play. First-round draft pick Gareon Conley (shin), cornerback Antonio Hamilton (knee), linebacker Marquel Lee (knee) and fullback Jamize Olawale (concussion) are out.

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