JACKSONVILLE – Hurricane Irma will alter the Jaguars' travel plans.
The Jaguars, who will play the Houston Texans in Houston on Sunday in the 2017 regular-season opener, on Friday announced that the team will not return to Jacksonville Sunday evening following the game. NFL teams typically return to their cities immediately following road games.
Hurricane Irma is expected to reach South Florida Sunday – and to reach North Florida Monday morning as a Category 1 storm – according to the National Hurricane Center's 11 a.m. Friday forecast.
The Jaguars said in a statement the team will re-evaluate travel plans Monday morning.
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said he learned of the schedule change shortly before practice late Friday morning. He informed the team of the change following practice.
"Obviously the No. 1 issue for us is the safety of our players," Marrone said. "Our thoughts go to the first responders, the people of Jacksonville and really people throughout Florida."
Marrone said it's unrealistic to believe players won't be thinking about and discussing Irma and the situation in Jacksonville as Sunday approaches.
"It would be kind of ignorant if we thought we were going to be there and a hurricane hits the state of Florida and we're not going to be praying and looking at it on the news," Marrone said. "What do you do? Do you tell someone, 'Hey, let's try not to be human beings here for a minute? Let's forget about that?' I don't think you can do that.
"It's a situation that has occurred? Is it adversity? Absolutely, and it's one we have to deal with. I'm going to be sitting in Houston in a hotel and I'm going to be thinking about the people who are here. Does it weigh on you? Yes. But there's a point where you play."
The team's official statement:
"In consideration for the safety of our players, coaches and staff, the Jacksonville Jaguars will remain in Houston following Sunday's game and will reevaluate travel options on Monday morning. We will be thinking of those in our city and throughout Florida and the southeast who will be affected, as well as the first responders who will be working through this storm. We look forward to returning to Jacksonville as soon as possible."