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Chargers practice in Arizona; await decision on game

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The San Diego Chargers, some of them forced from their homes by the threat of wildfires, worked out at the Arizona Cardinals' training facility on Wednesday and awaited word on where and when their next game will be played.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders planned to decide Thursday whether the Chargers will be able to play Houston as scheduled Sunday at their Qualcomm Stadium home field.

"We're waiting as long as we can to assess the need for a shelter as large as Qualcomm," the mayor's spokesman Fred Sainz said Wednesday.

"The mayor, when he spoke yesterday, said the concern is really not a football game, the concern was to assure people evacuated from their homes that they have a a safe place to go," Sainz said. "That remains our priority."

With the availability of Qualcomm Stadium uncertain, Texas Stadium in Dallas and Reliant Stadium in Houston have also been targeted as potential hosts for the game, eliminating Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., or locations in Los Angeles as potential sites.

The Chargers organization has remained in close contact with Sanders and the NFL on the matter.

"The Chargers continue to have only one goal: provide Mayor Sanders with the time and flexibility he needs to make whatever decision the Mayor believes is in the best interests of the people of San Diego," the team said in a statement. "The Chargers are fully prepared to implement whatever decision the Mayor makes, including either playing the game at Qualcomm Stadium or relocating the game to another facility outside the San Diego area."

Chargers president Dean Spanos said about 40 people in the organization had to evacuate their homes, including "17 or 18 players," because of the fires rampaging in the San Diego area. They included coach Norv Turner and quarterback Philip Rivers.

"So far I've heard that there haven't been any homes that have burned," Spanos said as the team began its practice, "but I haven't heard that officially."

An estimated 10,000 people were at the Qualcomm evacuation center on Wednesday.

"Obviously we'd like to play there, but it's totally up to the mayor," Spanos said. "I'm hoping this thing clears up by the weekend and we can play."

The team canceled its Monday practice in San Diego because of the smoky conditions, then decided to hold Wednesday, Thursday and Friday workouts in Arizona. The Cardinals have a bye this week.

The Chargers flew to Phoenix on Tuesday night, staying at a hotel in the north part of the city, far from the practice site. It was difficult to find housing on short-notice because those closer to the Cardinals' facility were booked.

"I think they're all coming together," Spanos said about the players. "In some ways, this kind of brings them all a little bit closer. It"s unfortunate the circumstances, but they're trying to make the worst situation the best possible situation that they can."

The team arrived in shoulder pads and helmets and began to work out as usual.

"I just talk to them out there for a little bit, and they seemed pretty upbeat," Spanos said. "The most important thing, at least from the football side, was to get here and get three days of practice in."

Spanos was en route to San Diego from the owners meeting in Philadelphia, where he had discussed possibilities for the Houston game with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

"Things are improving, but there are still people in the stadium," Goodell said earlier in the day.

The commissioner said there was "a slight possibility" that the game would be moved to Monday night in San Diego.

In Tempe, Spanos mentioned that scenario.

"We're waiting for the mayor to make a decision and then we're going to decide what's in the best interest of the club to go on from there," Spanos said. "There's always the option to play Monday night. If that's what we have to do, we'll do it, so that gives us another day (for conditions) to get better."

Nearly four years ago to the day, wildfires forced the Chargers to move a Monday night game against Miami to Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State campus. Fifteen players on the San Diego active roster were part of that move.

The Cardinals have since moved to their new stadium in suburban Glendale, but that facility is booked through Sunday by the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show.

Spanos said he hadn't thought about the implications of playing a "home" game in Houston's Reliant Stadium. He said the priority is making sure the families of the players and Chargers staff members who have had to leave their homes are "all situated and taken care of."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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