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Nasty weather a regular at early-season NFL games

  • New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, right, leaves the field after lightning forced a weather delay during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

    New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, right, leaves the field after lightning forced a weather delay during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

  • New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and the rest of the team leave the field after lightning forced a weather delay during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and the rest of the team leave the field after lightning forced a weather delay during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

  • New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and the rest of the team leave the field after lightning forced a weather delay during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and the rest of the team leave the field after lightning forced a weather delay during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

  • New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, right, leaves the field after lightning forced a weather delay during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  • New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and the rest of the team leave the field after lightning forced a weather delay during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  • New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and the rest of the team leave the field after lightning forced a weather delay during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Nasty weather often plagues the NFL. Everyone knows about the Lambeau tundra or the whipping winter winds off Lake Erie in Cleveland.

But for Mother Nature to wreak havoc with games in September? That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.

Already, three games, including two in prime time, have been disrupted by weather issues, mostly lightning. Kickoff for the Ravens-Broncos opener to the season on Sept. 5 in Denver was delayed for 33 minutes. On Sunday, New Orleans’s visit to Tampa Bay was interrupted for 69 minutes. And the showcase matchup of San Francisco at Seattle went through a one-hour delay in the first quarter Sunday night.

Hardly ideal – for the teams, the fans, or the folks watching on TV. But necessary.

“We knew ahead of time we would have weather sometime during the game, early in the game,” said Mike Kensil, the league’s vice president of game operations who was in Seattle on Sunday. “We have a security meeting at 100 minutes (before kickoff), at 90 minutes a meeting with the TV teams, and we go through the scenarios in case there is weather.

“We go through our meteorological services and the services the stadium uses. Safety is paramount.”

Lightning is the biggest worry because it’s so unpredictable and dangerous, Kensil said. The NFL and stadium authorities track any storm that includes lightning, and when it gets within 5 miles, meteorologists try to predict its path toward the stadium.

“Last night, it was tracking to come right over the stadium,” Kensil added. “We knew within a mile and a half of the stadium we would have to clear the field. As we were clearing the field, we had a bolt of lightning somewhere (nearby).”

Scoreboard messages, public address system announcements and word of mouth all are used to clear a stadium. Fans generally are sent into the covered corridors or even into lounges until the storm clears the area.

It’s an awkward process for the players. Already in the midst of heavy action, they not only have to stop playing for a lengthy break, but then need to fire up their engines again.

“I’ve never had a rain delay, ever, in football,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “It was kind of one of those things, you don’t want to do too much and wear yourself out. We sat around a little bit and once they gave us that 10-minute warning (to return to the field), we started to warm up again and go over some last minute checks and started over.

“We did the same pregame ritual that we usually do, we just restarted the whole process.”

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson took a shower during the interruption. He probably had time for a few of them because, according to Coach Pete Carroll, game officials told the teams several times they would be heading back to the field, only to further delay resuming play.

Seattle’s coaches reviewed plays from the 11 minutes that were played and discussed adjustments.

“Absolutely we did,” Carroll said. “It was a great opportunity for us; I’m sure they were doing the same thing. We did all kinds of things in all phases where it was needed. We coached throughout the time, other than when the music was blaring in the locker room.”

Sean Payton and his New Orleans staff kept after the trainers and players to make sure everyone remained hydrated.

“You deal with it,” tackle Zach Streif said. “I think everyone felt fine going back out. Again, if that happens in the middle of the third quarter in a big game, much tougher. They handled it well in here.”

Ah, but remember this when it comes to Mother Nature: The Super Bowl next February is being played in New Jersey. Outdoors.

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