TEMPE – The San Diego Chargers worked out, waited and wondered Thursday where and when they will play their next game.
With their home stadium being used as an evacuation center for people fleeing wildfires in the San Diego area, the Chargers went through what coach Norv Turner called “one of our best practices of the year.”
The Chargers are scheduled to play at home against the Houston Texans on Sunday, and a decision from San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on the availability of the stadium had been expected Thursday. However, no word came.
“No decision has been made at this time,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “When a decision is made, we will certainly let you know.”
The team shifted its practices to the Arizona Cardinals’ training facility Wednesday. Daily workouts are scheduled through Friday. Where the Chargers go after that remained a mystery.
Among the possibilities were keeping the game in San Diego but moving it to Monday night.
If that happened, Turner said, “I hope it would help” the community.
“I don’t want to say a football game is going to minimize what’s happened there,” he said. “We have a lot of players that have friends, neighbors, relatives that have lost everything they have. I can’t imagine being in that position. I can’t imagine what those people are going through.”
Sanders said he believes Qualcomm Stadium can be ready for a game Sunday.
“It depends on what the NFL wants,” Sanders said. “We believe it could be played, but I think the NFL and Chargers have concerns. They’re talking them out, about air quality and about taking public safety personnel off the street if this continues in the backcountry.”
Smith back for 49ers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Alex Smith is ready to find out whether he’s the solution to the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive woes.
The quarterback will start Sunday against New Orleans, returning from a four-week absence because of a separated shoulder. Smith went through his second full day of practice Thursday, leading the first-teamers through workouts with no discomfort.
“To have to sit out the last few games and not be able to help out your team, it was tough,” Smith said. “When you get to this point in the season, you’re playing for the guys next to you. I’m proud to be back in the huddle.”
Smith hasn’t played since injuring his right shoulder on the third play of San Francisco’s 23-3 loss to Seattle on Sept. 30.
TEMPE – The Arizona Cardinals need this off week to rest their brains as well as their bruised bodies.
First-year coach Ken Whisenhunt wants a tough, smart team. Well, he’s halfway there.
The Cardinals have played tough under the former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator. Playing smart, though, has been a problem.
“You can’t win when you lead the league in penalties,” cornerback Eric Green said.
Arizona has been penalized a league-worst 59 times for 497 yards. It also is minus-7 in turnovers. Still, the Cardinals’ 3-4 start is their best since 2002, and they are just one game behind Seattle in the weak NFC West.
“If we do some of the things I said we were going to do that we haven’t done, which is be smart and be disciplined, not have the penalties, our record would be a little better than it is now,” Whisenhunt said.
The new coach also is fighting what he perceives is a built-in bias by officials who consider the team mistake-prone and sloppy.
“Until we win more games, we’re going to get some of those penalty calls,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s the natural way that I think this team is perceived sometimes, but sometimes they’re (the penalties) very justified.”