FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Tom Savage longs to hold his tiny daughter and spend some quality time with his wife.
J.J. Watt wants to do more than raise money via video on social media about 250 miles from Houston with the city swamped by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey.
While wanting simply to be home with family and friends, the Texans are instead stranded in the Dallas area. And now what was supposed to be a home preseason game against Dallas will be played at the Cowboys stadium Thursday night.
“It’s very, very tough,” said Watt, the star defensive end who posted Monday that a fundraising effort that included selfie videos had raised more than $500,000 within 24 hours. “It’s very difficult to watch, your family, your friends, your city, go through a time like this and not be there to help.”
After losing an exhibition game at New Orleans on Saturday, the Texans essentially flew over their flood-stricken city on the way to Dallas. They practiced Monday at Cowboys headquarters, and were hotel hopping because of the uncertainty over what was next.
The NFL said late Monday afternoon that the exhibition game Thursday night was being moved to Arlington “due to public safety concerns resulting from the ongoing weather emergency related to Hurricane Harvey.” The statement said the league and Texans would continue to closely monitor the situation in Houston and adjust the team’s plans as necessary.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the Texans were planning another practice at Dallas’ facility on Tuesday afternoon.
Instead of a singular focus on his first season-opening start as an NFL quarterback, Savage was in constant contact with his wife between meetings and other team activities. At least he could say he was seeing his 7-month-old daughter, Summer, in video phone chats.
“Here you kind of feel like a little handcuffed,” Savage said. “You can’t do anything and as a father, you want to be there to support her and protect her. That’s the hardest thing for all the guys. I can speak for them. We’re the fathers. We want to be out there.”
While sidestepping any specifics, coach Bill O’Brien said several coaches and players had homes in neighborhoods with both mandatory and voluntary evacuations. O’Brien said there were about 10 players in Houston and that everyone associated with the club was accounted for.
“Every individual is dealing with some different things,” O’Brien said. “But we’re on top of that and in touch with them.”
The Texans had been home less than a week after spending training camp in West Virginia when they left for New Orleans. Conditions in Houston deteriorated during the day of the game against the Saints, and the team revealed afterward that it was headed for Dallas.
Savage said the message from his wife has been to keep his focus on football.
“She’s always texting me every five minutes telling me Summer’s OK,” the former Pittsburgh standout said. “She’s very supportive and understanding. But at the same time, I’ve seen her probably three days in the last month.”
Players went through a light workout in shorts, helmets and jerseys on an outdoor turf field with the Dallas’ star logo at the 50-yard line and “Cowboys” emblazoned in the end zones. The club used locker rooms that normally house high school teams at the 12,000-seat indoor stadium that is another practice field for the Cowboys.
“We’ve tried to accommodate them the best we can,” O’Brien said. “We’re trying to concentrate on football. But we’re making sure that our players have time to be in contact with their families.”
Watt questioned whether the preseason finale for both teams should be played, saying there should be a fundraising component to it. The Texans are supposed to open the regular season at home against Jacksonville on Sept. 10.
“You feel a little helpless,” Watt said. “I feel like I’m up here in Dallas and I’m practicing football and in a hotel watching it on TV. It’s very tough to know that all the people are back there and you really can’t do anything about it.”
Savage believes in one thing the Texans can do about it — in a little less than two weeks against the Jaguars.
“We’re all really concerned going back,” said Savage, who is set for his third career start. “But at the same time, it would be a good, kind of breath of fresh air to get a win versus Jacksonville for the city. That’s our focus right now.”
The other focus is family.
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