Each week during the football season, NFL games draw thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people to arenas around the country.
Everyone joins together to cheer and support their respective teams to victory.
Because of that, when foul weather or other circumstances occur, those thousands of people in the stands may face some disappointment when the game faces a delay.
You may wonder how long a game delay can last.
The last thing you want is to find yourself stuck in the stadium for hours because the weather isn’t ideal.
You also don’t waste your money by cutting out too early when a delay occurs.
Here’s what you need to know about the NFL and game delays.
How Long Can An NFL Game Be Delayed?
There is no limit to how long a delay can last.
A game delay can occur for many reasons.
The most common is poor weather.
The game cannot go on if there’s lightning nearby.
That’s because stadiums and the open field are prime targets for lighting.
Since stadiums use a lot of steel in their construction, the risk of electrocution is real.
The same goes for those playing on the field.
The open field means that the players are targets if they were to continue to play.
That said, in most cases, delays only last for a few minutes.
Once the storm clears, the game can resume.
There have been games, however, that had to move to a different date because of circumstances.
Some games didn’t even resume until a month later.
The circumstances determine how long the organization can delay a game, but it usually only lasts a few minutes.
Why Do Game Delays Occur?
There are several reasons a delay of the game might occur.
Here are some of those reasons.
The number one reason that a game faces a delay is lightning.
The NFL will still allow the game to continue in the presence of rain.
Even if there is thunder, the game will continue.
It’s only when they detect lightning within a few miles of the stadium that they call a delay.
The problem with this type of delay is that no one knows how long it’s going to last.
In most cases, the storm quickly passes over the area.
However, if it’s a long chain of thunderstorms with lightning, then there’s a good chance that the delay might go on for some time.
Fans also have to deal with the rain that’s occurring.
Their seats, as well as themselves, are likely soaked from all the water.
It doesn’t make for a conformable environment in which to watch the game.
The players also have difficulty playing during rainy games.
The field is wet and sometimes even flooded with rain.
The ball is wet which makes snapping, throwing, and catching the ball even more difficult.
The presence of water becomes a real threat with lightning strikes, too.
To ensure everyone’s safety, the NFL places a delay on the game and asks fans to return to their cars for safety or to hang around concessions until the storm passes.
The teams usually return to their locker rooms to wait it out, too.
Lightning is the main culprit behind delayed games.
Another big reason the NFL will delay a game is the threat of a hurricane.
Thanks to advancements in weather technology, most of the time, the area has a considerable warning before the hurricane hits.
This allows the NFL to take necessary precautions.
In most cases, if the weather and schedules permit it, they’ll delay the game by moving it a day ahead of the scheduled date.
This is a unique sense of a game delay since it’s technically delaying the game by pushing it forward in time.
The NFL only does this if the threat of the hurricane is near to the game’s date.
They want to make sure that everyone has enough time to get out of the area if necessary.
Hurricanes are an extreme type of weather event that happens during a particular part of the year.
Unfortunately, that time of the year also coincides with football season.
Hurricanes have destroyed stadiums before, which has also prompted delayed games since the match had to move to a different stadium.
Although meteorologists can track hurricanes these days, they can’t always account for sudden gusts of strong wind.
The weather that occurs ahead of the hurricane might also prompt a delay of game.
If the winds are too strong, for example, then the NFL might consider it too dangerous for the game to go on.
Not only does it make the game difficult to play, but there’s also a threat of flying debris in the air that could seriously injure someone.
While hurricanes are rarer than lightning strikes, they’re a reason the NFL delays games.
Football season tends to kick off right at the start of tornado season.
Tornado season occurs during the spring and is the result of sudden changes in warm and cold temperatures.
As the earth orbits closer to the sun, the variables that influence temperature can sometimes cause sudden spikes of heat or cold until it fully transitions to spring and summer.
The problem with tornados is that they’re not predictable.
They can occur at any time under the right conditions.
Once they form, weather experts can make some predictive models about where they think it’s going to travel.
However, they’re never 100% sure.
That’s one reason tornados are so dangerous.
A tornado may seem to be heading away from a stadium only for it to suddenly change course and head right for it instead.
If there’s a tornado threat in the area, then the game will likely proceed.
However, they’ll have weather experts cautiously tracking the tornado.
If it draws too near, then they’ll delay the game and have everyone move to a place of safety.
Like lighting storms, weather experts also can’t be too sure how long a tornado is going to stick around.
They form quickly and randomly and disappear quickly and randomly.
They also leave destruction in their wake.
The delay of a game may last only a few minutes if the tornado heads away.
It’s also possible that they will extend the delay if there’s a lot of carnage and destruction done to the stadium.
The players can’t play on a field that’s laden with structural components and debris.
The fans can’t cheer them on if they don’t have stands to sit in.
Tornados are a little rarer than lightning storms, but they are a serious danger that can cause the NFL to delay the game.
Perhaps the most dangerous weather element that can cause a delay of a game is earthquakes.
While there are areas where earthquakes are common, no one knows when one is going to hit.
Earthquakes cause far more damage than merely shaking your house.
They can cause sinkholes, tsunamis, and even force buildings to fall.
They’re a threat to stadiums, too.
Although stadiums use heavy-duty materials for their supports, they’re still subject to earthquake damage.
Many of them aren’t earthquake-proof, and they’re tall as well.
If an earthquake were to occur near the area, then there’s a chance that the stadium could collapse.
The worst part is that it might not even collapse that day.
It could take a day or two before it finally succumbs to the damage it took.
In these cases, there’s usually a team that inspects the stadium to determine its structural integrity.
The problem is that no one can use it while it’s under investigation.
The NFL ends up delaying the game and usually decides to move it to a nearby stadium outside of the earthquake zone instead.
This ensures that the players and their fans can focus on the game without worrying about whether the stadium is going to collapse or not.
It also removes the threat of a possible sinkhole opening up below the stadium.
The delay allows experts to check the area for safety.
Earthquakes are a serious danger that can occur at any time.
If one occurs at or near a stadium with a game scheduled that day or in the next few days, then the NFL will delay the game and move it to another location.
5. World Series
Outside of natural disasters, the World Series can also cause the NFL to delay the game.
For some part of the year, the baseball season and football season overlap.
Although it’s rare, it’s possible that one state might find itself playing in the World Series at the same time that their football team is playing.
Because of the confusion and traffic that this can cause, the NFL will sometimes delay the game or move it to a different stadium away from the stadium that’s hosting the World Series.
They don’t want to end up creating a conflict of interest.
Both the MLB and the NFL want as many people in their stadiums as possible to earn money.
Delaying the game ensures that they both get as many fans in their seats as they can.
It also allows NFL players to watch the World Series and root for their home team.
They’ll be less distracted during their own game if they’re major MLB fans.
Due to a myriad of issues, there’s a chance that the World Series might cause the NFL to delay the game and move it to a different stadium.
Not every region in the area is safe from wildfires.
Whenever California experiences a wildfire during the NFL season, there’s always a risk that they might delay the game.
Even if the wildfire isn’t close to the stadium, the presence of smoke is a serious danger.
Smoke can travel for miles and the burning of a large portion of a forest generates a lot of smoke.
The location of the wildfire can also make the smoke travel over water, which allows it to travel even greater distances.
Smoke is dangerous for anyone to inhale, let alone athletes.
They’re poisoning themselves while they are breathing hard and exerting themselves during the game.
It’s also dangerous for the fans at the stadium.
Some of them may have breathing conditions that can flare up in the presence of smoke.
Others might be causing damage to their lungs even as they sit passively and watch the game.
There’s also the threat of the fire, itself.
Wildfire can spread quickly.
In the right conditions, it can outpace local attempts to put it out.
It also threatens everything, regardless of what material it’s made out of.
It threatens not only those in the stadium but also their cars, and for the locals, their homes.
When a wildfire breaks out and there’s an NFL game scheduled at the time and in the area, the NFL will delay the game and move it to a stadium out of the area.
They may even move it out of state to avoid complications with the smoke.
7. Snow Damage
It’s worth noting that the NFL will not cancel or delay the game if it’s snowing.
They expect players to continue playing in the snow even if it’s a blizzard.
That said, there’s a chance they might delay the game if the temperatures fall too low.
However, if it’s snowing or if there’s snow on the field, then they expect the game to continue as normal.
The only time they will delay the game because of snow is if the snow causes damage to the field or stadium.
For example, if a big snowstorm passes through the area and dumps a lot of snow on top of the stadium, then the stadium’s roof is under a lot of pressure.
There’s a chance that it might collapse.
If it does collapse, then the stadium is no longer functional.
The NFL has no choice but to delay the game and move it elsewhere.
An example of this occurred in 2010.
After receiving two feet of snow, the roof of the Metrodome in Minnesota collapsed.
The NFL had to delay the game and move it to Ford Field in Detroit.
While snow, itself, won’t cause a delay of game, the damage it can cause does.
8. Terrorist Attacks/Security Concerns
The NFL delayed the game that was originally scheduled for September 13 in 2001 due to the terrorist attacks on September 11.
They ended up delaying the games by a week, and then held the game that was on the 13th on January 6th instead.
Whenever there’s a security concern, the NFL delays a game.
In the case of 9/11, it was also a sign of support and remembrance for those lost in the attack.
The NFL also delays a game if there are threats of violence nearby.
For example, if there’s a shooting or bomb threat, then there’s a delay.
The organization wants to ensure that the players and fans are safe.
The length of time it takes for the delay to end depends on the situation.
The game will likely not continue until the police detain the shooter or bomber.
Once they receive the all-clear from the police, they can continue the game.
The problem is that stand-offs can sometimes take hours if not days.
The NFL might also choose to delay the game until the next day to avoid potential security scares.
Whenever there’s a security problem or terrorist threat, the NFL delays the game.
9. Field Interruptions
A final reason the NFL might delay a game is if there’s an interruption on the field.
This usually means a streaker is running across the field, someone is protesting, or there may even be an animal loose on the field.
Field interruptions are rare since security at NFL games is tight.
However, now and then, a person can slip through and run across the field naked or show off signs protesting one issue or another.
The good news about this type of delay is that it usually doesn’t take long for the problem to go away.
Once they catch the individual or animal, the game can resume as usual.
The NFL can delay a game for as long as needed to ensure the safety and security of those present at the game.
There are several reasons they might choose to delay the game.
Most of these are weather-related, but there are security concerns and field interruptions that can also cause a delay.