The NFL has decided to move Monday night's showdown between the 9-1 Chiefs and Rams from Mexico City to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum because of poor field conditions at Estadio Azteca, it was announced Tuesday.
Players had strongly considered not playing if the league had opted to keep the game in Mexico City, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter earlier Tuesday. Soccer games and concerts coupled with a significant amount of rainfall there have left the field inside Estadio Azteca a mess.
"It's not fair to risk our health," a prominent player told Schefter on Tuesday.
Rams safety John Johnson saw the current field conditions in Mexico City on social media and tweeted his reaction.
THAT'S OUT🙅🏾♂️ https://t.co/3189rnSbhB— John Johnson III (@iamjohnthethird) November 13, 2018
Ticket information for the game in L.A. was posted on the Rams' website Tuesday night, and the refund policy for the game in Mexico City will be announced by the NFL in the coming days.
The Rams will be providing thousands of complimentary tickets to first responders and those who have been affected by the recent tragedies in Southern California.
The NFL has a procedure in place that states all teams that forgo a home game to play internationally, as the Rams did, are required to keep their home stadium available as a contingency.
The league, in a statement, said it consulted with the NFL Players Association -- as well as club field experts and local and independent outside experts -- in making the decision to move the game, as the field at Estadio Azteca did not meet NFL standards for playability and consistency.
"We have worked extensively with our partners at Estadio Azteca for months in preparation for this game," Mark Waller, NFL executive vice president of international, said in a statement. "Until very recently, we had no major concerns. But, the combination of a difficult rainy season and a heavy multi-event calendar of events at the stadium have resulted in significant damage to the field that presents unnecessary risks to player safety and makes it unsuitable to host an NFL game.
"As a result, we have determined that moving the game is the right decision, and one that we needed to announce now in order to allow our teams and fans to make alternate arrangements."
The Rams will now scramble to get security, concessions and all other logistical aspects lined up to host a major prime-time game in six days. USC plays at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, against crosstown rival UCLA, and there aren't many other sporting events taking place in Los Angeles over the weekend, which helps the Rams with the quick turnaround.
Both teams still will wear their Color Rush uniforms. The Rams plan to honor the community events they scheduled in Mexico leading up to their game, including a charitable 10K race, hospital visits and the construction of a playground.
Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff called the development "bittersweet."
"We were really excited as an organization to play in Mexico," Demoff said in a phone conversation. "We requested to play in Mexico for our abroad game this year; we spent a lot of time working with the community and business leaders to host a great week and to get our fans excited and really build that fan base.
"On the other hand, for Southern California, what an unbelievable turn of events to be able to get potentially the game of the year here, on Monday night, in the Coliseum."
The playing surface at Azteca stadium -- which was changed from natural grass to a hybrid in May -- hasn't been ideal for several months. Concern about it grew in recent days when aerial photos of the stadium showed serious damage to the grass, particularly on the end of the stadium recently used for a major concert.
Cruz Azul, the Liga MX soccer club that shares the stadium with Club America, played a tournament game on the field on Saturday in noticeably poor conditions. Coach Pedro Caixinha expressed concern, and the NFL continued working with groundskeepers to improve the field.
Crews were seen installing sod at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday, but the NFL, following an inspection of the field Tuesday afternoon, said the playing surface would not meet NFL standards by Monday.
"The long and unusual rain season, as well as the calendar of events with third parties in Estadio Azteca, might be a factor for the grass to be far from optimal conditions," Azteca Stadium authorities said in a news release.
Raul Barrios, who as the stadium's former operations manager (2000-18) was in charge of overseeing the field's condition, told ESPN Mexico's SportsCenter that "not in my worst nightmares did I think this would happen.
"To have an event of this magnitude [moved], it's something that I didn't think we'd be going through right now."
Barrios referenced the hybrid grass system as a reason why conditions have worsened. The new system was intended to make the stadium's grass more resistant to wear amid the constant events held there.
"[The installation] was inadequate and done by people who had no idea how to treat the field's subsoil," he said. "The NFL tests the field in order to determine how the grass resists to being pulled out. Having that is key in football, because if you're on the line of scrimmage, there's a big risk for injury if the grass has no resistance, so that's where the fear lies."
The league first notified the Rams about trouble with the Estadio Azteca surface in October, in the wake of a Shakira concert and a handful of soccer games.
"But they had a plan," Demoff said.
A couple of weeks ago, Demoff and other team executives were in Mexico City hosting an assortment of events and went to Estadio Azteca to analyze the field along with officials from the NFL.
"And while it was not attractive, it was very safe," Demoff recalled. "Everybody was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the field. We felt confident that the game would be able to be played and excited that we would be able to play in Mexico."
But conditions worsened, largely because of an uncommon amount of rainfall. A final check-in was scheduled for this week. The Rams, Chiefs and the NFL sent field testers for one last walk-through on Monday, raising legitimate concerns about whether the surface could support two professional football teams.
"They spent the night talking about options, discussing different ways to remedy it that would make it safe," Demoff said. "After discussions this morning with all parties -- the NFL, our field inspectors, their field inspectors, the NFLPA -- it was pretty clear that the field would not be playable. And we were also running up against a deadline of if we were going to move this game to Los Angeles, we needed four or five days to make sure we could get our stadium ready.
"I think the NFL took all the information in, they processed it and they made the right decision."
The move creates logistical obstacles for ESPN, which broadcasts Monday Night Football and will have to shift its operations back to the West Coast.
"We have been in communication with the NFL and we understand the league's decision," the network said in a statement. "We are already in the process of adjusting our plans and will be ready to present this much-anticipated matchup on Monday Night Football from Los Angeles. We also remain committed to identifying future opportunities with the league to engage its already strong fan base in Mexico."
The Rams left for Colorado Springs on Monday to train at high altitude for a week before traveling to Mexico City, where the elevation is about 7,300 feet. The team will return to Los Angeles on Saturday.
Wish we could've seen Rams nation in Mexico but excited to get back in front of the home fans for MNF. See you there LA #GoRams— Jared Goff (@JaredGoff16) November 14, 2018
According to Jeff Sherman of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, the Rams would go from 2.5-point favorites to -3.5. The point total remained at 63.5. Sherman also said that all wagers made for the game being played in Mexico City would be refunded, as the SuperBook states games must be played at the "designated city/geographic area within 8 days of scheduled date."
ESPN's Lindsey Thiry, Alden Gonzalez, Ben Fawkes, Darren Rovell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.