BALTIMORE -- The Bears have plans to travel here tonight for their Sunday afternoon game against the Ravens, a team official just told the Tribune.
The team is expected to leave O'Hare on a United Airlines charter flight around 8 p.m. and arrive in Baltimore about two hours later, or 11 p.m. Baltimore time. The Baltimore area is under a blizzard warning now, and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has declared a state of emergency. The region is expected to wind up with 20 to 30 inches of snow before the storm ends late tonight. The record for a snowstorm in Baltimore is 28.2 inches from Feb. 15-18, 2003.
Right now, the Bears expect to play the Ravens at 3:15 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
A man walks down a snow covered street in Baltimore on Saturday. (AP / Rob Carr)
The Bears' arrival isn't the only logistical matter.
There is already at least six inches on the ground and that presents a huge task for the Ravens to clear M&T Bank Stadium. About 700 workers stayed in the stadium Friday night to begin snow removal operations today. The snow, to this point, has been light. If it turns wet, it will be more difficult to remove.
The field is covered and the workers are pushing snow from the top of the stadium down to the field where it is then being hauled out of the building. Ravens senior vice president Kevin Byrne said it is then dumped in the nearby Chesapeake Bay. If the stadium isn't fully ready to host a game, and if already unpassable residential streets are not cleared, will the NFL hold a game even if the Bears do arrive in time for a Sunday kickoff?
But the snow has not fouled up pre-game preparations by the Ravens. The Baltimore Sun says they're operating on a normal schedule.
The Bears were not scheduled to leave O'Hare Friday night on their United Airlines charter flight until 10:30 p.m. The team sat on the plane for two hours before the flight was cancelled. According to a passenger, an announcement was made that there was a mechanical issue, and the team would need to change planes. Before that could happen, the window of opportunity to leave closed and the Bears arrived back at Halas Hall on buses at about 1:15 a.m.
Typically, the Bears leave for road games early on Saturday afternoons. Why the team didn't try to leave earlier on Friday is unknown. It did not begin snowing until after 9 p.m. and there wasn't any accumulation on roads until around midnight Eastern.
The start time for the game has already been pushed back to 3:15 Sunday, a move made by city officials with the blessing of the NFL. The league also decided today to switch the starting time of the San Francisco 49ers game Sunday against the Eagles in Philadelphia to 3:15 p.m.