Chase Allen made an unexpected trip home to Belleville for the weekend, but only because his NFL regular-season debut has been postponed by Hurricane Irma.
The Belleville East graduate learned last week he had successfully earned a free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins after being passed over in the draft out of Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Allen, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound middle linebacker, was the league’s top tackler through four preseason games. His 13-stop performance against the Minnesota Vikings last Thursday may have cinched his spot on the Dolphins’ 53-man roster.
“We got two days off before cuts, and they let guys know with a phone call,” Allen said. “In my case it was a non-call. When it got to be 4 o’clock Saturday, I knew I was in. My position coach called a couple hours later to confirm that I had made the team.
“It was definitely a relief, but you can’t be relieved too much because as fast as you earn a spot, you can also lose it. You have to stay sharp and focused and be ready to go to work every day.”
The Dolphins list Allen, 24, second on the depth chart behind Kiko Alonso at middle linebacker, but he could be called into action at any of the three spots. Allen says he also anticipated some work on special teams Sunday.
But as Irma, currently rated a Category 5 storm, makes its approach to south Florida, the NFL has preemptively postponed the scheduled reg-lar season opener Sunday between Miami and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game has been rescheduled for Nov. 19, which previously was both teams’ bye week.
According to the Miami Herald, it’s still not certain where Irma will make landfall, though recent forecasts show the center of the storm veering south away from Dade County and toward Key West, where it could hit Sunday.
In the meantime, ABC News estimates roughly 1.2 million Florida residents have been ordered to evacuate. The Dolphins’ players broke camp voluntarily.
“The team told us we could stay and hunker down in a hotel but that it wasn’t a good idea,” Allen said. “Everyone got out of there.”
Allen flew into St. Louis late Wednesday night. He spent some time fishing with his father Friday but has otherwise been trying to pack his belongings and arrange their shipment to Miami. That, too, has been complicated by Irma.
“It’s good to be home and get out away from the pressure for a little while,” Allen said. “I’ve been trying to work with a shipping company to get my car and stuff shipped (to Florida), but everything has been pushed off because of the hurricane. It’s been hectic.”
In the meantime, Allen says he’s awaiting further travel plans from the Dolphins. He anticipates catching a plane to Los Angeles, where the team will prepare for a Sept. 17 game with the LA Chargers.
“It will just depend how bad things are in Miami,” he said.
Belleville West graduate Brian Hill will make his NFL debut Sunday for the Atlanta Falcons against the Chicago Bears. Hill, drafted in the fifth round out of the University of Wyoming, is listed fourth on the depth chart behind running backs Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Terron Ward.