While the Caesars Superdome suffered little damage from Hurricane Ida, the state of the city in general is forcing the New Orleans Saints and the NFL to relocate both the Sept. 12 season opener and practices.
The locations both for the Sept. 12 and the practice facilities are still to be determined. The team will practice somewhere in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, most likely at SMU or TCU, for the first four weeks of the season. Moving the season opener isn’t ideal, but concerns over staffing and lingering issues with the power grid caused the team and the NFL to seek an alternate venue. The Saints had made inquiries about the availability of AT&T Stadium, as the Dallas Cowboys are on the road on Sept. 9, but prep for a Sept. 15 Los Bukis concert will likely preempt that plan. Contractually, the concert prep work has precedence over other stadium events.
One possibility already shot down by Saints coach Sean Payton: shifting the game to Lambeau Field. The obvious reason is that Payton doesn’t want to cede home-field advantage to the Packers, particularly if both teams are competing for playoff home-field advantage at the end of the season and head-to-head competition becomes a tie breaker. The other stated reason: Payton doesn’t want to see his team take a long flight to a game, so a preference would be an NFL stadium (as required by the NFL; no college venues) within a short flight. The Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans are all playing at home Sept. 12. From NOLA.com:
“There’s a chance that if our stadium is not ready to host the Packers in Week 1, where (that game) might that be (played),” Payton said. “I don’t know that it’s in our best interests to go to California (for practice) and knowing that we’re going to have to return here to play a home game somewhere in this area, whether that’s in New Orleans or somewhere else, and make two East Coast trips from out West.”…
Regardless, Payton said his preference is to play somewhere close to Dallas because of “travel purposes.”
“If we’re practicing here and you told me we’d play our game here (Dallas),” Payton said. “If our game was here and our practices were here, that works. If you were nearby in other towns like Nashville or Houston, that just means you’re taking a trip Saturday on a short flight. I think it’s certainly more convenient (to stay in Dallas).”
The Saints may also need to move an Oct. 3 Caesars Superdome game against the New York Giants. In between the Saints are playing road games in Carolina and New England.