NBA

Saints weigh 'plan B' for opener after Hurricane Ida hits New Orleans

By Sports Desk August 30, 2021

The New Orleans Saints do not know where they will open the NFL regular season, but they are doing all they can to stay focused after Hurricane Ida ravaged the city on Sunday. 

Ida made landfall on the Louisiana coast as a powerful Category 4 storm, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. 

The entire city of New Orleans lost power on Sunday but Gayle Benson, who owns the Saints and the NBA's Pelicans, said in a statement Monday that her teams' facilities suffered only superficial damage.

The Saints relocated operations to the Dallas area over the weekend at the invitation of the Cowboys, and head coach Sean Payton said they will remain there at least through Wednesday. 

They are scheduled to host the Green Bay Packers in the regular-season opener on September 12, but Payton told reporters all options are on the table if playing at home is not feasible. 

"Obviously we’ll have a plan B," he said. "And, you know, there are a lot of other things probably from a priority standpoint that are more important for our city.

"But that all being said, we fully anticipate starting the regular season with Green Bay and then the question would be where that game's at."

Speaking to reporters before practice on Monday, Payton noted his team's concern over their homes and belongings left behind. 

"Left behind are obviously apartments, condominiums, homes. Those are all physical things. Nonetheless, they're still home for so many people," Payton said. "I think to some degree that going out and being able to practice today is going to be good for everyone, because from afar, there’s only so much you can do."

The Saints cancelled their final pre-season game, which was to be played at the Superdome against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.

NFL rules mandate teams give players this weekend off from practice, and Payton indicated he did not expect the Saints to be back at their home facility when work resumes next Monday. 

Benson said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has accepted the Saints' offer to use their facilities and will stage assistance efforts out of the NFL and NBA teams' practice facility in suburban Metairie. 

Benson also said she will donate $1million to a relief fund that will help the region recover from the storm. 

"Our team is safe and focussed on preparing for, and winning, the first regular game against the Green Bay Packers," Benson said. "We look forward to returning to New Orleans to continue those preparations as soon as our government leaders say it is safe to do so.

"Fortunately, the Caesars Superdome received only minor damage and will be prepared to host games as soon as the city's infrastructure will allow."

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