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The New Orleans Saints are scheduled to practice on Monday, just as if nothing happened.
Except something terrible did happen, and now a team that was an NFL championship contender a few days ago has been turned into a band of nomads, literally stranded away from home and working under Jerry Jones’ hospitality in the Dallas Cowboys facility.
This happened because Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana over the weekend as a Category 4 storm and then ripped through much of the state, including greater New Orleans, as a Cat 3. For your information, a Category 3 packs winds between 111 and 129 miles per hour.
Strong enough to down trees and blow entire roofs off their trusses.
Which is exactly what happened to some Louisiana residents, maybe even Saints players and their families.
Most don’t know for sure because, seven hours before the storm hit, the Saints moved 128 family members in addition to players, coaches and staff.
Head coach Sean Payton said Monday he’s not exactly sure what kind of damage his home suffered other than to say he’s “sure there’s going to be roof damage.”
Other Saints coaches are aware there’s no power or running water in their homes.
But there’s more to this problem than not having a good roof over your head or water to drink. The NFL season doesn’t just stop, even for most natural disasters.
And it’s apparently not going to stop for this one.
So the Saints must continue to attend to football, knowing that there’s been a billion-dollar disaster in their city, but working as if nothing really happened.
“I think, to some degree, going out and being able to practice today will be good for everyone,” Payton told local reporters on a phone call. “From a distance, there’s only so much you can do.
That Saints are carrying on as best they can. They will make their roster cuts to get down to the NFL’s 53-man limit by Tuesday afternoon, just like all the other teams.
But they will be doing so with the understanding they’re far from home and they cannot just jettison players without setting up ways for them to get back home — wherever that may be.
The next three days will be spent working in the Cowboys’ facility for sure, but anything beyond that is guesswork.
“I honestly think the next three days that we’ll know what our next step is,” Payton said. “We’re pretty sure it’s not going to be returning to Metairie (where the Saints train) anytime soon to start practices. I think that’s unrealistic.”
The Saints have discussed finding a more permanent training site than the Cowboys facility. They’ve considered the Miami Dolphins’ former training facility in Davie, FL, which the Dolphins left behind when they moved to new a facility in Miami Gardens.
They’ve discussed college facilities. They’ve discussed staying put. They’ve discussed how to go home if given the all-clear.
It’s currently all up in the air.
And so is the team’s actual schedule, which is something of a mess right now.
“We haven’t heard anything relative to the opener,” Payton said. “Obviously, we’ll have a Plan B. There’s a lot of things from a priority standpoint that are more important for our city. We fully anticipate starting the season with Green Bay but the question is where it will be at.”
Plan A was for the Saints to host the Green Bay Packers at the Ceasars Superdome on Sept. 12. It was to be a clash of NFC giants, one of which has participated in the conference championship game four of the last five years.
The Saints expected a full house would give them an edge. The Superdome is a din for any game, but they were expecting the atmosphere to be especially electric since fans were away during the 2020 pandemic.
But it’s not yet known exactly how much or little damage the Superdome has sustained. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, the Saints had to play their entire home schedule away from the facility.
The club played four games at Tiger Stadium on the campus of Louisiana State University. But the relative proximity between New Orleans and Baton Rouge was not all that helpful.
The Saints finished that season 3-13.
The team played their first seven games on the road in 2005, including three games that were originally scheduled as home games.
A similar fate may await them this season.
If the Superdome is badly damaged or otherwise unavailable for use because greater New Orleans is unable to spare the support personnel necessary to play an NFL game, the Saints could be on the road for a couple of months.
The Saints might be able to have only one home game — maybe — between now and Oct. 31. The team originally had only two home games and a bye scheduled the first six weeks of the season.
But Payton, when asked how the club has handled the logistical nightmare of moving to another city, has put a good face on a bad situation.
“Listen,” he said, “We’ve done it.”