by Steven Hawkins & Brett Martel, Associated Press
As if adjusting to life without Drew Brees wasn’t enough, the New Orleans Saints will now have to travel from their temporary practice home in Texas to Florida to play their regular-season opener that was originally scheduled for New Orleans.
Now displaced by Hurricane Ida, they’ll play their home opener against Green Bay in Jacksonville on Sept. 12 after practicing in Dallas for the better part of two weeks — a scenario reminiscent of their 2005 season of displacement after Hurricane Katrina struck.
The NFL announced the Saints announced the venue change three days after Ida battered the Louisiana coast as a Category 4 hurricane and left the entirety of New Orleans in darkness until small pockets of the city began to get power back on Wednesday.
While the Superdome appears to have come through the storm in decent shape, there are logistical challenges with staffing an NFL game there in the near future because of widespread wind damage in the metro area and mass evacuations both before and since the powerful storm struck.
“I am proud of the collective communications that occurred between many entities in a short amount of time that led to us making this decision,” said Saints owner Gayle Benson. “It is never easy to make a decision that involves not playing a Saints home game in the Caesars Superdome, but I am confident that this is the right decision for our city at this juncture.”
General manager Mickey Loomis said the Saints expect to play a lot of home games at the Superdome this season.
After the opener, the Saints have road games at Carolina and New England before their next scheduled home game Oct. 3 against the New York Giants. Two more road games and their bye week follow before they host defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay on Oct. 31.
The Saints evacuated New Orleans before the storm to North Texas, and have practiced this week at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. They are remaining in Texas for workout s next week, and will travel to Jacksonville the day before the season opener.
The arrival of Ida came 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.