After Hurricane Ida, the New Orleans Saints returned to work Monday at their temporary headquarters in Dallas.
Sean Payton, Saints coach, said that he wasn't aware of any damage to the practice facility in Metairie (La.). He expects that the team will practice away from home next Wednesday due to widespread power outages in the region and other damage.
Payton stated that he didn't know the status of Caesars Superdome, or the Saints Week 1 home opener against Green Bay Packers on September 12.
Payton stated, "Obviously we will have a plan B." Payton said that there are many other priorities that are likely more important to our city. We fully expect to start the regular season with Green Bay. Then, the question will be where it is. But, I don't think it will be in Green Bay.
Owner Gayle Benson arranged two flights for Saints players, staff, and their families, flying them to Dallas on Saturday. They will practice Monday through Wednesday at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.
It is not clear if they will stay in Dallas after that. The players were scheduled to be off for four days from Thursday through Sunday at the close of this week.
"I can see these guys Wednesday taking some vacation. Payton stated that many of these men might return to their roots. "And then me telling them on Wednesday, 'Hey guys, I'll be there Sunday night, and here's where're going to be. That last part is up to us. However, I doubt that this is possible in New Orleans.
Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis and Payton, both veteran players, stressed their concern for the safety and well-being of all New Orleans residents.
Both Jordan and Davis agreed that it was important to "compartmentalize", so they can continue to worry about their loved ones and the recovery of their community, while also keeping their eyes on their day jobs.
"Understanding that Green Bay will not take it easy when they play them in less than 2 weeks. They're going to go through what we're experiencing. The mission remains unchanged. "You still need to exercise, you still have film to see, and you still have practice to be your best," Davis, the reigning NFL Man-of-the Year nominee for the Saints, said.
"The Gulf Coast community has a strong resilience. It has survived natural disasters and has rebuilt and recovered. It is easy to believe that you can get through anything when you have such a foundation. It's going to be us all working together, looking after each other and those around us, working in community and unity, trusting that we can get through this together.
Jordan said, "All of the moving parts, all the rest, it's simple to simplify: Family good and back to football. Family is better than football. Try to find ways to help your city."
Jordan stated, "We can concentrate on the energy we put forth for this practice, and the energy that's gonna be concentrated on towards gearing for Green Bay." "I don’t know if we’re playing a home match. Beyond today, I don't even know what to do. We're going to work hard, stay together, focus on what's within our control, and that's why we're here."
These kinds of adjustments are not new to the Saints. They had to evacuate New Orleans in 2005 for an entire season and have since moved their practices around multiple times.
After quickly going through the options, Payton and Saints general manger Mickey Loomis settled on Dallas. Indianapolis is another option, which the Saints have evacuated to in the past. Payton said that a Guns N' roses concert was ruled out.
Payton admitted that he didn't like the situation, but he said that he enjoys the team's focus and bonding in similar situations.
Payton stated, "Listen, it's done," "There's something about this challenge that I think, and I don't really know, but I kinda like. It's not something I like to be misplaced. I also don't enjoy when players are far from their homes. You should focus on what you can control. In the short time we were here, we discovered that there is a weight room in our hotel. It's not very large, but we do have access to SMU for the Olympic lifts.
We have a great stadium, which we will use for practice over the next three days. The hotel has a full ballroom with plenty of space and meeting rooms. We could even play games in some of these ballrooms if needed.
"Look, after you've done it a few times, there are some -- everybody kind of knows what to expect in the training area, what to expect for the meals and what to expect from the trainers. Everyone just goes about their jobs. You do become a bit more focused when this happens than if you have less.
Payton stated that he doesn't like the timing of the roster cuts. However, many players and their families will be at the Dallas hotel with the team's staff on Tuesday.
"I brought this up at the team meeting today: "Man, I'm proud how we've handled it, it's great to be here with my families. Payton stated that there are many positives we can learn from this. He said that they were able to safely get out of harm's path. "But, I don't like that the environment will be reduced in the next 24hrs with all their families. That's a challenge. I said, "Hey, we just have to understand that while there are many positive aspects about being here, there are also challenges when it comes down to the jobs that are at stake." We're going do our best to make sure everyone is taken care of.