Leaving Greenbrier bittersweet for Saints

The New Orleans Saints are packing up and shipping out Thursday after three weeks of training camp at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. And the universal response among players, coaches and everyone else in the organization is that they can't wait to come back next year.

The Saints' first year of camp at the new custom-built site carved into the Allegheny Mountains was a rousing success, from the cool temperatures to the enclosed environment that had just about every amenity an NFL team could ask for in a home away from home.

The Saints are currently scheduled to return for the next two years. But coach Sean Payton said, "Really, honestly, with the experience that we've had ... we'd like to be back here for a lot longer than just that.

"The setup is outstanding. And the ability to kind of stay in an enclosed environment, I think the people here have been great, I think everything about it," Payton said. "We start putting down notes as to maybe changes for next year, and it's less than a page. There isn't a whole lot."

Payton said there are no plans in place to add an indoor practice facility or bubble at this time. The Saints were fortunate that it only rained twice during 15 practices this year. But Payton said their schedule would have been flexible enough to move practices around if necessary -- and only lightning would have forced that.

Players have been equally enthusiastic about the setup at The Greenbrier.

"Oh my gosh, yeah. I already told Coach Payton, 'If you move from here, I don't know if I'm coming back," offensive tackle Zach Strief said -- though he quickly added that he's also looking forward to returning home.

"Look, we still want to be home. For a lot of us, myself included, New Orleans is our all-year-round home. And there's nothing like home," Strief said. "Camp is what it is, it's this kind of bonding experience when you go away. And it's good to go away for building your team. But it's not home."

Many other players expressed similar sentiments -- especially the ones with families. And many said they're excited to play in front of the hometown fans again -- especially in Friday night's preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.

But no one is excited about a return to the humidity.

"The challenge from 62 to 92 degrees will be significant," Payton said -- and he wasn't exaggerating after a cool, cloudy Wednesday practice in the low '60s.