Tagliabue, Benson discuss Saints' 2006 plans

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue met with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson Monday in Washington to discuss the team's plans for the 2006 season, ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting.

Benson prefers that the Saints play next season in San Antonio. Tagliabue and other league officials want more information before making a final decision with LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., as the preferred site.

However, a small crowd for Sunday's Bears-Saints game, stadium-conversion issues and an air of negativity over Benson's words and actions has created more uncertainty over the LSU site. Benson did not attend Sunday's game after expressing concerns for his safety.

Meanwhile, the attorney who represents the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District told the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune that the NFL has assured state officials that the Saints will play in Louisiana in 2006.

"The spirit of the consensus reached among the NFL, the Saints and the state last Friday was that the 2006 season will be played in Louisiana, based primarily in Baton Rouge [at] Tiger Stadium, but with the hope that the Superdome is ready for one or more games," attorney Larry Roedel told the newspaper. "We have assurances from the NFL that the 2006 season will be played here [in Louisiana], and we trust those assurances."

Roedel told the newspaper that he plans to meet with the Saints this week to discuss contract language.

San Antonio representatives still plan to talk to the team, The San Antonio Express-News reported.

"I can't dispute [Roedel's comments]," Christian Archer, special assistant to San Antonio mayor Phil Hardberger told the paper. "But I can tell you nothing from our end has changed."

By coincidence, Tagliabue will be in Los Angeles on Tuesday to meet with various local and state politicians -- including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- to discuss various stadium venue issues as the league continues to work on returning the NFL to the LA area.

Tagliabue's trip was scheduled several months ago and, therefore, a league official said that Benson's meeting with the commissioner on Monday is an "unrelated event."

League sources, including owners, have told ESPN that if the Saints don't return to New Orleans, then Los Angeles would be the preferred destination.