NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue says it's
unlikely the New Orleans Saints will play in New Orleans this season after the
devastation Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath inflicted on the
city, but the team told ESPN that keeping games in Louisiana is a priority.
"At this point you have to proceed on the assumption
they may be unable to play in New Orleans at all for the entire
season," Tagliabue said Thursday in an interview with CNBC.
"If things evolve in a positive way, then that would be
something that we could adjust to. But our assumption is that for
planning purposes, we should assume it will be difficult if not
impossible to play in New Orleans at all this year."
The Saints will move into a hotel in San Antonio, Texas, this
weekend and practice in San Antonio in preparation for their
regular-season opener at Carolina Sept. 11. They have spent this
week in San Jose, Calif., and played their final preseason game Thursday night in Oakland.
But it still hasn't been decided where they will play their
regular-season opener Sept. 18 against the New York Giants or play
the rest of their games.
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis on Thursday told ESPN's Colleen Dominguez the team would prefer to play this season's home schedule in Louisiana and the logical choice would be LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Loomis expects a decision to be reached in a matter of days.
The New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which runs Giants
Stadium, has offered to host the upcoming Giants-Saints game in New Jersey.
It would likely be played Monday, Sept. 19 because the Jets will
play Miami that Sunday at Giants Stadium.
Tagliabue said moving the game to New Jersey was one
He also said games could be played at another NFL stadium or at
a non-NFL stadium. He didn't name any specifically, but the
Alamodome in San Antonio seats 65,000 for football, about the same
as the Saints' regular home at the Superdome in New Orleans, which
was heavily damaged by Katrina.
Tagliabue, who announced on Wednesday that the NFL was donating
$1 million to the recovery effort, added that the emphasis should
be the total recovery of the region hit by the hurricane. So did
Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association
in a statement released on Thursday, although Upshaw did not
immediately say what form the union's help would take.
"We want to really emphasize above all that sport is a small
part of life," Tagliabue said. "We want to use our visibility and
the respect we have with the public and the respect our teams have
to support the national recovery program. That's the big thing."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.