Sun, Sep 04, 2005 - Page 22 News List

Saints end up homeless

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE New Orleans will play their first `home' game of the regular season in their opponent's stadium as the Superdome sits in a disaster area

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

The NFL announced Friday that the New Orleans Saints' first scheduled home game, which was to be played in the Superdome against the Giants on Sept. 18, would be moved to Giants Stadium, although the day and the time for the game were not determined.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement that the Giants and the Saints would contribute part of the gate proceeds to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and will keep the Saints out of the Superdome for the entire season.

Tagliabue said that was a major reason for moving the game to New York, instead of playing it in San Antonio or another neutral site.

"With the support of Giants fans and others in the New Jersey/New York area, this Saints-Giants game will be presented with elements that will highlight and contribute to the national relief effort," Tagliabue said.

The Saints are still considering where to play their other scheduled home games -- their options include Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and San Antonio's Alamodome -- and agreeing to play on their opponents' home field was not an easy decision from a competitive standpoint. They hope to have a decision soon on a site.

"We're disadvantaged enough," said Mickey Loomis, the Saints' executive vice president and general manager. "We don't want to go through the whole season and be the visiting team."

The team would prefer to play in Louisiana, but LSU has also been taking in refugees from the storm-ravaged areas and helping to coordinate relief efforts, making it difficult to consider being host to the team.

But while the Saints are weighing their options, the league pressed forward on placing the first game. The Giants Stadium option is complicated by the fact that the Jets play a home game that Sunday, against the Dolphins. The Giants-Saints game will most likely be played on Saturday or Monday.

That will be decided in the next few days, as will the details on ticket sales and how much will be donated to hurricane victims.

"We think the league's decision to move our game with the Saints to Giants Stadium will allow us an even greater opportunity to contribute," John Mara, the Giants' executive vice president, said in a statement.

The Saints' vagabond season will begin next Sunday with a regularly scheduled road game at Carolina, and the team arrived here early Friday morning following its final preseason game in Oakland on Thursday night. Their initial plans are to stay for about a month, practicing at a local high school field and using the Alamodome's locker room.

San Antonio offered to accommodate the Saints for the entire season, but the team remained noncommittal.

The players have three days before practice resumes, and many of the Saints left to be with their families until Monday. Others planned to visit storm refugees who have been brought to San Antonio's Kelly Air Force Base.

Around the NFL, players began to devise their own ways to contribute to the relief efforts.

Quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, who are from New Orleans, will fly to Baton Rouge on Saturday on a plane carrying relief supplies donated by Peyton Manning's PeyBack Foundation. The flight will carry 31,000 pounds of non-perishable items, including diapers, baby formula, pillows, water and sports drinks, that will be delivered to the American Red Cross.

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