With Hurricane Ida bearing down on New Orleans over the weekend, the Saints decided to evacuate the city Saturday and head to Dallas, where they'll be practicing until at least Wednesday. Beyond that, though, things are still up in the air.
When Ida came ashore Sunday, it knocked out power in the entire city of New Orleans and right now, it's unclear if the Saints will be able to host their regular-season opener against the Packers, which is just 13 days away.
Although the opener will definitely get played, Saints coach Sean Payton admitted Monday that he has no idea if the game will actually take place in New Orleans.
"We haven't heard anything relative to the opener," Payton said, via The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com. "Obviously, we'll have a Plan B. A lot of things from a priority standpoint are more important for our city. We fully anticipate starting the season with Green Bay and the question is where will it be at."
Right now, it seems unlikely that the game will be played in New Orleans. Payton offered an update on Tuesday and said that he's planning as if the team won't be able to return to New Orleans for at least a month. That timeline isn't set in stone, but the Saints coach did say that it would be "easier to reel it back" if it turns out the team can return to New Orleans before that.
As for the opener, the league is monitoring the situation in New Orleans and hasn't made a decision on whether to move the game, according to NFL.com. If the game does have to be moved, one location can likely be ruled out: Payton does not believe the game will be played in Green Bay.
"I don't see that happening," Payton said, via NewOrleansFootball.com.
If the Caesars Superdome isn't ready to host a game by Sept. 12, it wouldn't be surprising at all if the NFL moved the game to AT&T Stadium since the Saints will be practicing there this week and the Cowboys won't be playing at home in Week 1. (Dallas will be opening the NFL season with a Thursday night game in Tampa Bay.)
Of course, the game isn't the only thing the Saints have to worry about; they also need to figure out where they're going to practice after Wednesday. And that's where things get a little dicey. Although the team is scheduled to practice at AT&T Stadium until midweek (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), things are completely up in the air after that.
"I honestly think in the next three days that we'll know what our next step is," Payton said, via The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com. "We're pretty sure it's not going to be returning to Metairie anytime soon to start practices. I think that's unrealistic."
Metairie, Louisiana, is where the Saints practice facility is, and if Payton doesn't envision his team returning there in the near future, that means they're going to need to find somewhere else to practice. If they won't be returning to Louisiana for a month, that means the Saints will need to figure out where to practice for the next four weeks. However, that's not what Payton is thinking about right now.
"It's prayers and safety," Payton said. "It's all the things that we want for our neighbors, our residents."
If the Saints are forced to leave town for the next month, the only upside is that they only play one home game in September, so only one game would likely have to be moved if that's the case (Besides their Sept. 12 opener against the Packers, the Saints also have a home game against the Giants on Oct. 3 that could potentially be impacted).
One piece of good news for the Saints is that the Caesar's Superdome didn't suffer any damage during the storm. However, the city's infrastructure took a beating and it's pretty clear things will need to be repaired before the city can host an NFL game.
If the game against the Packers does get moved, it wouldn't be the first time the Saints have had to relocate. After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the Saints were forced to leave New Orleans for the entire year. During the 2005 season, they played their home games in Baton Rouge and San Antonio.
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