OAKLAND -- The New Orleans Saints have plenty other than football to think about, with their home city devastated by Hurricane Katrina and floodwaters. And it showed in their preseason finale here Thursday night as they lost to the Oakland Raiders, 13-6.
The Raiders returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, only to have it negated by a penalty. Oakland still scored on its opening drive, as quarterback Kerry Collins connected with wide receiver Randy Moss for a 27-yard touchdown. The rest of the scoring consisted of field goals on a night featuring backup players trying to earn roster spots. Quarterback Aaron Brooks, tailback Deuce McAllister and wideout Joe Horn were among the regulars who didn't play at all for the Saints.
Little of the talk in the Saints' postgame locker room was about the game. Players and coaches, who had spent the week in California, spoke of the emotions of watching televised reports of the devastation back home. Coach Jim Haslett said the team was aware that Thursday's game was shown at the Astrodome in Houston, where approximately 11,000 refugees were gathered.
"Those people are going through the roughest time in their lives," Haslett said. "They have nowhere to live. . . . . Everybody on our team is heartbroken. They feel for the people who are going through tough times."
The Raiders sponsored a blood drive Thursday and showed public service announcements in the stadium urging fans to contribute to relief funds. There was a moment of silence for hurricane and flood victims before the game, and players on the two teams prayed together on the field afterward.
The Saints plan to begin setting up relocated offices in San Antonio today. Players are off today through Sunday, and McAllister said he planned to try to visit his home in the New Orleans area today before spending Saturday handing out provisions at relief shelters in Jackson, Miss. Horn said he intended to get into a car or a van this morning in San Antonio and drive to Houston to help any way he can, even if that means aiding only one family.
The players are scheduled to resume practicing Monday in San Antonio and by then the team might know where it's going to play its home games this season. It appears unlikely that the club will be able to play in New Orleans at all. The Saints' preference is to play their home games somewhere in Louisiana, perhaps in Baton Rouge.
"We just have to fight through it," Haslett said. "It's going to be a tough year. We don't know where we're going to play. We don't know where we're going to live. We don't know if we're going to play all road games. Any time we step on the field, it's therapeutic."
Colts Add Simon
Free-agent defensive tackle Corey Simon completed a contract agreement with the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday. The five-year deal is worth about $30 million, including approximately $13 million in bonus money. Simon is scheduled to be in Indianapolis today to undergo a physical.
Simon was unwanted in Philadelphia. His contract dispute with the club that led to him refusing to report to training camp was barely a blip on the radar screen for the Eagles, with disgruntled wide receiver Terrell Owens having grabbed practically the entire spotlight there. The Eagles are deep at defensive tackle and made Simon a free agent by lifting their franchise-player tag from him last weekend.
But he gives the Colts another top defensive lineman, along with end Dwight Freeney, that opposing offenses must deal with, and he could be a difference-maker on a team that only needs to be halfway decent defensively to complement its explosive offense.
Owners Postpone Meeting
An owners' meeting scheduled for Sept. 14 in Atlanta was called off. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a memo to the clubs that the meeting was postponed until Oct. 6 in Detroit because there has not been sufficient progress in labor negotiations with the NFL Players Association. Tagliabue has been attempting to get the owners to agree to a plan for increased revenue-sharing among the teams as part of a proposed extension of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the union. . . .
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Trent Green told reporters Thursday that he won't play in tonight's preseason finale at St. Louis but he expects to be ready for the regular season opener. Doctors placed a stent in an artery in Green's left leg Tuesday and he is taking blood-thinning medication. . . .
New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi told the Boston Globe that he "definitely" plans to play next season. Bruschi is sitting out this season after suffering a stroke in February and undergoing surgery in March for a hole in his heart that might have caused his stroke.
Chiefs Cut Freddie Mitchell
The Chiefs today released wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, whom they'd signed after he had talked his way out of a job in Philadelphia. Mitchell has been plagued by a knee injury and plans to undergo arthroscopic surgery in hopes of getting healthy and re-signing with Kansas City. . . .
San Diego quarterback Drew Brees sprained his ankle in the Chargers' preseason finale Thursday night against San Francisco, but the injury is not considered serious enough to affect his status for the outset of the regular season.