The New Orleans Saints will play their first home game of the season in their opponent's stadium. They will face the New York Giants at Giants Stadium in the second week of the season, the NFL announced Friday.
The switch gives the Giants, a rival of the Washington Redskins in the NFC East, a ninth game at their home stadium this season, rather than the eight all NFL teams have.
"Our heart goes out to everybody down there," said Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs. "They've got to do whatever they've got to do. We're all praying for everybody down there. There's been a number of our players affected by it, and you just hope that somehow such a tragedy somehow we'll get that all squared away as quick as we can. So I would say whatever they've got to do, the Saints . . . I just feel bad for them."
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said that the day and time of the game had not been determined. The New York Jets are scheduled to face the Miami Dolphins at Giants Stadium at 4:15 p.m. on Sept. 18 -- the day that the Saints had been scheduled to host the Giants at the Superdome. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, representatives of the Saints and the league have been discussing alternative sites for all of the team's home games.
"There are many reasons for this decision," Tagliabue said in a written statement, "including recognizing that the overwhelming priority for public and private resources in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region in the weeks ahead must be the essential needs of the public and the restoration of the area's infrastructure."
Tagliabue announced that a portion of the gate proceeds from the game would be donated to hurricane relief, and indicated that a ticket policy for the game would be announced by the Giants in the coming days.
Other possible venues were discussed by the league and the Saints, including San Antonio, Houston and Baton Rouge, La. The Saints apparently hope to play the remainder of their home schedule in Baton Rouge.
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis appeared unhappy with the decision to play the game at Giants Stadium, at first declining to comment when approached by several reporters in the lobby of the hotel in which the Saints are setting up operations, but then answering several questions. The arrangement essentially will give the Giants nine home games this season, and the Saints seven.
"We're disadvantaged enough without having to go in every stadium in the league and be a visiting team," Loomis said.
Loomis said he didn't know when a decision would be made about where the Saints' other home games this season will be played. He indicated that Saints owner Tom Benson handled the discussions with Tagliabue, and said the other possible sites considered were "the obvious ones," without being more specific. He said there was a pressing need to quickly determine the site of the first game.
"Obviously, we needed to get this resolved," Loomis said.
The Saints open the regular season at Carolina on Sept. 11. Their second home game is Oct. 2 against Buffalo.
Staff writer Jason La Canfora contributed to this story from Washington.