With the hurricane-damaged Superdome unavailable for the rest of the 2005 regular season, the New Orleans Saints likely will split their remaining seven-game home schedule between Baton Rouge, La., and San Antonio, a team spokesman said yesterday.
"That seems to be a potential plan that has been discussed, if it can be worked out," spokesman Greg Bensel said from San Antonio, where the team will make its practice and administrative headquarters for the rest of the season. It remained unclear how many games would be played at each venue.
In a statement issued yesterday, Saints owner Tom Benson, who owns two residences and several car dealerships in San Antonio, said: "We're currently working with the NFL and expect to be in a position shortly to announce the sites for our remaining 2005 home schedule. I have expressed my desire to the NFL to play the games in Baton Rouge, to the extent circumstances allow."
If details can be worked out, the Saints would play some games at Louisiana State University's 91,000-seat outdoor stadium. If there are games in San Antonio, they'll be played in the 65,000-seat Alamodome. Stadium availability in Baton Rouge also is complicated by the fact that the city is now also housing thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina.
The Saints' first regular season home game was to have been played in New Orleans on Sept. 18 against the New York Giants, but the NFL has decided to switch the game to Giants Stadium, where it will be played on Monday night, Sept. 19, starting at 7:30 p.m. Their next home game is scheduled for Oct. 2 against Buffalo.
League spokesman Joe Browne said: "We're going to take into account the status of the relief and rescue efforts in Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast and apply league policies and precedents in as much of an extent as possible. NFL teams play their games outside their home stadiums either in another NFL city or in a city in their home territory. There is no precedent for playing any games in a non-NFL city."
ABC News reported Monday night that the damage to the Superdome will force the building to be torn down, but Bensel said the Saints "have heard nothing to substantiate that report." If the Superdome can't be salvaged, it's not clear if it would preclude the Saints from returning to New Orleans. Benson already had been seeking a new stadium as part of a deal to stay.
Officials in San Antonio are eager to host the team's games. A Louisiana state senator who had been in contact with the Saints told the New Orleans Times-Picayune this week that Benson might move the franchise to San Antonio permanently. That notion is nothing new. The Saints' lease at the Superdome allows them to leave New Orleans after this season if they choose, and San Antonio, Los Angeles and Albuquerque were mentioned this past offseason as possible destinations.
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said during a news conference Sunday that the Saints are more committed than ever to New Orleans and are determined to be an integral part of a rebirth by the city.
* RAVENS: Cornerback Samari Rolle will be fined the equivalent of one game check, approximately $59,000, for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, AFC spokesman Steve Alic said. Rolle, who was arrested and charged with assault following an altercation with his wife in February, will not be suspended by the league.
Rolle received probation in April and agreed to undergo anger management counseling. Danisha Rolle did not press charges.
"I'm thankful that I'm able to play," Rolle said. "The Ravens have supported me and my wife from Day One, and I'm just thankful this is behind us and we can move forward."
Baltimore also signed tackle Dante Ellington, guard Phil Hawkins, running back Alex Haynes, defensive lineman Darrell Lee, wide receiver Cole Manger, cornerback Zach Norton, linebacker Mike Smith and defensive back Jamaine Winborne to the practice squad.
Staff writer Camille Powell contributed to this report.