The New Orleans Saints will play four home games this season in Baton Rouge, La., and three others in San Antonio, the NFL announced yesterday.
Saints owner Tom Benson and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue were in Baton Rouge yesterday to meet with state officials and representatives of Louisiana State University, where the team will play beginning in late October.
"We had an excellent meeting . . . and quickly developed a dual consensus," Tagliabue said in a written statement released by the league. "The first was to continue to give priority to the needs of the region and the second to the scheduling of Saints games in a way that made sense under the total circumstances."
The Saints had been negotiating with Alamodome representatives in San Antonio to play as many as four games there. The club has set up operations in San Antonio and is practicing there, and General Manager Mickey Loomis said recently that the team would remain based there all season no matter where games are played.
Loomis had expressed a preference to play as many games as possible in Baton Rouge if it wouldn't overburden the state's infrastructure. Coach Jim Haslett said last week that he preferred to play games in San Antonio for the sake of convenience but felt an obligation to play some games in Louisiana if possible. When NFL Players Association chief Gene Upshaw met with Saints players late last week, he told them the league had no intention of allowing them to abandon Louisiana and play all their games in San Antonio.
Haslett said during a news conference yesterday: "I'm not really worried about the location. Our first concern is just to win football games."
Benson declined to address the franchise's future in New Orleans beyond this season, saying at a news conference: "We are going to worry about the present and get our football team ready for every game, just like we did for this last game."
The league announced that the Saints will play in San Antonio in Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills, in Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons and in Week 16 against the Detroit Lions. They'll play in Baton Rouge in Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins, in Week 9 against the Chicago Bears, in Week 13 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers. The league announced that the dates and times of the games had not been determined, although Benson said the Bills game will be on Oct. 2 and the Lions game on Dec. 24 as previously scheduled. Benson, like the league, indicated that no determination had been made about where any home playoff games hosted by the Saints would be played.
Tagliabue previously moved the Saints' first scheduled home game, against the New York Giants, to Giants Stadium. The game was rescheduled from Sunday to 7:30 p.m. Monday, and it will be part of a nationally televised Monday night doubleheader. Haslett criticized the decision to put his team at a competitive disadvantage by having it play a scheduled home game in its opponent's stadium.
The Saints left New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina and flooding ravaged the city and damaged the Superdome, the team's home stadium. They spent several days practicing in San Jose before their preseason finale at Oakland, then relocated to San Antonio to prepare for Sunday's season opener at Carolina -- a regularly scheduled road game. The Saints emerged with an emotional 23-20 triumph on John Carney's 47-yard field goal with three seconds remaining.
NFL Notes: The Panthers lost defensive tackle Kris Jenkins for the season because of a torn right anterior cruciate ligament. Jenkins originally hurt the knee in the first half Sunday, but returned to the game briefly in the second half before being re-injured and helped off the field a second time. . . . The Green Bay Packers lost wide receiver Javon Walker, who tore an ACL in Sunday's season-opening defeat at Detroit, for the season.