With New Orleans days and perhaps weeks away from even basic services returning after Hurricane Ida wrecked the Gulf Coast, the NFL has moved the Saints’ Week 1 game against the Green Bay Packers to Jacksonville.
Saints-Packers playing Week 1 in Jacksonville
Kickoff at TIAA Bank Field will be at 4:25 PM.
“I am proud of the collective communications that occurred between many entities in a short amount of time that led to us making this decision,” New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson said. “It is never easy to make a decision that involves not playing a Saints home game in the Caesars Superdome, but I am confident that this is the right decision for our city at this juncture.
“Collectively, we have a monumental task ahead of us in cleaning up the after effects left by Hurricane Ida, but it has been inspiring to see people getting right to work and starting the process,” Benson continued. “I wish to personally thank Shahid Khan, Mark Lamping and the entire Jacksonville Jaguars staff and their city leaders in offering to host our game. Our staff is working diligently to prepare for the game and we anticipate many Saints fans from across the region will be there to support Coach Payton and the Saints players.”
While the Superdome itself suffered only minor damage, the city is in no condition to put on a major event. Electricity is out for hundreds of thousands of people, a curfew remains in place, and the governor is telling people who can stay away to do so.
“Many of the life-supporting infrastructure elements are not present, they’re not operating right now,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “So if you have already evacuated, do not return.”
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City of New Orleans not ready to host major sporting event
The optics, of course, would be awful playing a game in New Orleans right now, but so would the logistics. Public safety officials who would otherwise work the game are needed for far more pressing matters.
While many surmised Dallas would host Saints-Packers in Week 1, the NFL in part went with Jacksonville because both the Jaguars and Saints employ the same stadium management company.
The Saints and league have had extensive discussions with local and state governmental leaders, Entergy officials, ASM International, and other key community leaders. The team will remain in regular contact as daily assessments are made, with the greatest hopes that the Saints can return home to play the balance of their home games at the Caesars Superdome as soon as it is feasible.
“We also want to thank Governor Jon Bel Edwards and Mayor LaToya Cantrell for their leadership during this hurricane,” said Benson. “And, of course all of the first responders and those at Entergy and everyone working to get power and water restored to our city. We are grateful for their leadership and tireless efforts.”
Saints practicing for 2021 season in Texas
The Saints are preparing for the upcoming game in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area after the team evacuated on August 28. The team will travel to Jacksonville the day before the game.
Season-ticket holders will receive access to tickets prior to a general on-sale for fans. More details on ticket sales, timing, and policies will be available on Thursday.
The league is hopeful the Saints will be able to return home for their next home game — Oct. 3 against the New York Giants. If not, New Orleans would be at a competitive disadvantage this fall. The Saints’ schedule currently has 10 of their 17 games away from home.
Handicapper Lee Sterling, owner of Paramount Sports, anticipates a three-point swing in the betting line toward the Packers in Week 1 due to the change in venue and expects the Packers to be as much as a 6.5-point favorite when the dust settles.