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TallySaint 09-13-2005 06:20 AM

Benson Says San Antonio Needs to Support Saints
Benson says San Antonio needs to support Saints

Monday, 7:45 p.m.

By John Reid
Staff writer

SAN ANTONIO - Saints owner Tom Benson urged San Antonio residents Monday to support his team with sellout crowds for three games that have been shifted to the Alamodome.

But he declined to make any long-term commitment to San Antonio, saying the resident of South Louisiana affected by Hurricane Katrina need something to take their focus off the devastation caused by the storm.

“The only hope they got left is this football team,’’ Benson said. “They need us.’’

The Saints cannot play at the Superdome this season because of damages caused by Katrina, so they will play a split home schedule with games in San Antonio and four games in Baton Rouge’s Tiger Stadium.

The Saints’ three games at the Alamodome are Oct. 2 against the Buffalo Bills, the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 16 and the Detroit Lions on Dec. 24.

“A little over two weeks ago we were in California and we just played the Raiders and we didn’t know where we were going,’’ Benson said.

“So it went back and forth to see what could be done. The Alamodome has some restrictions on what games could be here. LSU had restrictions, too. So it was a lot of conversations about different games.’’

Benson praised San Antonio for welcoming the team with open arms, but reiterated they have an opportunity now to show if they are serious about supporting a NFL franchise.

“It’s most important for everyone involved to make certain capacity crowds attend every game that we have here,’’ Benson said. “This is something brand new, never happened before in the National Football League.

“I expect these games to be televised nationally and it could make me not only proud of our football team, but it would also make the (San Antonio) mayor proud to show what kind of great city you have here in San Antonio. This effort and this schedule will help rebuild Louisiana and the Gulf South.’’

Several San Antonio elected officials attended Monday’s news conference, but former San Antonio Mayor Nelson Wolff said they can’t worry about trying to land the Saints long-term right now.

“If we do well and support them right, I think we will be considered for something down the road,’’ said Wolff, now serving as a county judge. “Right now we just have to do a good job and see where it leads.’’

Saints coach Jim Haslett said most of his players would have preferred to play most of their home games in San Antonio because their families have relocated there.

“Again, I know what their (NFL) agenda
was, they would like for us to play in our home state and our players like that, too, to be honest with you,’’ Haslett said. “It’s just more of a travel and family issues. But I’m sure their families and friends will go to Baton Rouge to see the game to be with them.’’


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