Team Report: New Orleans Saints

Saints coach Jim Haslett goes into his fourth training camp with one eye on his football team and one eye on the weather.<br><br>Naturally, how the Saints progress in training camp and during the exhibition season is Haslett's top priority as he looks ahead to the grueling 16-game regular season.

But looking down the road to the end of the season was very much on Haslett's mind during the off-season as he sought some answers for the team's flat finish in 2001 and 2002.

The Saints dropped their final four games in 2001 and their final three games last season -- knocking them out of the playoff race each time -- and Haslett sought the opinions of coaches like Dave Wannstedt, Jeff Fisher and Marty Schottenheimer for possible solutions.

After spending weeks on the frustrating problem, Haslett came to the conclusion that conditioning and inexperience had something to do with the season-ending malaise.

A new $10 million indoor practice facility that will be completed in time for training camp will likely help -- giving the Saints occasional relief from the heat and humidity of south Louisiana from late July to mid-October.

"I think the heat and elements have taken something out of us," Haslett said. "Practicing every day in 100-degree conditions might eventually take its toll.

"We wear down a little bit as the season goes along," said Haslett, who has scheduled five indoor practices at night and four night outdoor practices at various sites around the area. "We've looked at it pretty hard, and I think the indoor facility is going to help a lot in that area."

The building, which is adjacent to the regular practice facility, includes a regulation 100-yard practice field made of "FieldTurf," a weight room and a cafeteria. The state of Louisiana paid two-thirds of the cost of the building, or about $6.7 million.

Educating the younger players, particularly the rookies, will also be a strong point of emphasis during camp.

"Sometimes, the young guys hit the wall about the 10th or 12th game of the season," Haslett said. "They start getting nicked up and they really haven't learned how to play with injuries or play through those kind of things. It's a learning process. We've got to learn how to overcome that."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp opens on July 26 (players report July 25) and closes on Aug. 21. The annual Black and Gold Scrimmage is set for Aug. 2 in Lafayette, La. (about 2 1/2 hours west of New Orleans), at Cajun Field on the University of Louisiana-Lafayette campus.

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