Saints News & Notes - 7/1/06

The Saints will collect only a small portion of the payment the state of Louisiana owes them next week as a result of Hurricane Katrina, which displaced the team and thousands of residents last August.

Because the Saints played only two exhibition games in the city before the Superdome was damaged by Katrina, the club will receive roughly $2.53 million of the scheduled $15 million payment -- which is due July 5.

The state's contractual obligations for the 2005 fiscal year were part of the 10-year, $186.5 million contract it signed with the Saints back in 2001.

Representatives with the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District and SMG, the company that manages the Superdome and New Orleans Arena, said the Saints have been made aware of the reduced payment for months.

LSED officials planned to send the Saints a letter outlining the calculated reduction, Doug Thornton, the regional vice president of SMG, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"It has not been 'officially' presented to the Saints, but will be provided to them on or before (July 3)," Thornton wrote in an e-mail to the newspaper. "We have had conversations with them regarding the payment amount, and there doesn't seem to be any disagreement."

Whether the Saints will agree to the reduced payment is unknown, however, because team officials declined comment on the issue this week.

In a statement, Saints chief operating officer Rita Benson LeBlanc said, "The Saints are continuing in positive discussions and negotiations with the state, and we are both eagerly anticipating a successful 2006 Saints season. Our focus, and primary goal, has been to ensure in every possible way the progress of the Superdome for play for our first home game."

--The Saints' offensive outlook entering training camp:

As can be expected of a team that's going through a transition with a new head coach and completely new staff, the Saints will have a fresh look on offense this season.

Coaches, players and fans alike are excited about the possibilities after the Saints underachieved on that side of the ball the past three seasons under former coach Jim Haslett and coordinators Mike McCarthy and Mike Sheppard.

The biggest change is first-year coach Sean Payton will call the plays this year for an offense that underwent a major overhaul at quarterback and the offensive line, while adding some role players at key positions like running back, wide receiver and tight end.

The off-season changes started with the signing of two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees to a six-year, $60 million contract and former Pro Bowl running back Michael Bennett, who was brought in to be the primary backup for Deuce McAllister -- who played in only five games after tearing the ACL in his right knee.

With Brees replacing the erratic and mistake-prone Aaron Brooks, the Saints went about rebuilding an offensive line that was plagued by penalties a year ago. As a result, there will be new starters at all five positions.

Right tackle Jammal Brown has been moved to left tackle and right guard Montrae Holland will be the left guard, replacing Wayne Gandy and Kendyl Jacox, respectively. Gandy was traded and Jacox was released. Jeff Faine, who was obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Browns, will be the center. The other two spots are up for grabs heading into training camp with Jermane Mayberry and Jonathan Goodwin battling for the
right guard spot, while Jamar Nesbit and Jon Stinchcomb vie at right tackle.

Jamie Martin was signed to serve as Brees' backup and Chris Horn and Bethel Johnson were added to bolster the wide receiver corps. Mark Campbell and Tim Euhus will provide more depth at tight end.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Deuce McAllister is one of three new inductees into the Independence Bowl's Hall of Fame in Shreveport, La. Joining McAllister in the Hall this year are former LSU head coach Gerry DiNardo and Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca, who played his college ball at LSU under DiNardo. McAllister scored a total of four touchdowns in back-to-back appearances in the Independence Bowl. He ran for a touchdown, caught another and scored on a kickoff return when Ole Miss beat Texas Tech 35-18 in 1998.

One year later, McAllister ran for 121 yards and a touchdown and his 42-yard kickoff return set up the game-winning field goal in a 27-25 win over Oklahoma.

--For the third time in six weeks, Saints rookie running back Reggie Bush has reached out to help his new community through his corporate sponsorships. At a press conference on June 29 in Slidell, which is located across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans, Bush and General Motors announced a one-year extension of the loan of 12 Hummer H3 vehicles provided to several state agencies for use in hurricane relief last fall.

Built at GM's Shreveport plant, the vehicles were provided to the governor's office after Hurricane Katrina and given to local agencies for transporting goods and personnel during the recovery phase of hurricane operations.

Bush, who signed a corporate contract with Hummer before being drafted by the Saints in late April, was present for the announcement. He also donated to the Slidell Police Department several autographed items which will be used to raise money for local charities.

"This is step three in a 10-step process to try to do my part in the rebuilding of this city," Bush said. "This donation of the 12 Hummers goes right to the heart of helping first responders, the critical men and women that are on the front line saving lives in the event of an emergency."

--The final piece of metal decking was placed on the Superdome's roof this week with the facility still on schedule to be "football ready" by late September. Superdome officials said Friday that the project of replacing the entire 9.7-acre roof continues to progress along with other work inside the building after the damages sustained during Hurricane Katrina.

The Superdome is expected to be "football ready" for the Saints' first home game on Sept. 25 even though some interior work will continue through August 2007. A total of 10,463 pieces of galvanized 16-gauge fluted metal decking was mounted on the roof, which reaches 270 feet at its apex. The next step is to pressure wash the entire surface to prepare it for the 2-1/2 inch thick layer of polyurethane foam, which will be sprayed in place. Approximately 500,000 gallons of foam will be used.

After that, the roof will be coated with 20,000 gallons of 46-millimeter thick urethane coating, sprayed in five separate coats. The roof work is expected to be completed by Sept. 1.

--The Saints 2006 commercial campaign, which carries a theme of "Winning is an Attitude," has been a big hit so far with the team's fans. First-year head coach Sean Payton is featured in all five commercials, which focus on Payton's commitment to doing things the right way -- every time -- to build a winning organization.

Also featured in the commercials are running back Deuce McAllister, quarterback Drew Brees, wide receiver Joe Horn, defensive end Will Smith and the Saintsations. The spots were filmed in the locker room, practice field and cafeteria at the team's practice facility in Metairie.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's been interesting to say the least. There has been a lot of movement with staff as well as the players. There have been a lot of transactions, and hopefully, we can come together as a team and a family and win some games." -- Saints RB Deuce McAllister on the team's extremely busy off-season.


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