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At long last, New Orleans Saints returned to familiar surroundings

'I couldn't wait to get home. I know a lot of guys couldn't wait'

The New Orleans Saints and our fans get set for Week 3 on the road against the New England Patriots on September 26, 2021.

The first month of the 2021 regular season for the New Orleans Saints has crammed in enough tumult to fill a couple of calendar seasons.

There's no debating that.

When the team returned to New Orleans – and players, coaches and staff returned to their respective homes – after Sunday's 28-13 victory over New England at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., it ended a 28-day absence that began on August 28.

The separation included hurricane evacuation, Covid-19 infections, roster reduction, player injuries, homesickness, familial loss, absentee home reparations and more.

And, not insignificantly, two victories in three games, not one of which was played at the Caesars Superdome. New Orleans (2-1) will play the Giants (0-3) in its first true home game this season, at noon Sunday at the Caesars Superdome.

From TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., where the Saints played their "home" opener, to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., to Gillette Stadium, the Saints managed to step through and/or around the chaos effectively enough to beat Green Bay and New England by a combined 50 points.

Coming home presents the team its first sense of normalcy – it lived in hotels in the Dallas/Fort Worth area during its evacuation period, and practiced at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and TCU in Fort Worth – for this regular season.

"I think we probably got more into a routine after the first week-and-a-half or two weeks," Coach Sean Payton said Monday. "As coaches, you try to establish times that are consistent and practice schedules. I think it's easier to train when you're doing that, and more effective.

"Obviously, after this past weekend's game (against the Patriots), we're all kind of back unpacking here and getting settled. The obvious of being home and getting into a little bit more familiar surroundings, but also the additional time it allows you relative to preparation that you spend a lot commuting. It's good to get back. It's good to get back. I'm sure the players and staff, everyone involved feels the same way."

The players, unequivocally, feel that way.

"I couldn't wait to get home," receiver Marquez Callaway said. "I know a lot of guys couldn't wait. I couldn't wait.

"I think we're more happy about going home after the win. The win was the first thing on our mind. (But) as soon as we got to the locker room, you could hear chanting going into the locker room of 'We're going home. We're going home.' Everybody's happy to get home. I'm happy to have slept in my bed finally and just happy to be here."

"It's crazy it's been a month that we've been gone from home," linebacker Demario Davis said. "That's a lot of time to spend away from your family, spouses and kids and just not being in your normal routine, especially early in the season and so definitely glad that that's in the past.

"It was just good to be back home, seeing the wife, seeing the kids, sleeping in your own bed, even coming into the facility. The facility even feels weird because we haven't been here in a while and so just looking to get back to some normalcy."

What the Saints were able to normalize was their ability to construct success. The defense has led the way (seven turnovers forced, including six interceptions, one of them returned for a touchdown, and four touchdowns allowed in 12 quarters), the offense has been opportunistic (8 for 9 in the red zone) and special teams has made an impact (a blocked field goal and punt).

Now, the team can settle into the routines it had planned before it departed. Even if there's future tumult – and during an NFL season, there assuredly will be – at least it can be addressed in familiar surroundings, as can preparation for the next opponent.

"You get back and you're hoping the next day-and-a-half, two days, people can get adjusted and get into their housing," Payton said. "And then quickly, you focus on the opponent, and that's New York. So that's what we're doing today."


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