Orlando, Fla. – While the decision on which city will host Super Bowl LII in 2018 won't be made until the NFL holds its spring league meeting in Atlanta on May 19-21, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson said he has taken advantage of the opportunity at the league meetings this week to continue trying to swing votes in New Orleans' favor.
And he feels confident that the city soon will be informed that it will host the Super Bowl for the 11th time. Seven Super Bowls have been played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and three were played at Tulane Stadium.
"We're patting people on the backs and looking forward to that meeting in Atlanta," Benson said. "How important it's going to be to New Orleans – everybody knows that. And everybody knows that (the owners) love New Orleans. They've got to be careful, they tell me, that we don't come back every year.
"They love to come to New Orleans and I think that we're in good shape to get it. You can't ever tell what'll happen but as far as I can see, we're in good shape to get that Super Bowl."
Benson said he has been pleased with the work the franchise has done this offseason, including personnel moves that have included the Saints agreeing to terms with free agent safety Jairus Byrd and fullback Erik Lorig, re-signing offensive tackle Zach Strief and extending the contract of running back Pierre Thomas.
"(General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) and the group, they work all year on that," Benson said. "It's not just at the last minute or anything. The season isn't over and they're already involved a great deal in what they're planning to do and what they're going to do.
"We've got a group of people there that are very dedicated to bringing us better players, or in some cases, a need. We're really looking forward to a great season."
Loomis and Co. have been able to work a bit of magic even though the Saints have had minimal operating room under the salary cap.
"We were pressed up, and are pressed up, against the cap," Loomis said Tuesday. "But each year we have been able to try to find a few things that we can do to improve our team, and we were able to do that again this year.
"The thing about being pressed up against the cap, more than anything else, it just reduces your margin of error. So we've got to be accurate in our assessments and our evaluations of the players we bring in, we've got to be accurate in how they can help us and hopefully, we are.
"Each year we go into an offseason and we've got 19 or 20 action items that we need to accomplish, in our view. We've been able to hit on a number of those things – a lot of those involve bringing our own players back. We've been able to do that with Zach Strief and several other guys, and we've still got some work to do in that area. But signing Jairus and Erik Lorig, I think, will hopefully improve our football team. That's what our intention was."
The thought of an improved product also was a driving force behind the team choosing to split its training camp this season, between the team's practice facility in Metairie and The Greenbriar in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
"We're not going to be gone that long, we're going to take care of our New Orleans fans," Benson said. "They're most important to us. But we think it's going to be a good thing for the team.
"The first two weeks are very hard and they'll be where they're isolated, dedicated to what they're doing. I think it's going to be good for our club, and that's the main reason that we're going. It's an ideal spot, the weather is ideal – we hope. We're looking forward to it helping us being a good team."
Loomis said a change of location for training camp was a possibility that had been discussed for a couple of years.
"We've got a couple of things involved in that," he said. "The first is, one thing that I believe in and (Coach) Sean (Payton) and I have talked about a lot, is that every so often, every three or four or five years, we need to change things up and do things a little differently. Change venues, if you will, for training camp. I think that interjects an energy and a newness to training camp and I think that helps our football team.
"The other part is, I think it will be good for us to get out of the extreme heat for a training camp or two, or three, and see what kind of effect it will have on our football team.
"We started talking about Greenbriar three or four years ago. Because of circumstances, we didn't make the change prior to this. But all those elements fell into place this year. We're looking forward to going there, and spending the first half of our training camp there. Then, we'll have an open training camp when we return.
"Our fans will get a great opportunity to see our team practice and prepare for this upcoming season when we get back."