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Minus fans for season opener, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton says, 'We've got to create the energy ourselves'

'I don't know for the foreseeable future if any team is going to enjoy that home field, loud noise you would typically get on third down'

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AUG 29th PRACTICE 2020. Dome Practice Saturday Night All Images Copyright Michael C. Hebert

Sean Payton suspects that NFL road teams will benefit from the absence of fans early in the season.

For Sunday's regular-season opener against Tampa Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Saints won't have fans in attendance, but have practiced under the NFL-approved barometers – 70 decibels for fan noise and 75 decibels for music.

The Superdome arguably has been the NFL's loudest venue, and the New Orleans Saints coach understands there will be a noticeable difference.

"We've talked about it, we've practiced in it, we've got the noise right where it's going to be on gameday," Payton said Wednesday morning during a teleconference. "Ultimately, there's a rectangle field out there with stripes on it and we're playing a game that involves technique and discipline, and the team that tackles and blocks and does the fundamentals best typically wins on Sunday.

"Now, does it help when you're playing at home and the opponent has trouble with the noise? All of those things are going to be different this season. My guess would be at the end of the year, the road team win percentage might be up a tick from years past because the road team won't have to deal with that adversity or the crowd noise that they typically have to deal with. So we've got to create the energy ourselves. We feel like we've got the best fans in the world.

"Now fortunately, I think in Week 2 we're going to progress back into having at least some fans at the game. But I don't know for the foreseeable future if any team is going to enjoy that home field, booming, loud noise that you would typically get on third down."

Understandably, veteran Saints players know there will be a significant difference.

"But at the end of the day, when we get in there, we have got a job to do," running back Alvin Kamara said. "That is how I approached the practice the other day when we walked into the Dome. You're thinking about it like, 'Man, no fans,' and then we get in there and you break the huddle and it's time to lock in.

"So it is what it is, but I will say the crowd noise that the league approved is nothing compared to what the Dome sounds like. I feel like they kind of played us on that."

But, those are the parameters under which the Saints will play. And Sunday, they'll do it against the Buccaneers, without ear-splitting noise.

"We can't control it," Payton said. "We understand that – (if) we're playing this game in Sweden, doesn't matter. We're playing a football game against a good football team, and it's going to be about execution.

"Quickly, some of these nuances that we've discussed in hockey or in the NBA, very quickly everybody got used to and just started watching. I'm sure it was uniquely different for them. You talk to these PGA golfers, it was different for them and yet, the best golfer in the world won the other day. And it wasn't because the crowds were cheering him on; he performed the best at the critical moments and he won.

"And so, I think the same thing will take place this year. Will it be different? Yes, I think it will be."

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