Costa Mesa, Calif. – With Hurricane Hilary predicted to strike parts of California, including Los Angeles, over the weekend and produce rain levels that may rise to flood concerns, the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Chargers awaited word Friday on the status of Sunday's preseason game at SoFi Stadium
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CST, 4:05 p.m. PST.
The forecast calls for a 98 percent chance of rain Sunday, with possibly an inch of rain during the day. Another one to two inches of rain is forecast to fall overnight, but winds are expected to top out at 10 to 15 mph. On Friday, Hilary was listed as a Category 4 hurricane.
"I just heard that there's going to be a phone call today with the league and stadium, so we'll see what happens," Saints Coach Dennis Allen said Friday, after the team wrapped up the second of two days of joint practices with the Chargers. "Obviously, the most important thing is that everybody stay safe. So whatever it takes for everybody to stay safe, that's what we've got to do."
New Orleans and the Saints fan base are quite familiar with preparing for approaching hurricanes. Most recently, in late August 2021, the Saints were forced to cancel their preseason finale on Aug. 28 against the Cardinals and evacuate New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Ida, which pushed the team operations to the Dallas/Fort Worth area for more than a month.
After moving the home opener to Jacksonville to play Green Bay, a 38-3 Saints victory, New Orleans played road games against Carolina and New England before returning to New Orleans for its first game at the Caesars Superdome on Oct. 3, a 27-21 overtime loss to the Giants.
Among the possibilities for Sunday's game would be a cancelation, moving up the start time or playing the game at its current scheduled time.
GAME REPS: While Allen would not reveal the expected game reps for the team early Friday afternoon, he did say that unlike in the preseason opener against Kansas City, all available starters would not be playing Sunday. That group probably would have included star cornerback Marshon Lattimore even if he hadn't tweaked his knee, and also possibly includes Saints like quarterback Derek Carr, running back Alvin Kamara, receiver Michael Thomas, defensive end Cam Jordan and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
The Saints' and Chargers' starters received valuable practice reps against each other during the joint practices, which Carr said are often more challenging than the work in preseason games.
"We're going to discuss that," Allen said. "There'll be some guys that we'll probably hold out of this game. I don't know that it's just going to be wholesale, but there'll be a few guys that we'll probably hold."
Linebacker Jaylon Smith, who signed two days before the Saints played the Chiefs and sat out the preseason opener, would likely play against the Chargers.
"I think he's smart, I think he's tough, I think he's athletic," Allen said of Smith, who took reps with the Nos. 1 and 2 defenses in the joint practices. "He's done some good things that kind of caught my eye a little bit, it'll be good to see him play on Sunday, get out and play the game, and see how it goes. He's still kind of learning the system, but yet he's picked it up pretty quickly."
LATT LEAVES: Lattimore left Friday's practice early after tweaking his knee during drills. "I don't expect it to be anything, we held him out for precautionary measures," Allen said. "Didn't seem like it was significant on the field, so hopefully, that'll be the case.
"I think he just kind of planted, felt a little something. So, I really think it's more precautionary than anything, but we'll evaluate and see where it's at."
GROWING TRUST: If there was a play of the day Friday, a strong contender would have been a 35-yard touchdown pass from Carr to tight end Juwan Johnson down the right sideline. Carr made the throw before Johnson entered his break, put some air underneath it and as Johnson turned back to locate, he extended his hands and snatched the pass almost simultaneously.
"Just a guy that's really focused in on trying to be the best that he can," Allen said of Johnson. "He works extremely hard and when you have talent and you work hard, you get better and that's what he's done. I like his mind-set and where he's at.
"I think he's developed a nice little rapport with Derek. He seems to be where Derek wants him, when he wants him there and when you do that, you kind of get rewarded and the ball comes your way."