The New Orleans Saints will open their 2021 regular season against Green Bay on September 12 at TIAA Field in Jacksonville, Fla., the second time in 17 years the franchise will play its home opener outside New Orleans.
"I am proud of the collective communications that occurred between many entities in a short amount of time that led to us making this decision," Saints owner Gayle Benson said in a statement Wednesday morning. "It is never easy to make a decision that involves not playing a Saints home game in the Caesars Superdome, but I am confident that this is the right decision for our city at this juncture.
"Collectively, we have a monumental task ahead of us in cleaning up the after effects left by Hurricane Ida, but it has been inspiring to see people getting right to work and starting the process. I wish to personally thank (Jaguars owner) Shahid Khan, (Jaguars president) Mark Lamping and the entire Jacksonville Jaguars staff and their city leaders in offering to host our game.
"Our staff is working diligently to prepare for the game and we anticipate many Saints fans from across the region will be there to support Coach (Sean) Payton and the Saints players."
Check out photos from New Orleans Saints' practice at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on August 31 as they prepare for Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers.
In 2005, the first home game – played in Giants Stadium against the Giants – moved due to destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. The Saints didn't play in New Orleans at all that season, splitting its home games between Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and the Alamodome in San Antonio.
This year, Hurricane Ida wreaked similar havoc through the New Orleans metropolitan area, other parts of Louisiana and neighboring states. But Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said the team expects to play in the Superdome this season.
"We don't plan on playing a completely road schedule," Loomis said Wednesday. "We plan on playing a lot of games at home in the Superdome this year, and that's what we expect to do.
"I don't think there's anything really too unique about playing on the road, if we have to, this Week 1 because we're going to do that Week 2 (against Carolina), Week 3 (against New England). So it'll be a normal road trip. It's just departing from here (Dallas) and we're going to prepare here for the week leading up to the game."
With utility and water restoration occurring in many of those areas after Ida made landfall on Aug. 29, Payton estimated that the Saints likely would not return to their practice facility in Metairie, La., for a month. The Saints evacuated to Dallas, have been based there and will continue to be in the Dallas-Fort Worth area at least through this week.
Kickoff for the season opener remains set at 3:25 p.m.
TIAA Stadium meets the league-mandated criteria that the game be played in an NFL stadium.
"It does need to be an NFL stadium because of replay and some of the other issues," Loomis said. "Obviously, there has to be availability relative to the home team and relative to any other events that might be in the facility."
The Jaguars are scheduled to open their season on Sept. 12 in Houston, against the Texans.
"Each week, the league office has a number of sites that they have identified as open and available in case of a disaster and a team having to move their game," Loomis said. "I think the league is really well prepared in terms of having to move a game on short notice.
"The main thing is we get to have an NFL-ready stadium. There's just so many variables, I don't want to get into all the variables that exist. But the main thing is we'll have a suitable place to play that both teams have access to."