New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson got his fingers caught in the cookie jar last week when Saints executive vice president Arnold Fielkow told people in New Orleans that Benson wanted to move them permanently to San Antonio and had no desire to refund season ticket-holders this year despite the flood damage that has driven the Saints out of town.
The information originally was sourced anonymously, but a Louisiana state legislator identified Fielkow as the source. Benson now says refunds will be given and that he wants to play as many games as possible up the road in Baton Rouge. But if the city takes down the Superdome, as has been suggested, Benson is out of New Orleans.
The Saints have decided to move their football operation to San Antonio for the year anyway, and that includes the families of players, coaches, and staff. Coach Jim Haslett has tried to downplay the disruption but acknowledged that his players want to practice and play where their families will be living.
Wide receiver Donte Stallworth seemed to adopt the right attitude about it all, saying, "Other than us staying here in San Antonio for a while, I don't see myself as a victim. Other people lost everything. They don't know where they're going to get that next meal or that next drink of water. That's what's going to keep me focused. The people of New Orleans are looking at us."
COOL OUTFITS? Some teams will do anything for an edge. Today the Jaguars will wear their road white jerseys at home against Seattle, believing that heat could be a factor (light colors tend to reflect heat rather than absorb it). The Seahawks will wear dark green jerseys. The Jaguars gave up the white home jerseys after the 2003 home opener, when Buffalo, wearing blue, came into their stadium and blasted Jacksonville.
THE TRUTH IS IN THERE: Damien Woody has come to grips with the reality of playing in Detroit, and for a team that has gone 16-48 the past four years. When he arrived from New England last year, he kept a Super Bowl game ball in his locker as a symbol to his teammates of what they were chasing. This year, the ball has been replaced by a sign that reads: "16-48." Said Woody, "I just want guys to realize what the truth is. This is the truth. We're 16-48 since 2001. That's it. I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings. But you have to grow up. We've got to make it happen. If we can't make it happen, we've got to get guys who can. That's the reality of pro football. It's time to learn how to win and win consistently. This losing stuff gets old."
PUSH COMES TO SHOVE: When you're watching Colts-Ravens tonight, keep an eye on Jonathan Ogden and Dwight Freeney, who have begun to develop quite a rivalry. Last season, Ogden, the Ravens' Pro Bowl left tackle, allowed only three sacks all year. Two of them came in a December game against Freeney, who also had two hurries in that game. Excluding that game, Ogden has allowed only nine sacks in his last 59 starts, dating back to 2001.
DON'T WRECK THE CARR: The Houston Texans understand the need to protect their quarterback, David Carr, because they have seldom done it. Carr has been the most sacked quarterback in football two of the past three years, going down 144 times. Those sacks have accounted for 802 lost yards and have more than a little to do with the fact that Carr has a rating of 74.8 in the first half, 62.4 in the fourth quarter, and 48.1 in the last two minutes. The Texans return 10 of their 11 offensive starters, and the only change is at left tackle, where Victor Riley replaces Seth Wand. Wand is now Riley's backup.
TOUGH LOSS IN JACKSONVILLE: Distance makes the heart grow fonder. So, too, does losing. Jaguars running back Fred Taylor spoke fondly of departed coach Tom Coughlin, whom so many of the Jags grew weary of because of his "tough love" approach in Jacksonville. Coughlin's replacement, Jack Del Rio, runs a looser ship, but Taylor now fears that has contributed to the team's struggles. "As much bad stuff as they say about T.C., I'll give him this much: You take away the little nitpicky things and he wanted to win," said Taylor. "You can't get upset about him being passionate for wanting to win. Guys were ticked off at him but somehow you developed that sense of passion. We didn't feel his tactics were necessary but you were scared to go out. You were scared not to come in here rested because he was going to drill you and put your butt in the dirt. Jack tells the guys, 'Don't go out, get your rest,' but it's a different fashion. He doesn't threaten you the way Tom did. At the same time, if you don't do it, your butt is out of here."
IT'S ALL IN THEIR HEADS: Every team has head cases, but in the case of the Browns, you can take that literally. Starting cornerbacks Gary Baxter and Daylon McCutcheon are both struggling. Baxter may not start today against the Bengals because of a concussion he suffered three weeks ago, and McCutcheon played in only one exhibition game because of migraines.
QUICK CHANGE: Romeo Crennel has turned over half the Browns' roster in his first season as coach. The Browns have 26 players who were not in Cleveland last season.