KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Nov. 15, 2005) -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue urged league owners to be patient and understanding with the "unprecedented" situation facing the hurricane-displaced New Orleans Saints.
"These are very difficult challenges. Everyone needs to be patient," Tagliabue said at the end of the first day of a two-day meeting of NFL owners.
"There are a lot of complications here and I think everyone is working in good faith to get them resolved."
At stake is where the Saints will play their home games next season, and whether the franchise will remain in New Orleans or possibly relocate to San Antonio.
Possibilities for home games next year include Baton Rouge, La., San Antonio and even New Orleans if the Hurricane Katrina-damaged Superdome is up and running near the end of the year.
An eight-member committee heard proposals Nov. 15.
Tagliabue is planning to visit New Orleans next month to assess the situation, and is hoping to set the Saints' 2006 schedule far ahead of the April release of the rest of the teams.
"We are currently looking at an ideal of putting out the Saints' schedule well in advance of the rest of the schedule in order to eliminate uncertainty and facilitate planning," Tagliabue said. "Whether we can do that and how we can do that is something we've been having very intensive discussions about within our staff.
"No decisions have been made. We want to know where the team's going to play its games as soon as we can."
The Saints have scheduled three "home" games in San Antonio this year and four in Baton Rouge. Their home opener was played at Giants Stadium.
Owner Tom Benson hurried in and out of the meeting room and told reporters in one brief conversation that his team wasn't for sale.
"We don't have to talk about that one," he said.
Houston owner Bob McNair said the owners were heeding the commissioner's urging.
"Just from a sense of fairness, you don't kick people when they're down," he said. "You give them a reasonable period of time to recover. We don't know what New Orleans is going to look like. It might be an entirely different city. They might have more than adequate support. That's something that might have to be determined at a later point in time."
The prospect of having three teams in Texas wouldn't cause him to vote against a proposed move to San Antonio if it comes to that, he said.
"Texas is big enough to have three teams," he said. "I think we all feel a compassion for what's happened to the people in New Orleans. I certainly don't want to do anything that would make their decision more difficult."
Benson has come under criticism from Saints fans who believe he favors moving to San Antonio. He swatted at a TV news camera and argued with a heckling fan in the Saints' first game in Baton Rouge on Oct. 30. He was a no-show for the following game in Baton Rouge after promising never to return to the city.
"I think, which frequently happens in emotionally charged situations, people are unfairly reduced to being caricatures when there's no reason for that," Tagliabue said. "Small things are made into big things when no real purpose is served by that.
"We have to have a sober assessment of what kind of rebuilding and defending new investment of the Superdome if any makes sense. These are all complicated decisions."