Practice facility has no bearing on wins and losses

It is almost that time – time for the New Orleans Saints to train for a second year at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

If you have been there, you know what a pretty spot it is, tucked away in southern West Virginia. The artificial turf practice field was carved out of a mountain. The grass field at the top of the hill is manicured. The Greenbrier built the Saints a first-class facility, too.

But, does it help you win games? After last year’s seven-win season in a bad NFC South, there was a lot of speculation that comfy confines made the Saints a softer football team.

My take? Training camp locations don’t win or lose games.

In 1987, in the searing heat and humidity of Hammond, led by a demanding coach, the Saints set a franchise record for wins (12) and made the playoffs for the first time. The Saints then moved camp to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and missed the playoffs for two consecutive years.

In 1992, while training in Wisconsin, the Saints won 12. Four years later, still in LaCrosse, the Saints won three.

In 2000, after training in Thibodaux, the Saints made the playoffs. One year later, they won seven games.

In those comfy beds last year, some decorated by pink walls, there were not enough good football players. Sean Payton confirmed that this offseason when he did major surgery on his roster.

There will be some Saints fans who make the trip to the Greenbrier. Some come from the Washington, D.C. area. Others from Virginia. A few from Pennsylvania, and some from Tennessee.

What they tell reporters is that is they miss New Orleans, dearly. And, it is great to get a slice of home. Which is where the Saints should be in late July and most of August.

Aug. 19 and 20, the Saints will practice against the Super Bowl champion Patriots at the Greenbrier. A few days later, the two teams will play a preseason game at the Superdome. Those practices should be conducted in front of the taxpaying fans of the state of Louisiana. Can you imagine what kind of crowd would show if the Patriots and Saints practiced at night at Tad Gormley Stadium? Fans who don’t have access to Saints’ regular-season games would get to see their club, as they say, up close and personal.

And, taxpayers should count. They paid for the Saints’ training camp, which includes an indoor practice facility. They paid for the Superdome, and the renovations. They are the reason why the Saints have a sweet deal with the state of Louisiana, one that includes the Saints collecting all of the rent from the Benson Tower office building. The clientele there is predominantly state workers.

This summer, 30 of 32 NFL teams will practice either at their facility or at a spot nearby. The Buffalo Bills seem to be one of the 30 that will travel the most. That is, 76 miles to Rochester, New York.

Then there’s the Saints and Cowboys. Dallas will train in Oxnard, California. It is a place Sean Payton has taken his Saints before. He obviously likes it, there. The Cowboys, by the way, have won two playoff games in the past 20 seasons.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarion  herald.org.

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