The 2003 NFL season officially kicks off Sept. 9, but for Saints diehards, the chance to see Saints football starts on Saturday, July 26, when the Saints open training camp. After two years in Thibodaux, this year the Saints are holding training camp right here at home, at their facility at 5800 Airline Drive in Metairie.
For diehards, training camp is a chance to see the players up-close: wide receiver Donte Stallworth battling cornerback Dale Carter on deep routes; Deuce McAllister hitting holes as the defensive line tries to shut him down; Michael Lewis practicing runbacks; and the offense and defense squaring off in two-minute and goal-line drills. And, of course, all eyes this camp will be on Aaron Brooks' shoulder as he returns from offseason surgery.
For the curious or casual fan, training camp is free and offers a relaxed atmosphere where players often mingle after practice for impromptu autograph sessions. (Parking for camp is available in the New Orleans' Zephyrs adjacent parking lots for $3.) Food and drink concessions can also be bought on-site. Fans can also take pictures at training camp practices, although videotaping is not permitted.
A number of morning and evening outdoor practices are open to the public. Morning practices are held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and evening practices are from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Gates open one hour prior to each practice. (Practices in the Saints' new indoor practice facility are closed to the public.) Fans are invited to the following workouts:
Morning practices open to public: Saturday, July 26; Monday, July 28; Wednesday, July 30; Friday, Aug. 1; Tuesday, Aug. 5; Thursday, Aug. 7; Friday, Aug. 8; Sunday, Aug. 10; Thursday, Aug. 14; Tuesday, Aug. 19; and Thursday, Aug. 21.
Evening practices open to the public: Sunday, July 27; Tuesday, July 29; Wednesday, July 30; Thursday, July 31; Monday, Aug. 4; Tuesday, Aug. 5; Wednesday, Aug. 6; Friday, Aug. 8; Saturday, Aug. 9; Wednesday, Aug. 13; Monday, Aug. 18; Tuesday, Aug. 19; and Wednesday, Aug. 20.
Another chance to see the Saints up close is the team's annual Black & Gold scrimmage, which will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 2 in Lafayette at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The scrimmage takes place in M.L. "Tigue" Moore field, the 31,000-seat baseball stadium. Before the game, beginning at 2 p.m., Saints alumni and executives will be on hand for autograph sessions. In addition, kids of all ages can participate in quarterback passing drills, sack-the-quarterback drills, bungee runs and a run-to-daylight drill.
Tickets to the Black & Gold scrimmage are $10-$20, and include admission to all related events. Tickets are available through the Saints ticket office at 731-1700, or via the Saints Web site at www.neworleanssaints.com.
The tools of the trade are ready to go for Saints training camp July 26-Aug. 21.