METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints will remain at home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, a source confirmed to ESPN.
Although the Saints and the NFL have talked with officials in Baton Rouge about the idea of moving games to LSU’s Tiger Stadium so fans could be in attendance, that would require ample preparation time. So the earliest it could happen is November — and likely not until Week 11 against the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 22.
The Saints’ next home game is Week 10 on Nov. 15 against the San Francisco 49ers. But LSU is hosting Alabama the day before, and it would be difficult to host both games in Tiger Stadium on back-to-back days.
The Athletic was first to report that Sunday’s game will remain in New Orleans. The Saints have not yet made any official announcements.
The Saints’ No. 1 wish is for a limited number of fans to be allowed in the Superdome. But so far New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has denied their requests while the coronavirus restrictions on large gatherings remain tighter in New Orleans than the rest of the state.
The Saints have openly campaigned for the mayor to change her mind, disagreeing last week with her statement that “no NFL stadium in the country with a fixed-roof facility” has allowed fans in games so far.
The state of Louisiana has allowed fans into games — LSU allowed 25% capacity for its lone home game on Sept. 26.
Meanwhile, Saints coach Sean Payton embraced the idea of moving games to Baton Rouge if that’s what it takes to get a home crowd.
“I welcome it. I don’t think there’ll be many challenges. I mean it’s right up the road,” Payton said of Baton Rouge, which is about 80 miles to the northwest of New Orleans. “You’d be playing on grass outside in a great environment. And so if it was playing in the Dome with no fans or playing up there with 25,000 of our fans, then every one of us would make the second choice.
“To me, that would be exciting.”
The NFL has offered its support to the Saints, including an email sent earlier this month from commissioner Roger Goodell to Cantrell. A source confirmed to ESPN that NFL medical experts would also be willing to meet with New Orleans officials.
According to the NFL, 15 teams currently have approval to host spectators from the general public at varying percentages of stadium capacity: Atlanta, Carolina, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Tennessee.
The Saints have allowed 750 family members of players and staff into each of their past two home games in the Superdome as a “test run” for what they hope will be a wider opening in the near future.