METAIRIE, La. – New Orleans Saints organizational leaders have given staff and players off Sunday and Monday to prepare their homes and family for Tropical Storm Isaac before the team heads to Tennessee for Thursday night’s final exhibition game.
Isaac is expected to reach Category 2 hurricane status before landfall on the north-central Gulf Coast sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We called our squad in here at 3 o’clock on their day off and informed them that they evacuate their families today,” Saints acting head coach Joe Vitt said. “We will give the team off tomorrow so they can further seek shelter for their families. They firmly understand that.”
The plan as of Sunday afternoon was for the team to reconvene at the Metairie facility on Tuesday morning at 8. From there, the hope is to have a practice session at the headquarters before flying to Nashville a day early.
Vitt said the possibility also exists that the team could go ahead and fly up to Nashville after the 8 a.m. meeting.
A backup evacuation plan also is in place for the team to head to Cincinnati on Monday morning if need be.
“I’m always amazed at our organizational skills of making the right decisions in these things,” Vitt said, before adding, “Those things have already been laid out. We wanted to give our players time to get their families out of town to a safe place.”
Sunday afternoon, backup quarterback Chase Daniel tweeted, “We’re being told to not take #Isaac lightly. First time being a part of an evacuation process. We’re currently under a ‘Voluntary Evac.’ ”
The Saints have been in this position before. In August 2008, the Saints played Miami in the final preseason game on Aug. 28, three days before Hurricane Gustav.
The Saints evacuated shortly after the game to Indianapolis, where they practiced at Lucas Oil Field for their season opener, a Sept. 7 game home game against Tampa Bay. The team flew back to New Orleans on Sept. 5, four days after Gustav’s landfall.
That experience has helped the organization prepare for this week, Vitt said.
“There’s no question,” Vitt said. “That’s the way this team was built. That’s the way this organization is built. It just shadows the resiliency of our community. This community faces these types of things it seems like every year. We stand beside our community and hope everybody takes shelter and everybody can be safe in this thing.”
Isaac already pushed up 15 roster cuts, moves mandated by the NFL to take place no later than Monday afternoon at 3 p.m.
“We expedited that process because of the weather,” said Vitt, who wouldn’t go into specifics as to who was waived. “We’ve notified the players. They know.”