WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. The Saints' great escape is over. The organization has, at least for a few weeks, succeeded in avoiding New Orleans' sweltering summer heat.
Now, if head coach Sean Payton has his druthers, the Saints will make their recent three-week training-camp getaway at The Greenbrier a preseason fixture beyond the current three-year arrangement.
'I think honestly with the experience we've had...we would like to be back here for a lot longer than that,' he said.
Greenbrier owner Jim Justice scrambled to complete the $25 million project in just over three months, turning what he called, 'a typical West Virginia holler,' into a state-of-the-art facility capable of hosting an NFL franchise.
By all accounts, he succeeded, and the organization is thrilled with the effort and execution.
'The setup is outstanding and the ability to stay in an enclosed environment,' Payton said. 'I think the people here have been great. We start putting down notes about changes for next year and it's been less than a page (long). There isn't a whole lot.'
For the most part, the weather cooperated with Saints, too. It rained only a few times, and lightning was never an issue.
Consequently, Payton said there are no plans to add an indoor practice facility. In fact, he preferred the team practice in variable conditions.
The players, meanwhile, most of whom knew very little about The Greenbrier prior to their arrival, raved about their stay.
I don't think anybody expected it to be as nice, as organized, as put together as it's been,' starting right tackle Zach Strief said. 'It's literally like being at home. We have every comfort that we would have at home.'
The cooler temperatures allowed the players to recuperate faster and thus remain focused throughout camp. It's something, Strief said, would have never happened in New Orleans.
'I already told Coach (Sean) Payton that if you move from here, I don't know if I'm coming back,' he joked. 'I think everybody wants to keep coming back.'
Starting right guard Ben Grubbs agreed, saying: 'We've been able to focus on practicing out here rather than dreading the heat, so I think that the coaches have done a great job of getting us prepared everyday to come to work and we've been enjoying it. ... I'm going to hate to leave.
'I'm missing my family though, so I'm looking forward to getting back home.'
The Saints arrived in New Orleans on Thursday evening, play the Tennessee Titans on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and resume training camp at their Metairie facility on Monday morning.