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Saints' ticket sales unaffected by difficult offseason

No NFL team has endured as tumultuous an offseason as the New Orleans Saints.

League discipline for an illegal "bounty" program over the last few seasons will leave the Sainrs without coach Sean Payton and defensive captain Jonathan Vilma in 2012, while general manager Mickey Loomis, defensive assistant/interim coach Joe Vitt and defensive end Will Smith will miss at least part of the season. The Saints also have been unable to secure a long-term extension with franchise-tagged quarterback Drew Brees, who helped New Orleans win its first Super Bowl title and has immersed himself in the community.

Despite the rocky last few months, the Saints remain a strong draw at the box office.

According to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal, the Saints led the NFL in average attendance as percentage of stadium capacity in 2011. That appears on track to continue in 2012, as Saints vice president of communications Greg Bensel announced Sunday morning on Twitter that the team has a season-ticket renewal rate of 99.6 percent and a waiting list to purchase suites.

The impressive renewal rate and waiting list for Saints' season tickets and suites aren't a surprise. If the Saints were coming off a .500 season, perhaps the events of this offseason would cause a slump in ticket sales. But they're 37-11 over the past three seasons, won a Super Bowl and have made the playoffs for three straight seasons for just the second time in franchise history.

Even without Payton, the Saints' Super Bowl window remains wide open as long as they have Brees, who will not pass up weekly game checks worth $963,000 under the franchise tag. He'll be under center when the Saints host the Washington Redskins on Sept. 9.

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