With New Orleans under evacuation, Saints head to Indianapolis

NEW ORLEANS -- A hurricane has driven the Saints out of New Orleans again. They don't plan on being gone nearly as long this time.

With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast three years after Katrina swamped New Orleans, the Saints left Saturday for Indianapolis, where they will spend the week preparing for the Sept. 7 opener against Tampa Bay.

The Saints will practice at the Colts' new Lucas Oil Stadium. Their schedule wasn't immediately known, although meetings were set for Sunday at their hotel.

The Tampa Bay game is scheduled for the Louisiana Superdome, and the Saints plan to be there for it unless damage from Gustav dictates otherwise. The storm could hit the mainland as early as Monday, and Saturday it was on the verge of the strongest classification of Category 5, with winds above 155 mph.

New Orleans officials aren't using the Superdome as an evacuation shelter with Gustav. Three years ago, it became a symbol of pain and suffering when thousands of residents were stranded by Katrina floodwaters that poured through broken levees.

The Saints spent the entire 2005 season on the road, practicing in San Antonio and playing three games there, going to the Meadowlands to play the New York Giants in their "home opener" and using LSU's home stadium in Baton Rouge for their other four home games.

The Superdome, trashed inside and out, needed a $185 million makeover that was barely finished in time for the 2006 season. Every Saints home game the past two seasons has been a sellout, making the team a key part of the city's ongoing recovery.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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