Typically, a coach's decision to tack on an extra week of training camp wouldn't be cause for excitement, but Saints players seemed pretty fired up about the idea of moving their practice sessions west to Oxnard, Calif., from August 21-28.
The Saints were scheduled to break out of the training-camp routine on August 18. Although they are at home, they are sequestered at the Airport Hilton hotel between practices and meetings, aside from occasional off days.
Now, they will add the trip in between their second and third preseason games at Houston and at Oakland.
"It's gonna do wonders for us," New Orleans cornerback Jabari Greer predicted. "It's gonna be the same old guys you're gonna be practicing with, but I believe it's gonna be an increased speed. We're gonna feel like practice when we were in Miami when we were down there for the Super Bowl.
"You know how training camp is: It's the same thing over and over again. So to be able to change up your routine so drastically like that, it does something for your players. Whether it's a reward or not, I think it's a great idea to keep training camp fresh and to keep football fun."
Coach Sean Payton said the main reason for the move is that he wanted to extend camp by an extra week during this offseason, which was abbreviated by the NFL lockout, for the extra teaching time and the camaraderie.
Planning an extra week at home in Metairie would have created a logistical problem with hotel rooms, but Payton liked the idea of leaving town, regardless. And he loves the set-up at Oxnard, where he spent two summers as an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys in 2004 and 2005.
The weather conditions are ideal in the town, located about an hour north of Los Angeles, in the 60s and 70s without the brutal humidity of the Crescent City. The Cowboys trained there from 2004 to 2006, then again part-time in 2008. The Oakland Raiders also use to train at the same River Ridge fields, which are adjacent to a Residence Inn by Marriott.
The Saints' practices will be open to the public. They are scheduled to practice Monday through Friday, from 4 to 6:45 p.m. Pacific Time.
"I think we'll benefit for a number of reasons," Payton said. "As camp began, we just kept looking at the calendar, and I kept looking at trying to find more time where these guys are together.
"I think it's all of the above (camaraderie, playbook installation). And then when you get out to Oxnard, the weather there is perfect from a standpoint of training and teaching."
When Payton first arrived in New Orleans in 2006, it was a top priority for him to move the team out of town for training camp. From 2006 to 2008, the Saints spent summer camps at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss.
They moved back home to the team's practice facility in Metairie in 2009 for a variety of reasons, including the use of the state-of-the-art indoor facility, economic concerns, a desire to be closer to the local fan base and that the veteran team didn't need that "team-building experience" as much anymore.
This one-week trip, however, allows the Saints to have a bit of that bonding experience -- much like they had when they evacuated to Indianapolis for one week during Hurricane Gustav before the 2008 season.
In recent years, the Saints have also traveled for a week of joint practice with the Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots and Texans.
"I think it is a good change-up. We will be able to get a lot of work done out there," quarterback Drew Brees said. "It's like the situation where we went to Millsaps. It's like when any team goes away for camp. You sequester yourself away from all distractions, and you can really just focus on football.
"We love to have training camp here in New Orleans, in front of our home fans. That has been great for us for three years. We have gone and scrimmaged with the Bengals, Patriots and Texans. We just find ways to shake camp up a little bit. It just shakes up the monotony."
Brees was one of several Saints who made a point of stressing to fans that they shouldn't feel slighted by the team's decision to skip town for a week, and it's worth noting that those practice sessions were scheduled to be closed to the public in Metairie. The Saints' last public practice in Metairie is scheduled for Aug. 18.
"You know, we love New Orleans, and we enjoy our fans here," Greer said. "We don't want to be mistaken, but if we're going anywhere, let's go somewhere with 70-degree, 75-degree weather and relatively low humidity."