|Saints head coach Sean Payton (Photo: Parker Waters)|
How well are things going in Oxnard, California for the New Orleans Saints?
So good that Sean Payton is considering making his team's visit to the city and practice facility an annual event, according to Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune.
The Dallas Cowboys, who have utilized Oxnard as a training facility in previous years, are considering returning there in 2012, according to Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones. The race to Oxnard may have already started.
The Saints have held training camp at home in Metairie for the past three years (2009-2011) and did so previously from 2003-2005. The team won the Super Bowl after training at home in the 2009 season. Overall, the Saints have staged training camp in Louisiana 13 times in 45 years.
Otherwise, the Saints have trained out of the area.
From 1967-1969, the Saints trained at Cal Western University in San Diego under Tom Fears. In 1970, the Saints ventured to Bowling Green, Ohio for camp. From 1971-1973, the Saints utilized Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg to train. In 1974, the Saints moved to the popular site of Vero Beach, Florida, a site they would return to from 1976-1984. Vero Beach was a favorite of original owner John Mecom.
In 1975, the Saints trained at Nicholls State in Thibodaux, where they returned to train from 2000-2002. In 1985, the Saints returned to Louisiana to train at Louisiana Tech in Ruston before Jim Mora took his team to Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond in 1986 and 1987.
New owner Tom Benson made a concerted, vigorous effort to broaden the Saints brand upon buying the team, adopting a state of Louisiana logo, calling the Saints "Louisiana's team," and taking the team home to train in Ruston and Hammond.
After their first-ever winning season and playoff berth in 1987, the Saints moved away in 1988.
The Saints had a long run training in LaCrosse, Wisconsin from 1988-1999, a site preferred by Mora. From 2006-2008, Payton took the team to train at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.
Prior to 1995, it made total sense for the Saints to train elsewhere. Once the new state-of-the-art team facility was built on Airline Highway, it made sense for the Saints to come home to train, particularly with the outstanding indoor facility constructed which enables the team to escape the stifling heat and rain of a New Orleans-area summer.
Coach Payton appears to prefer training away from New Orleans to avoid distractions, focus solely on football and to bond as a team. Once he won a Lombardi Trophy, he would seem to have earned more leverage in spending the money necessary to travel and train elsewhere.
Clearly, the Saints have the facilities to train at home.
As for other NFL teams, 17 are conducting training camp at team headquarters while 15 are staging camp away from their home base.
Of the 15 training away from home, 13 train in-state while the Panthers train in neighboring Spartanburg, South Carolina (74 miles from Charlotte) and the Bengals train in nearby Georgetown, Kentucky (76 miles from Cincinnati).
Saints fans are among the most loyal, rabid, passionate group in the NFL. They love seeing their team on a regular basis. Hattiesburg was an accessible location. The same was true of Thibodaux, Hammond, Ruston and Jackson. That is certainly not the case with Oxnard.
Ultimately, it is all about winning and doing everything possible, including providing the best atmosphere for the team to win.
If the Saints were not winning, many would be offended by the team training elsewhere, even for a week. In all likelihood, very few would care where the Saints train if the team wins another Lombardi Trophy though most of us would prefer they train at home.
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