Well, why not? Pretty much everything that’s happened in the NFL in the past five months has been unconventional, so the New Orleans Saints’ mid-training camp decision to extend camp by five days and move it to Oxnard, Calif., fits.
It gives the team more work in the wake of the makeshift offseason program. It allows them to do it in more temperate temperatures than those sizzling in south Louisiana. It gives them that 24/7 football, team-oriented routine that coach Sean Payton enjoys.
So thumbs up to Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis for deciding to work in Oxnard from Aug. 22-26. Whether the Saints ultimately do or don’t get to Indianapolis for the Feb. 5 Super Bowl probably will have little to do with their Oxnard odyssey. But this move is consistent with the team’s aggressive, leave-no-stone-unturned approach to assembling a championship contender in spite of the lockout-induced complications.
New Orleans was aggressive in trading to get Mark Ingram in the first round of the April draft after already selecting Cameron Jordan.
Drew Brees and his teammates showed exceptional dedication in organizing six weeks of offseason workouts at Tulane while they were banned from the team training facility.
Loomis and his staff were aggressive, hard-working and thorough in negotiating a full offseason’s worth of transactions in a couple of weeks, most notably replacing Reggie Bush with Darren Sproles, replacing Jonathan Goodwin with Olin Kreutz, upgrading defensive tackle with Aubrayo Franklin (after having already added Shaun Rogers), adding more competition with end Turk McBride and linebacker Will Herring, and retaining key free agents such as Jermon Bushrod, Carl Nicks, Lance Moore, David Thomas, Scott Shanle and Roman Harper.
So Saints fans have as much justification as anyone for thinking their team can get to the Super Bowl, and more justification than most.
Of course it’s a long way to the Super Bowl and still a fairly long way to Green Bay for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener, but this organization has acted like one that knows how to win a Super Bowl (which, of course, it did two seasons ago), and is determined to do everything it can to put itself in position to compete for another.
The first look at this refurbished team comes when it plays its preseason opener against San Francisco in the refurbished Superdome on Friday night. It’ll be worth checking out Jordan and Ingram, Sproles and Franklin, second-year tight end Jimmy Graham, and rookie linebackers Martez Wilson and Nate Bussey.
But whatever the outcome of this exhibition, don’t draw any conclusions — positive or negative — about what it means about the upcoming season.
You see, one thing that has not changed since the lockout is that “preseason” games are still mostly meaningless.