ATLANTA — The Saints’ Tom Benson was checked out Tuesday for a concussion after he fell while speaking to his fellow NFL owners in support of New Orleans’ unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl, team spokesman Greg Bensel said.
Benson tripped coming off a podium and hit his head at the hotel where the vote that awarded Super Bowl LII to Minneapolis occurred, but he was “fine,” Bensel said.
Benson, who turns 87 in July, missed a breakfast with other NFL owners Tuesday, when he would have the chance to solicit votes on behalf of New Orleans’ bid to host Super Bowl LII.
Benson was taken from the meetings by ambulance to a hospital, where Bensel said the owner was being examined for concussion symptoms before his scheduled flight home to New Orleans.
“Following my presentation, I accidentally tripped and hit my head, having had knee surgery just over a week ago,” Benson said. “Out of an abundance of caution, the doctors wanted to clear me before we fly back home (Tuesday night).”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the 86-year-old Benson “fortunately appears to be fine and as a precautionary step was taken to a hospital.”
Doctors who had recently performed a surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus in Benson’s knee instructed him to stay at home until the last possible moment and to travel only if he felt well. So Benson obeyed their orders and waited until later in the day to decide whether to go to the NFL owner’s meetings, Bensel said.
Benson arrived in Atlanta in time to give a 5-minute address to his peers after New Orleans’ Super Bowl LII bid presentation in the afternoon.
A report said Benson was using a walker to move around the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead before the bid vote.
Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation President Jay Cicero said he was grateful that Benson flew in to assist his city’s bid for the Super Bowl.
“Tom came in today, injured knee and all, and gave it his all,” remarked Cicero, whose staff spearheaded New Orleans’ bid. “He was there for us. ... We owe him a thanks for really sticking it out. He’s a tough man.”
Rita Benson LeBlanc, Benson’s granddaughter as well as the Saints’ co-owner and vice chairwoman of the board, attended an 8 a.m. league owners’ breakfast and worked the room for votes in favor of New Orleans’ bid for the 2018 Super Bowl. She was accompanied by team President Dennis Lauscha.
LeBlanc said she was ready to speak to NFL owners during the New Orleans bid committee’s presentation in case her grandfather didn’t make it to Atlanta.
“He would do anything to be here,” LeBlanc said. “His willpower far exceeds his body and pain tolerance.”
New Orleans was seeking to host a record 11th Super Bowl and to break a tie with Miami. Instead, Minnesota will host its second Super Bowl — its first was in 1992.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.