New York Times writer: ‘For a man (who’s) 87, I think (Tom Benson) is mentally capable’ _lowres

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson smiles at team headquarters in Metairie in 2012.

INDIANAPOLIS — In a letter to fans, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson thanked them for sticking with the team over the last “few difficult weeks” and said the Saints will not increase ticket prices this season.

Benson also wrote that the team is working to make significant investments to enhance the fan experience at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and that those changes will be announced in the coming weeks.

“These investments will help our iconic stadium remain one of the premier sports and entertainment facilities in the world and better position New Orleans to host the biggest national sporting events in the future. Most importantly, these upgrades will improve your experience each and every game,” he wrote.

The Saints have only had one ticket price increase since 2009, when the team raised prices by $10 or less per game in 2013.

Benson closed the letter by stating that the “future success, continuity, and stability of the New Orleans Saints and our Pelicans” remain his top priority and that he is eager to pursue another championship season.

Loomis: combine boosts happen

Many draft analysts love to say the results at the NFL combine do not matter. They believe most teams already have a grade on a player based on film and what happens on the combine will not influence things.

In most cases, this is true — assuming all players perform to expectations.

But in some cases, a player performs so well at the combine it forces a team to go back and look at him through a different prism.

“They can definitely help themselves,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. “If somebody comes in and does off the charts in all these athletic endeavors and you don’t necessarily think he’s a good athlete, yet all the numbers prove he is a good athlete — yeah, that’s going to influence you.”

For the most part, athletes typically come in and produce as expected. It takes a truly surprising performance — one way or the other — to force a team to look at players differently.

The Saints aren’t afraid to make changes to their draft board when this happens. It happened in 2013 when offensive tackle Terron Armstead ran a 4.71 40-yard dash and nearly jumped out of the building in the vertical and broad jumps.

New Orleans took notice, re-graded Armstead and selected him in the third round.

“We had good grades ... on Terron, but certainly that got the attention of us and a lot of people — that this guy put up some pretty great numbers here for his position,” Loomis said. “Then it comes down to what kind of demeanor does he have, what kind of character does he have, does he love the game, what’s his upside in our view?”

Fresh eyes from Ireland

The addition of Jeff Ireland to the Saints front office has provided a different perspective to the building.

So far, it’s been a welcomed change.

“I love that he’s coming in from a different tree,” Loomis said. “He’s got great idea. He’s got some things that he does that I love that we incorporate with what we do. It’s an exchange of ideas.

“And he’s had a great demeanor with our scouts. I love his experience as a general manager. That’s great for me because we get to bounce some ideas, and I get to bounce some things off of him. I know he’s had some experience with those. He’s blending in well. He’s going to be a great asset for us.”

Ireland joined the Saints as director of college scouting after Rick Reiprish was let go last month.

Previously, Ireland served as general manager of the Miami Dolphins from 2008-2013. He was a national scout for the Dallas Cowboys from 2001-2004 and their vice president of college and pro scouting from 2005-2007.