Saints' home seems in good shape

The Superdome, for now still scheduled to host an NFL regular-season opener Sunday between the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, appeared to be in good condition after the worst of Hurricane Gustav had passed, the stadium's operator said.

"We're in good shape," said Doug Thornton, vice president of SMG, the company that manages the Superdome and neighboring New Orleans Arena. "We've got some exterior signs ripped and things like that, downed fences and light poles blown over, but nothing major, nothing structural or nothing that would affect the interior condition of the building."


After the Saints moved to Indianapolis this past weekend to avoid the wrath of Gustav, general manager Mickey Loomis said the team plans to return to its home base later this week - if city officials permit it.

Until then, the Saints will stay in Indianapolis, suddenly the home of two NFL teams.


By Sunday, when they're scheduled to host Tampa Bay, the Saints hope to be playing in front of a packed house.

"We want to be one of the first ones back because we want to play that game and lift the spirits of our city after what's been a tough week," Loomis told reporters in a hastily called news conference at an Indianapolis hotel. "It's really dependent on the city and the infrastructure and all that, so I hope we can play there Sunday."

Patriots: Quarterback Tom Brady is ready to play in New England's opener but stopped short of saying he would. "If it's up to me, there's no question" Brady said. "I've been getting progressively better over the past couple of weeks. I'm excited. I'm excited to start the year." Brady, who has a right foot injury, didn't play in any of four preseason games although he said he could have. New England lost all four preseason games. The Patriots start the regular season Sunday at home against the Chiefs. Brady stretched and did agility drills with his teammates during the first 15 minutes of practice yesterday to which the media were admitted. Brady has started New England's past 127 games, the third-longest streak in NFL history for quarterbacks. Only Brett Favre and Peyton Manning have longer streaks.

MORE PATRIOTS: The team signed two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Deltha O'Neal, two days after it released preseasonstarter Fernando Bryant. O'Neal spent the past four seasons with Cincinnati after playing his first four with Denver. He had 31 interceptions for three touchdowns in 116 games, including 75 starts. The Bengals released him Saturday.

Bengals: Wide receiver Chad Johnson declined to say whether he will try to get the team to put "Ocho Cinco" on the back of his uniform this season. Johnson had his last name legally changed to "Ocho Cinco" - the moniker he gave himself based on his No. 85 - last week in Florida, where he lives. Johnson declined to say why he did it. The Bengals begin the season Sunday against the Ravens at M&T; Bank Stadium.

Browns: Quarterback Derek Anderson, sidelined since Aug. 18 with a concussion, returned to practice and is expected to start Sunday's season opener against the Cowboys. Coach Romeo Crennel indicated that his Pro Bowl quarterback would play against Dallas as long as he didn't have any setbacks during Cleveland's workout. Anderson got hurt when he was sacked in a preseason game against the Giants. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards was also back after missing more than three weeks with a severely cut foot.

Seahawks: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck participated in just his second full practice since injuring his back nearly a month ago in a short workout. He said he is ready for the season opener against Buffalo despite having played two series of a preseason game since January's playoff loss at Green Bay.

Jaguars: Running back Fred Taylor apologized to team owner Wayne Weaver for his arrest on a disorderly conduct charge over the weekend outside a Miami Beach, Fla., nightclub, said the whole incident was "very, very petty" and hinted that he was provoked by police. Taylor's attorney, Adam Swickle, said Taylor was getting into his car as police arrived at the club around 4 a.m. Saturday. Officers ordered him to put his hands on the hood, then patted him down and searched his vehicle for firearms and drugs with a K-9 unit. Taylor said he got into a verbal altercation with police, questioning why he was being searched, and said his tone may have prompted the citation.


Raiders: Oakland agreed to terms on a one-year contract with receiver Ashley Lelie in hopes that the former first-round pick can help bolster an inexperienced position group. Lelie has 206 receptions in six NFL seasons.

Panthers: Carolina signed Mark Jones to return kicks while they await Ryne Robinson's recovery from a sprained left knee. Jones was released by the Chargers on Saturday.

Packers: Green Bay cut punter Jon Ryan in favor of ex-Redskins punter Derrick Frost and chose Brett Goode to be the team's long snapper.

Upshaw: NFL players will wear a uniform patch this season to honor players association leader Gene Upshaw, who died Aug. 20.