Ed Driscoll

When The Saints Go Marching Out

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson has been looking for a reason to leave the Big Easy for years; has the combination of Katrina and sell-out crowds in San Antonio created the Perfect Storm for Benson?

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Mayor Phil Hardberger reiterated his resolve to bring the Saints to San Antonio permanently, saying he wanted to close the deal before next season begins.

Hardberger, part of a sellout crowd at the Saints-Falcons game Sunday in San Antonio, said Sunday that Saints owner Tom Benson agreed to serious talks with him, probably at the end of this season.

Benson “understands that we will sit down and talk,” Hardberger was quoted as saying in a story in Monday’s San Antonio Express-News. “That is his desire as well. I’m pretty comfortable in saying he wants to be here.”

Attempts to reach Benson by telephone Monday were not successful. Team spokesman Greg Bensel declined comment.

The Saints are under contract to play at the Louisiana Superdome through 2010, but certain provisions allow them to opt out before a Nov. 29 deadline.

Gov. Rick Perry watched Sunday’s game with Hardberger from Benson’s suite and said he agrees the Saints should relocate to the Alamo City and is open to the state offering some type of financial assistance.

Damage to the Superdome by Hurricane Katrina prompted the Saints to practice in San Antonio and play three games in the city’s 65,000-seat Alamodome. Four other games were moved to Baton Rouge, La., where ticket sales have been sluggish.

Can Texas handle three NFL teams? California and New York certainly manage to.