Less than Super weather: Rain prompts changes in Saints practice, media day

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Rain drove the New Orleans Saints indoors Monday. The NFL scrambled to move Tuesday's media day activities under cover. And tourism officials tried to shrug off the public-relations blow of a soggy start to Super Bowl week.
"Sometimes you need a break from the sun," said Nicki Grossman of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Everybody all over the country has weather. And you don't have to shovel anything that has fallen on us."
Even so, the less-than-Super weather - day-long rain blanketing the region - stirred unpleasant memories of the last time the NFL title game came to town three years ago. That was the first time rain fell on a Super Bowl, and it continued throughout the game, chasing some fans away at halftime and sending others into concourses to watch on television as the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears.
Although this is the middle of South Florida's dry season, steady light rain also fell during Sunday night's Pro Bowl in Miami. The forecast called for a 30 per cent chance of showers Tuesday, prompting the media day switch. And, there is at least a slight chance of rain every day the rest of the week, with a 20-per cent chance Sunday.
Instead of conducting interviews on the field at Sun Life Stadium, the NFL will hold them in an indoor concourse on the club level. All players and coaches from the Saints and Colts will still be available for interviews.
"This should not be a major problem," NFL spokesman Michael Signora said. "It just will look different."
The Saints' first practice Monday was moved north from the University of Miami's outdoor fields to the indoor bubble at the Miami Dolphins' complex. The starting time was pushed back while equipment was moved from one site to the other.
Rain also affected preparation of the playing field, Signora said.
"I wouldn't say anything is delayed," he said. "I'd say work continues, and weather is one more factor built into the preparation."
The weather made South Florida's daunting traffic even more sluggish. The team hotels and practice sites are separated by drives of up to an hour - sometimes more - and while the Colts and Saints are whisked about with police escorts, getting around is more arduous for fans, volunteers, league officials and the media.
"We're a regional effort, and we need to spread it around," said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl host committee. "It'll be judged afterward whether it really works out."
Tourism officials said the wet weather didn't tarnish the Pro Bowl, which was moved from Hawaii as a one-year experiment and drew the largest crowd for the game since 1959. But the stadium was half empty by the third quarter.
The Super Bowl is in Miami for the 10th time, the most of any city. While the rain may not dampen visitors' enthusiasm for South Florida, the NFL says the Dolphins' 22-year-old stadium needs upgrades, raising concerns about the region's attractiveness as a site of future games.
The Dolphins have proposed adding a roof that would cover fans as part of stadium improvements that could cost US$250 million or more. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the upgrades would help South Florida remain competitive in bidding for future Super Bowls.
"They're saying, 'Your whiskers are getting a little long,"' Barreto said. "I don't think we ought to fall asleep and sit on our laurels. We should take a good look and see if there is some way to partner with the Dolphins and figure out how to get something done."
South Florida leaders are expected to seek public money for the project. But at the moment, Barreto said, they're focused on praying for some sunshine.

Organizations: NFL, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Visitors Bureau Indianapolis Colts Chicago Bears University of Miami

Geographic location: Saints, South Florida, FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Miami Sun Life Stadium Hawaii

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