Road to New Orleans and league meeting

TAMPA, Fla. -- I’m at Tampa International, waiting for a flight to New Orleans to cover the NFL meeting.

Things are supposed to officially kick off Monday morning. But I’ll be doing some lobby-sitting this afternoon and evening to see if I come across anything of interest to the NFC South. I’ll let you know if I get anything.

Meantime, take a look at James Varney’s story on Saints owner Tom Benson. In other years, this meeting would be something of a league-wide social gathering and Benson would be the unofficial host. Things won’t be very festive this year because owners will be focused on the labor situation and plenty of other business issues.

Benson didn’t discuss the labor situation much, but he did have a couple of interesting thoughts. Benson said the team is planning to build a small stadium at its training complex. The purpose will be to house fans during training camp and the goal is to have it ready for 2012.

I think that’s an excellent idea. The Saints already draw large crowds to their facility in Metairie, Ga., and make the most of what they currently have, which basically is a lot of bleachers. A small stadium might make the camp experience a little more comfortable.

Benson also was clear that Drew Brees' role as a leader in the labor talks won’t be used against the quarterback when it comes time to extend his contract. Brees has taken a very active role because it’s just his nature to be a leader and he’s respected throughout the league.

Brees is the kind of guy who simply takes care of business. He’ll do his part to help the league and players get a new labor deal. If and when that gets done, there’s little doubt Brees will get right back to work on the playing field.

There’s little doubt one of the first moves the Saints will make after the lockout will be to get Brees signed to a contract extension.