NFC South: The Grove

Saints switching pitches

October, 21, 2008

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

WATFORD, England -- Apparently, Saints coach Sean Payton likes the soccer "pitch'' at The Grove so much that he's decided to practice there instead of at a more famous venue Wednesday.

The NFL just announced the Saints will hold practice on the grounds of their hotel, instead of at the training grounds for the Arsenal FC, one of the world's best-known soccer teams. The Saints still are scheduled to practice at Arsenal's facility Thursday and Friday. The Saints had a day off Tuesday and I'm assuming some of the players played golf at The Groves course because it was a sunny and, seasonably warm, day in the London suburbs.

I'll be reporting live from The Grove on Wednesday. Oh, and for the record, the media isn't staying at the castle where the Saints are. We just get to visit when there is practice or interviews. We're holed up in a nearby chain hotel that could fit just fine in the U.S.

Saints take over country castle

October, 21, 2008

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

WATFORD, England -- For the third time this year, the New Orleans Saints are in training camp, or at least a training-camp setting.

Although it's a continent away, this one's not all that much different than Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., where the Saints held their regular training camp, or downtown Indianapolis, where the team moved for a week when a hurricane was threatening New Orleans early in the season.

The Grove, the five-star resort where the Saints are staying, is about 20 miles outside of London. The road into the hotel is surrounded by farmland with lots of cows and sheep.

"You've got to kind of want to find it, first off,'' coach Sean Payton said. "It's out there in the country. That's a good thing, though.''

The Grove (you can get a look at it here) is an 18th century castle with gardens, a world-class spa and a championship golf course that Tiger Woods once played. The Grove also has undergone a bunch of enhancements just to get ready for the Saints.

The hotel's main ballroom has been converted into a locker room. The ballroom floor has been turned into a weight room and the floor was reinforced to support the weights. A huge freezer was brought in to hold the 200 pounds of ice (for those who haven't been to England, ice is a bit of a luxury here) that's used daily to treat injuries.

Gatorade, another item that's not common in England, is all over The Grove. Gatorade machines were brought in and installed near the players' rooms. The resort also has altered its "football pitch," which means soccer field. A goal post was brought in from the United States and the field now has the markings of an American football field.

"So much goes into this from a logistics standpoint of moving everything, computers, phones and video,'' Payton said. "There are a lot of challenges that are involved. But the people here have been very accommodating and very welcoming."

With the coaching staff, front office and support staff, the Saints have a party of about 100 people and that's created a challenge for The Grove's three restaurants. The grocery order for this week included 1,899 prime beef burgers, 984 extra-large eggs, 450 pints of milk and 900 chickens. The head chef also had to track down 20 litres of A1 steak sauce, which were brought in from the American Embassy.