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Storm-weary Saints will play at home

| Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

The Louisiana Superdome will be ready for some football Sunday, and the Saints say they're looking forward to celebrating the end of a stressful week with their storm-weary fans.

Forced to flee to Indianapolis ahead of Hurricane Gustav, the Saints will be able to open their regular season at home as scheduled against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team announced Tuesday.

"We will once again showcase to a national audience that the city of New Orleans is made up of resilient people and that we are ready to stand our city back up as quickly as possible, put this storm behind us and move on with our lives," Saints owner Tom Benson said.

The Saints had announced Monday night, soon after Gustav had passed over the city, that their hope was to keep their season-opening home date as a means to uplift the spirits of a fan base that had been ridden with anxiety that all the rebuilding done in the three years since Hurricane Katrina could be wiped out.

Gustav, however, weakened and stayed far enough west of New Orleans to spare the fragile community from catastrophic damage.

Johnson joins Lions

Rudi Johnson didn't need long to find a new home.

Johnson, who was waived by the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, officially signed with the Detroit Lions yesterday. Johnson will join rookie Kevin Smith as the featured backs in Detroit's new run-oriented offense.

"As soon as I finish talking to you guys, I'm going to bury myself in the playbook," Johnson said after meeting with the media yesterday. "I want to be able to contribute to this team as soon as possible."

Johnson rushed for over 1,400 yards in both 2005 and 2006, but was limited to 497 last year. This season, the Bengals will be going with Chris Perry and Kenny Watson as their top runners.

Taylor report released

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor was ordered out of his car at gunpoint, patted down and handcuffed while a K-9 unit searched his vehicle for drugs outside a Miami Beach nightclub over the weekend, according to a police report released yesterday.

Taylor yelled at officers repeatedly and was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, after they advised him three times to quiet down, according to Miami Beach Police.

"As officers began to check vehicle for weapons, defendant became vocal again and attempted to (incite) the crowd of bystanders," the report said. "Defendant really became vocal when drug dog checked for narcotics.

"He was advised to quiet down ... for a third time. When defendant did not and continued his loud behavior, he was arrested."

Upshaw memorialized

A stirring mix of laughter and tears filled the concert hall of the Kennedy Center yesterday as family, teammates and colleagues celebrated the life of Hall of Fame lineman and longtime NFL union head Gene Upshaw.

"He was my friend. He was my brother. I will never forget him," said Art Shell, who played alongside Upshaw on the Oakland Raiders offensive line for more than a decade. "Uppy, I'll miss you."

About 1,000 people gathered for the three-hour service, which featured the strong, impressive voices of the Metropolitan Baptist Church choir and speakers who recited hilarious anecdotes and other fond memories about the man whose toughness on the football field was matched only by his determination at the negotiating table as the executive director of the NFL Players Association for 25 years.

Upshaw died Sept. 20 of pancreatic cancer, which had been diagnosed only days earlier.

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