Of course, that doesn't mean there wasn't any fanfare for the visiting Irish. UND.com has video of the team greeted by a brass band and Sugar Bowl officials in the lobby of the team hotel. Of course, they weren't on their way in, but rather on their way out to participate in a community service project at the Hope Haven Center, run by Catholic Charities. Weis explained the rationale for the midday work.
The Fighting Irish actually slipped into town under radar Wednesday night, then took part in a low-key Hurricane Katrina-related community service project before dropping by the New Orleans Saints practice facility to lift weights and run.
Later in the afternoon, after concluding practice in Baton Rouge, the Tigers’ caravan of buses, led by a police escort, rolled into downtown as a brass band played "Hold That Tiger" and a few dozen fans cheered and got autographs.
“We’re going to go do some community service,” Weis said. “We’re not doing it as a P.R. move. I think it’s really important for our players, given what our university stands for, to get a feel for how devastated this area really was.”UND.com also has a short video on the service project. If you are planning on being in the New Orleans area for the Sugar Bowl, the New Orleans ND alumni club will be continuing the service work at the Hope Haven Center on both January 1st and 2nd. Check their website for more details.
After the team finished the service project and practice at the New Orleans Saints practice facility was over, the players were able to enjoy a bit more freedom than last year's Fiesta Bowl, when Weis kept the team under rather tight lock and key. Both as a treat to the senior-laden team and as another sign that Weis is looking for ways to keep the team loose before the big game, Weis admitted he was easing up on the players.
“I’m giving them a lot more free time and hopefully they’ll stay out of trouble in the French Quarter,” Weis said. “I think part of being in New Orleans is the experience of being in New Orleans. I don’t think you can come down and have it be all work and no play because then you really don’t get rewarded for the fact that you made it to a BCS game.”With only the team captains as chaperones, the players hit up the French Quarter, which elicited this understatement of the year from Brady Quinn.
“We went to the French Quarter and looked around. We’re not used to that type of environment. We just wanted to see what Bourbon Street and some of the other places had to offer. It was different. This definitely isn’t South Bend. It was fun. There’s a lot of culture here.”Of course, it seems not all had fun during their trip as pickpocket rumors followed the players after a Thursday night trip to the French Quarter.
On Friday, the Irish practiced in the Super Dome for the first time. As always the practice recap, along with Charlie's latest presser and a practice photo gallery, is up on UND.com.