ATLANTA — The Saints’ Tom Benson was checked out Tuesday for a concussion following a fall after speaking to his fellow NFL owners in support of New Orleans’ unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl.
Benson tripped coming off the podium and hit his head at the hotel where the vote that awarded Super Bowl LII to Minneapolis occurred, but he was “fine,” according to Saints spokesman Greg Bensel. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at a news conference later said Benson tumbled while turning.
In a statement, Benson said: “First, I would like to congratulate Minnesota on securing Super Bowl LII and to applaud Indianapolis (another finalist) on a great bid. I want to thank the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and everyone from our great city and state that worked tirelessly to put forth the best Super Bowl bid I have ever been a part of.
“We will be back in the mix to get another Super Bowl to New Orleans soon. As we stated in our presentation, New Orleans is the perfect Super Bowl city.”
He continued: “Following my presentation, I accidentally tripped and hit my head, having had knee surgery just over a week ago. Out of an abundance of caution, the doctors wanted to clear me before we fly back home tonight.”
Benson, who turns 87 in July, missed a breakfast with other NFL owners on Tuesday morning where he would have had the chance to solicit votes on behalf of New Orleans’ bid to host the Super Bowl in ‘18.
Doctors who surgically repaired a torn medial meniscus in Benson’s knee May 9 instructed him to stay at home until the last possible moment and to only travel if he felt well. So, Benson obeyed their orders and waited until later in the day to decide whether to go to the ‘18 Super Bowl vote, Bensel said.
But Benson arrived in Atlanta in time to give a 5-minute address to his peers after New Orleans’ bid presentation in the afternoon.
A report said Benson prior to the bid vote was using a walker to move around the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead.
Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation President Jay Cicero said he was grateful that Benson flew in to assist his city’s bid for the Super Bowl.
“Tom came in today, injured knee and all, and gave it his all,” remarked Cicero, whose staff spearheaded New Orleans’ bid. “He was there for us. ... We owe him a thanks for really sticking it out. He’s a tough man.”
Rita Benson LeBlanc, Benson’s granddaughter as well as the Saints’ co-owner and vice chairwoman of the board, attended an 8 a.m. league owners’ breakfast and worked the room for votes in favor of New Orleans’ Super Bowl bid. She was accompanied by team President Dennis Lauscha.
LeBlanc said she was ready to speak to NFL owners during the New Orleans bid committee’s presentation in case her grandfather didn’t make it to Atlanta.
“He would do anything to be here,” LeBlanc said. “His willpower far exceeds his body and pain tolerance.”
Goodell said his thoughts were with Benson’s family.
New Orleans was seeking to host a record 11th Super Bowl and to break a tie with Miami. Instead, Minnesota will host its second Super Bowl — its first and only was in 1992.