NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Sean Payton spoke for the first time since the NFL announced the change in format and protocols for teams returning to their facilities in preparation for the 2020 season and dissatisfied with multiple elements of the situation.
“From a schedule standpoint, it’s not training camp,” Payton told reporters by teleconference Wednesday. “We’re not allowed meetings at the hotel, the schedule won’t be the same as camp, we’re limited relative to padded practice which is different than training camp so at some point, call it what you want, preseason is probably a better way to describe it but we’re not going to be in a training camp environment so I think it’s important to adjust as an organization, to quickly adjust to what’s given to us and prepare the best way we think and make decisions the best way we think to help our football club to start the season. So preseason, the beginning of the year, practices leading up to the start of the season.... All of those things fit what we’re talking about but it’s the antithesis of training camp.”
Payton had an early case of COVID-19 in March and in April, made a pre-emptive choice not to plan any offseason activities with his team. Now, he awaits COVID-19 testing to be completed before his team can get to work in the team facility “We’ve taken all the protocol that was mandated by the league and so, I think that we added plexiglass to the lockers downstairs. The meeting rooms are spaced out more, all the things that were recommended to us by the league and I think that we’re compliant with what they asked us to do now relative to how that fits with being tested, I think that we’re getting tested every day. Unfortunately we’re not on the immediate result side of things, we have to wait 24 hours but nonetheless, 24 hour wait will give results the next day. The other stuff in the building, I think, will be beneficial, some of it I’m sure are optics.”
Despite Payton’s objections to the format of the preseason and the “optics” of certain precautions, he is emphasizing that the New Orleans Saints are not dwelling on decisions outside of their control and will be well-equipped for a season that will be lacking so many of the normal preparations “We’ve had shortened offseasons before - when the players were locked out in 2011, there was no offseason and guys came back in good shape.”
“I expect our guys to be in good shape when we see them. Their physical conditioning and their physical preparation should not have been affected during this. We made a point early on to tell them that, regardless of what happened, we saw ahead of time that there wasn’t going to be a chance for Minicamp or OTAs, we were able to have meetings like everyone else but I expect the players to be in good shape, it’s their livelihood.”
During the teleconference with reporters, Payton explained that players can undergo physical examinations over the weekend before beginning a strength and conditioning program on Monday. Payton also said that padded practices are not scheduled to begin until Monday, August 17th.