(670 The Score) The Saints are "still hopeful" that star running back Alvin Kamara can play against the Bears on Sunday in their wild-card round game, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Thursday.
Kamara tested positive for COVID-19 last week and remains in the NFL's virus protocols. Sunday is the earliest he's eligible to return to action. To be cleared, he has to pass all the NFL's protocols and be asymptomatic. The Saints are preparing him for the game virtually, having him participate through a live video decoder while being connected to a microphone with coach Sean Payton, according to the report.
Payton has declined to offer details on the status of Kamara as well as star receiver Michael Thomas (ankle), who's on injured reserve.
“I won’t do that," Payton told reporters, including NFL Network's Stacey Dales. "I won’t talk about any of that.
“I’m an optimistic person always.”
Kamara tied an NFL record with six rushing touchdowns in a win against the Vikings on Christmas Day, which marked the last time he played. He tested positive for the virus days later and missed New Orleans' regular-season finale last Sunday. Kamara has 16 rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns this season.
In the Saints' overtime win against the Bears on Nov. 1 at Soldier Field, Kamara rushed 12 times for 67 yards while adding nine receptions for 96 yards.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Thomas played in just seven games this season while dealing with a nagging ankle injury. He last played in a game on Dec. 13, then was placed on injured reserve.
The Bears are monitoring key injuries of their own, as they're still seeking clarity on the status of linebacker Roquan Smith (elbow) and receiver Darnell Mooney (ankle), coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday.
The Bears and Saints will share their final injury reports Friday. New Orleans must activate Kamara and Thomas for returns by Saturday at 3 p.m. CT in order for them to play Sunday.
Kickoff between the Bears (8-8) and Saints (12-4) is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. CT Sunday from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.