Saints training camp has officially opened! Or has it? Coach Sean Payton held his pre-training camp press conference via telephone today and called the current situation the Saints are in, “anything but training camp.”
Saints players are going through Covid-19 testing, and will do so for the rest of the week. If players test negative for the virus, they can begin to enter the team facility Saturday.
Once players begin to arrive at camp, they will go through an acclimation period that includes conditioning and weight lifting on Monday. "I expect our players to be in very good shape when we see them. It's their livelihood. Their conditioning and preparing should not have been affected through this (pandemic),” Payton explained his expectation clearly.
When Saints players get out of the conditioning portion of the pre-season, they are then allowed to begin walk through practices and team meetings on August 12th. By August 17th the team can begin with helmets and shorts style practices, and ease their way into full padded practices. “We will be in full padded practices every day that we are allowed," said Coach Payton. That is a statement to his team.
Some organizations around the league are toying with the idea of isolating certain position groups to soften an possible outbreak on their team. Payton and the Saints are going to do that, but he does anticipate the season getting interrupted in some form or fashion. "I won't be surprised if games are suspended due to an outbreak on teams at a certain position.”
Wow! So what then? If that scenario plays out, the NFL would have a couple of options. If the two teams that had their games suspended share a bye week, they could play the suspended game during the open date. If that can't happen, the league could potentially tack it on to the back end of the schedule, and if necessary, play the game... in particular, if the contest would have playoff ramifications for one or both teams.
Back in June Saints quarterback Drew Brees came under public criticism for saying, "I will never support anyone kneeling for the National Anthem" in an interview with Yahoo Finance. His teammate, safety Malcolm Jenkins called Brees out, and forced a team meeting to clear the air. What’s Head Coach Sean Payton’s￼ take on the controversy? “I think our locker room is in good shape, no need to address that any further. Players will be focused on earning roster spots. The number one thing we'll be working on is football. All other things take a back seat right now," Payton said sharply.
Keep in mind the Saints have strong, veteran leadership in place. If this were a younger, unseasoned team, I'd be concerned.
Now let’s fast forward to regular season. What if there are no fans in the stands? Saints fans give the Black & Gold a significant advantage with crowd noise for 8 home games a season. How will that impact the team? "I focus on what I can control and that is not in my control right now,” Payton explained. That's his typical business like approach. While Payton says you can call it training camp, and he would say it's anything but...at least we're seeing a flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, we are going to have football of the NFL variety...and more importantly Saints football!