The New Orleans Saints reported for training camp last week and went through a week of exclusive testing for Covid-19, and completed their physicals Saturday and Sunday.
No Saints players were added to the NFL’s new Covid-19 reserve list during the initial testing. That means no player tested positive for the coronavirus, but also none were required to quarantine due to exposure to someone with it.
The Saints will move into the next unofficial phase of their training camp schedule. As head coach Sean Payton said last week, the team will begin strength and conditioning work Monday.
“It will be a lot of lifting, running,” he said. “We're going to follow the schedule to the tee, but it is going to be challenging. So, an hour in the weight room and hour conditioning. And then also meetings and walkthroughs. That will all begin Monday. That will take place for the better part of call it, six days, seven days.”
Payton said the team will eventually move into OTA-type practices before beginning padded practice on August 17.
“So we will take full advantage of that,” Payton said. “We'll be in full pads every day that we’re allowed."
This year’s training camp will look far different from prior ones as practices will be quite different and the NFL canceled all preseason games.
Saints players, however, say they are ready to adapt to the changes in a training camp that will be far from routine.
“I feel like if you love the game and care about the game, you have to know when to lock in and how to handle your business regardless of the situations you are put in and that you can't control,” Saints receiver Michael Thomas said. “You control the things you can control and go from there. Everyone's in the same boat."
Thomas said it will be incumbent on players to make sure their teammates are prepared, as there will be fewer traditional drills and workouts players are used to.
“It's the same thing the other 31 teams have,” Thomas said. “Whoever is doing the right things and preparing the right way, taking advantage of the time that they're given, taking care of one another in terms of things like social distancing, wearing a mask, keeping your hands clean, teams that take care of one another, I think those are the teams that are going to be competing for a championship at the end of the day.
“It's definitely going to be fun going up against those guys, but we also have to keep them honest given that the window is smaller."
One group of players the window will be smaller for is the Saints undrafted rookie free agents.
Saints linebacker Craig Robertson started his career as an undrafted free agent and admitted it will be challenging for those rookies to impress without preseason games, but Robertson said adapting quickly to this new routine will be key for them and veteran players to make the squad.
“Finding that routine is going to be huge, especially for the guys that have been here for a while, that has kind of been the league, and kind of know what they do. You have to be different now,” Robertson said. “Then for the young guys as well, everything for them is going to be new so they have to adjust on the fly. Well, we've all to adjust on the fly, but just the faster you can find that routine, the better off you'll be."