NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - If there’s one message Saints head coach Sean Payton wanted to get across in his conference call with local reporters Wednesday, it was this:
“There’s nothing about this that’s training camp,” he said on multiple occasions about the current circumstances surrounding football’s return amidst COVID 19.
Indeed nothing in the 2020 football season, or the weeks leading up to it, will be normal, including evaluation of players.
“We’re going to approach it differently,” Payton explained. " We’re going to have to evaluate during practice sessions; we can create environments that are more like scrimmage in our padded practices so we’ll have to do some of that.”
But Payton believes despite the situation, that’s no excuse for his players not to be ready to go.
“I expect our guys to be in good shape when we see them. Their physical conditioning and preparation should not have been affected,” Payton said. “We made a point early on, we saw ahead of time that there wouldn’t be a chance for OTAs and Minicamp - I expect the players to be in good shape, it’s their livelihood.”
Payton laid out his team’s plans for next month. Testing will be this week. On Monday, they begin lifting and conditioning with meetings and walkthroughs. On Wednesday, August 12th, they shift to helmets and jerseys with OTA style practice. Then, on August 17th, the pads will come on.
“We’ll take full advantage of that,” Payton said. “We’ll be in full pads every day that we’re allowed.”
Payton ended his conference call with a dose of reality. He said teams can have as many safety protocols as they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that once the pads come on, they’ll be playing tackle football for 2-2.5 hours a day and that will be the biggest challenge.