The NFL opened up its offseason program on Monday, with teams formally allowed to begin holding virtual meetings with players. There is a plan in place to eventually return to the field if allowed, but for the time being, teams will hold virtual meetings and workouts with their players.
The New Orleans Saints have elected not to take part in this program. Head coach Sean Payton told ESPN’s Dianna Russini the team is simply not having a program, and players said Payton told them to be ready for July training camp and in the meantime take care of their families and health.
According to Saints players I talked to, Head Coach Sean Payton told them this morning they are not having a team-lead offseason program even if rules change. Payton held a zoom meeting with over 80 players a short while ago and said “We are not having an offseason program."— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) April 22, 2020
Saints players were told "no virtual workouts, no online meetings, no workouts at the facility, even if its allowed Show up in July for training camp in the best shape of your life” They were told, “take care of your families, your health, and be ready this summer” #Saints— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) April 22, 2020
Thus far the Saints are the only team to announce plans on skipping the offseason workout program. It’s also notable that Payton said even if facility workouts were allowed, the team would forego them this year. Payton is one of the few people in the NFL we know of that has tested positive for Covid-19. It would not be surprising if that is influencing his decision-making.
It is possible Payton does think the virtual plan can be sufficiently effective to be worth utilizing. It will make for an interesting opening to the NFL season, whenever that does happen. The Saints return a sizable amount of their core, but like every NFL team, they are adding new players this offseason. They will eventually get a training camp to get on the same page, but they might be a bit slow out of the gate compared to other teams. Any team with a new coach will potentially be dealing with some of those issues, but Payton’s decision offers its own wrinkle