NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints general manager Mickey Loomis doesn’t expect the unusual circumstances surrounding this pandemic-altered NFL season to dampen expectations for a team seeking a fourth-straight playoff appearance.
There’s been little turnover on coach Sean Payton’s staff and most projected starters have been around for the past three seasons, including consecutive 13-victory regular seasons in 2018 and 2019. If anything, the Saints’ roster stability and veteran leadership could make them better equipped than most clubs to enter a season that saw the usual offseason program and all four preseason games wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s an advantage that Sean and I have been together a long time. I think it’s an advantage that we have a staff that’s been together for a long time as well as a core group of players that have been together for a long time. And look, we’ve been through a lot,” Loomis said Tuesday evening, after the team was scheduled to report for training camp and undergo coronavirus testing.
“Everyone in our building feels good about our team,” Loomis continued. “We feel real good about roster, real good about our leadership, great about our coaching staff and so, look, all the elements are there. But we’ve got to put in the work, we’ve got to put in the time. We have to find way to focus on football.”
Rookies arrived at Saints headquarters for virus testing on Monday, followed by the rest of the roster on Tuesday. Loomis said there were no positive tests on Monday and he was awaiting Tuesday’s results. However, two players – reserve tight ends Cole Wick and Jason Vander Laan -- chose to opt out over concerns of exposure to the virus.
One of the themes of camp will surround 41-year-old record-setting quarterback Drew Brees. His age will be a secondary concern to how he manages the tension that flared up between him and his teammates in early June when he initially expressed an enduring opposition to kneeling during the national anthem before changing course and apologizing after experiencing a public backlash from Black teammates.
When that subject came up, Loomis paused before answering, and then proceeded carefully.
“Our team and Drew handled that,” Loomis said. “In some ways, it’s a private matter between Drew and his teammates and I think they handled that fine.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to have a lot of conversations with our players yet, so it’s tough for me to answer that fully.”
Loomis said NFL teams still don’t know whether fans will be permitted to attend games come September and added that he’s tried not to think about that because “the atmosphere in the Superdome definitely has an impact on games and if don’t have that atmosphere, we’re going to miss it, no question about it.”
Loomis said there hasn’t been much discussion about how to manufacture a home-field advantage in the dome without fans, but added, “We’re open to ideas as long as it’s within the rules of the NFL”
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