FORT WORTH, Texas — The New Orleans Saints have had eight members of the organization test positive for COVID-19, calling into question their status for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday.
The total includes six offensive coaches, one player and a nutritionist, according to a source.
The Saints placed wide receiver Michael Thomas on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday. Thomas, who is currently on the physically unable to perform list, is not eligible to return to practice until Week 7 at the earliest. Thomas has been doing his rehab in Fort Worth, Texas, with the team, which has been practicing at TCU’s facility after being displaced by Hurricane Ida.
On Wednesday, coach Sean Payton confirmed some of the team’s offensive coaches, the nutritionist and a player had tested positive.
“I said to [offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., quarterbacks coach Ronald Curry and assistant offensive line coach Zach Strief], it’s like ‘Ted Lasso,’ the three or four of us. The rest of ’em are all up in their hotel rooms and they’re doing the best they can with preparation,” Payton said. “We meet today for instance in bigger groups — spread out — but we’re meeting with the receivers and running backs and quarterbacks as opposed to breaking out into those sub-groups, just kind of covering the information. …
“Pete and I and Ronald has been here and Zach. Obviously we’ve got some young coaching assistants. We’re missing an O-line coach, a receiver coach, a running back coach, a tight end coach, the other tight end coach.”
Payton wouldn’t confirm that Thomas was the player that tested positive.
For now, the entire team is operating under the NFL’s enhanced mitigation protocols, meaning mandatory masking inside facilities, daily testing, no in-person meetings and grab-and-go meals.
Speaking to WWL Radio in New Orleans on Tuesday, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis confirmed that the team is dealing with some COVID-19 cases and enhanced protocols but didn’t share many specifics. He said the Saints have a coach in Payton who does a great job dealing with adversity, adding, “We’ll handle it.”
If they are asymptomatic, vaccinated players and personnel can return when they provide two negative test results 24 hours apart, per NFL protocols. Unvaccinated players and personnel who test positive must isolate for at least 10 days.
Payton said during the summer that the team’s coaching and personnel staffs were 100% vaccinated.
The Saints play Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. They played their Week 1 home opener last Sunday in Florida at Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field, beating the Green Bay Packers 38-3.
ESPN’s Mike Triplett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.