Saints rent hotel to create optional team bubble

  • Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
  • Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
  • Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate

METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints rented out four floors of the Loews Hotel in downtown New Orleans to create an optional bubblelike atmosphere for players and staff members who choose to stay there during the next month of training camp.

“It’s not a bubble. It’s a sequester,” Saints coach Sean Payton told NBC’s Peter King, who first reported the details of the team’s plan.

Staying in the hotel is optional. Payton estimated that about 150 people will stay there among the total of 180 players, coaches and executives, plus medical, cafeteria, security and support staff. Owner Gayle Benson was willing to pay the hefty cost to help eliminate some health risks.

“The message from the league is, ‘The show must go on,'” Payton told King. “If so, we’ve got to do everything we can to be sure that happens.”

The Athletic’s Jeff Duncan previously reported that Benson was prepared to rent out an entire hotel for all of training camp. But Duncan reported that the plan failed to meet NFL protocols and that some players balked at the idea of being sequestered for so long.

No Saints players have tested positive for the coronavirus since testing began last week. The team cut its roster down to 80 players over the weekend and are beginning strength and conditioning work Monday.

Payton hinted last week at his apparent dissatisfaction with the altered preseason/training camp schedule, stressing several times that “there’s nothing about this that is like training camp.”

But he said the teams that can adjust best will benefit most.

“Well, it’s unimportant regardless of how anyone feels,” Payton said. “What’s important is quickly taking what we were given and getting ready to prepare the team.”

Payton said the Saints will have as many padded practices as allowed, with competitive scrimmages being key to player evaluations.

“I’m gonna tell you this, the amount of running and lifting they’re gonna do is gonna be significant,” Payton said. “Again, this is their schedule, this isn’t our schedule — this is the union’s schedule, this is the management council’s schedule. This is not the schedule recommended to those parties by our coaches. So we’ve got the schedule, and we’ll follow it to a T.”

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