Saints scrap full offseason program, players say

  • 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. – New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton told players on Wednesday that they will not have any type of offseason program this spring — virtual or otherwise — according to players who spoke with ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

“Take care of your families, your health, and be ready this summer,” Payton was quoted as saying.

Payton shared the news in a video conference with more than 80 players on Wednesday morning. He said the Saints will not have a team-led offseason program even if the NFL rules change and allow players to return to their facilities.

“No virtual workouts, no online meetings, no workouts at the facility, even if it’s allowed,” Payton was quoted as saying. “Show up in July for training camp in the best shape of your life.”

The NFL and the NFLPA agreed to a set of modified offseason workout rules last week to help them navigate through the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a league memo obtained by ESPN, if teams decide to hold offseason workout programs this year, “classroom instruction and on-field activities that customarily take place at the Club facility … are being supplanted by on-line classroom instruction and virtual workouts for an indeterminate period.”

The rules for “virtual” offseason programs state that no NFL team is required to participate in the “Virtual Period,” which is defined as running from April 20 to May 15, and that a team may conduct classroom work online even if it doesn’t assign its players specific workouts. If a team decides to hold an offseason program, its players would receive their customary per diem payments just as if they were there in person ($235 minimum per day) and would be entitled to receive any offseason workout bonuses specified in their contracts, provided they fulfill the participation requirements their contracts specify.

If a team declines to participate in the April 20-May 15 “Virtual Period,” then it will not be permitted to conduct an offseason workout program after that period ends — whether virtual or on-field. Following May 15, every team will have six weeks’ worth of offseason program time available to it, regardless of whether it used its three weeks from April 20 to May 15.

The memo leaves open the possibility that COVID-19 restrictions could be eased or lifted after May 15, but allows for the possibility that offseason programs would have to be conducted virtually after that date as well. It specifies that no team’s offseason program can run past June 26 and, perhaps most importantly, that if any team’s facility remains closed because of COVID-19, then all 32 team facilities must remain closed as well.

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