Several New Orleans Saints players and coach Sean Payton were up past 3 a.m., awaiting the negative coronavirus test results that allowed them to play a football game less than 10 hours later in Detroit on Sunday.
While Payton admitted some frustrations with the process that resulted in a false-positive diagnosis for fullback Michael Burton, he also acknowledged that curveballs like these will be inevitable this season.
And he was especially proud his team overcame it with a much-needed 35-29 victory over the Detroit Lions.
The Saints (2-2) had to overcome a quick 14-0 deficit in the first five minutes Sunday while playing without six injured starters.
"It's just one of those games you're proud of your team," Payton said. "It's (the nature of) this game -- it'll test you from an adversity standpoint. And I think this year is gonna be that way for a lot of us.
"New England's gonna have to travel tomorrow, play a game tomorrow night (because of a positive coronavirus test late in the week). And quite honestly, no one really cares. And I mean that in a good way -- there's far more other things that are important that we're suffering from than to hear about, 'We were up 'til 1.' That's just the way it is this season. And so we have to understand that and then still be ready to play our best game."
Payton wasn't thrilled that the team had to wait as long as it did for the point-of-care tests to arrive at the Saints' hotel in Detroit. The Saints test their team members earlier than usual on Saturday mornings for instances like this -- and they initially got the results of Burton's positive test around 10:30 p.m.
Burton's sample was re-tested. Then the POC tests were administered to Burton and a group of players who were seated around him on the flight. Once all of those tests came back negative, the game was cleared to be played as scheduled.
"Tests were done by 12:55. And then we got the results back before 3 a.m. Look ... that's part of the deal this year," said Payton, who was also disappointed that the contact tracers worn by every team member did not seem to work effectively on the plane.
He said the tracers showed only that Burton had been in close contact with three others -- but they knew it was more based on where he was sitting. So they selected their own group for POC testing, including Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
"I think the tracing system has had some inaccuracies, to say the least. But I think we were smart enough to realize who else might've been exposed, and went ahead and had those guys tested," Payton said. Kamara said it was "crazy" being up at 3 a.m. "trying to figure out what was going on."
"But nobody cares at the end of the day. We still gotta do what we gotta do," said Kamara --who did just that with 119 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the win.
Burton, meanwhile, said he went through a variety of emotions while barely getting any sleep.
"It was long night for sure," Burton said. "Because you never want to be a distraction. They had to wake up other guys and test them. I'm sure Coach Payton was up trying to figure some stuff out, doctors. So just that uneasy feeling, you're just kind of waiting for that phone call to find out what the diagnosis is."
Burton said he didn't believe the positive test because he has been taking every precaution suggested by the Saints and the NFL Players Association. But he said it was "really difficult, just thinking about my teammates, the negative effect it could've had on them."
"That feeling that you kind of let your team down, I think that's one of the worst feelings you can feel. It's worse than anger," Burton said. "You want to eliminate distractions as best as you can. And that's something that this team and this culture has done so well for such a long time.
"I'm not surprised that we went out there and won that game. ... It's a testament to the type of guys that are in this locker room, the culture that is here."
The Saints took a 28-14 lead before halftime -- becoming just the fourth team in NFL history to turn a deficit of 14-plus points into a lead of 14-plus points before halftime, according to the Elias Sports Bureau data. They joined the 2011 Jaguars, 1985 Jets and 1965 Vikings.
And they did so despite receiver Michael Thomas, cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins, tight end Jared Cook, guard Andrus Peat and defensive end Marcus Davenport being ruled out with injuries before the game.
"Yeah, there was a lot going on," quarterback Drew Brees said. "But I think it just says a lot about this team, about all the guys that stepped up and filled those voids. And everybody just persevered and found a way to get a big win today."