<
>

New Orleans Saints have eight members of organization test positive for COVID-19, sources say

play
How are eight positive COVID-19 tests affecting the Saints' preparations? (1:14)

Jeff Darlington provides the latest on the Saints after eight members of the organization tested positive for COVID-19. (1:14)

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. There were no new additions to the list of missing personnel because of COVID during Wednesday's practice.

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.

Quarterback Jameis Winston credited Payton for his leadership during the team's relocation because of Hurricane Ida and now the the COVID situation.

"... We've been facing adverse situations since we got here, with Hurricane Ida and us moving and relocating. One thing I admire about our head coach, he doesn't blink an eye. He really embraces these situations, he voices to us how we should embrace it. And we just team up with him and we roll with him. ... We've got to continue to bring that same energy regardless of coaches out there or not."

Winston added that he actually really enjoyed Payton being the one going over each play on tape in a full offensive meeting setting since the team was not breaking down into individual position groups like usual.

ESPN's Mike Triplett contributed to this report.