New Orleans Saints awaiting game status for Marshon Lattimore, COVID-positive assistants

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Cornerback Marshon Lattimore and half of the New Orleans Saints' coaching staff remain maybes for Sunday's game at Carolina as of Friday morning.

Coach Sean Payton said Friday morning that Lattimore will probably be a "game-time decision." A source confirmed to ESPN that Lattimore underwent thumb surgery earlier this week.

As for the six offensive assistant coaches who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, Payton said they will have to go "2-for-2" with negative tests on Friday and Saturday to be cleared to make the flight to Carolina on Saturday.

Lattimore, who injured his right thumb during Sunday's 38-3 win over the Green Bay Packers, returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday.

Asked what goes into the decision of when a player can be cleared to play with a hand injury that is wrapped up for protection, Payton said it depends on the specific injury.

"If you go back through the history, what's the injury itself?" Payton said. "We'll see how he does today [in Friday's practice]. And he's going to be probably one of those guys that's a game-time decision. He's moving around well. He's in shape. It's just a matter of the type of injury each person has and what position they're playing."

Lattimore, a three-time Pro Bowler, signed a five-year, $97.6 million contract extension Sunday and is vital to New Orleans' defense against a division rival that features standout wide receivers DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. However, the Saints will have veteran cornerback Bradley Roby in the lineup for the first time Sunday after acquiring him in a trade with the Houston Texans last week. And rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo played well in his debut, intercepting Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The six Saints assistant coaches who tested positive for COVID-19 are vaccinated, which allows them to return once they are asymptomatic and provide two negative test results 24 hours apart. Payton said they will get Friday's test results later in the day. If any of those tests come back negative, the coaches can pass a rapid test Saturday to be cleared for the flight.

Five of the missing assistants were identified by Payton as New Orleans' offensive line coach, receivers coach, running backs coach and two tight ends coaches. All five have been absent from practice this week, along with an offensive analyst.

Payton joked that he, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., quarterbacks coach Ronald Curry and assistant offensive line coach Zach Strief have been like the small coaching staff from the show "Ted Lasso" while the other position coaches have joined meetings via videoconferences.

Among the lower-level assistants who have stepped up for the Saints is former Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who joined the team this summer as a coach/scout through the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. Bushrod was working with the tight ends in practice.

"It's not always what you're used to, and yet those guys are Zooming into meetings, they're Zooming into evening meetings as we put in offense and defense," Payton said. "And the No. 1 thing is they're getting rested and getting healthy. They get tested every day, and in the meantime, there's others here that are picking up additional work. We're meeting more collectively than all broken up into our groups. So I think overall it's gone as well as can be expected."