New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton tests positive for COVID-19

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be on the sideline for the road game Sunday vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team announced Friday.

Payton, who has been fully vaccinated, was “immediately isolated,” according to the team. He also made public the NFL’s first known positive test for coronavirus in March 2020.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will assume duties of head coach against the Bucs.

“Sean’s our leader and he’s the guy that’s been running the show around here. So, it’ll be a lot different,” Allen said. “… The real deal is that he’s prepared all of us for how we have to play the game. We know what’s expected of us. Every single one of us, every coach, player, and staff member knows what’s expected of us. Our job’s to go out there on Sunday and perform. That’s what we plan on doing.”

Per NFL protocols, Payton will be out for 10 days unless he meets the league requirements for a fully vaccinated individual to return to the team.

The Saints said they expect Payton, 57, to return to the sidelines against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 27.

“That’s the guy who leads our ship, so it’s obviously going to be different not having him out there, but we have coaches who can step up and have done this numerous times before,” running back Mark Ingram said Friday. “We try to pick each other up, support each other and have each other’s backs. We know what the standard is.”

The positive test for Payton comes after he missed practice on Wednesday when the club said he was “under the weather” but had tested negative. Payton was back at practice and meetings on Thursday.

Payton’s positive test came as COVID-19 cases have spiked across the NFL in recent days, mirroring trends seen in the general population.

Three Saints players — defensive end Cameron Jordan, running back Mark Ingram and receiver Ty Montgomery — did not play against the New York Jets on Sunday because of positive COVID-19 tests. But by Thursday, Jordan and Montgomery had been activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

After snapping a five-game skid, the Saints (6-7) remain in contention for one of the NFC’s wild-card playoff spots with four regular-season games remaining.

In Week 2 of this season, the Saints were without numerous assistant coaches because of a virus outbreak, but Payton was not among those who tested positive.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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