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Saints won't have off-season program, head coach says

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton (L) urged players like quarterback Drew Brees (9) to take care of their families as the team won't have an off-season program due to the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/fc8508a1d800143cb75f35a61b32bd1e/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton (L) urged players like quarterback Drew Brees (9) to take care of their families as the team won't have an off-season program due to the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo

April 23 (UPI) -- New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton says his team will not have an off-season program due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Payton made the comment during a video conference Wednesday with Saints players. Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis later confirmed the move during a pre-draft news conference. Saints players are expected to conduct personal workouts and stay in shape during the absence of normal voluntary sessions.

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"No virtual workouts, no online meetings, no workouts at the facility, even if it's allowed," Payton said, according to ESPN. "Show up in July for training camp in the best shape of your life."

Payton urged players to take care of their families and health and to be ready this summer. The veteran coach was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March but says he feels better now.

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The NFL has banned teams from workouts at their facilities due to the pandemic. New Orleans still plans to communicate with players before training camp.

"I think [Payton's message] is more about, 'Look, pay attention to your family. Pay attention to keeping yourself and your family safe. Abide by the orders of each of the states that you're in. We'll handle the rest of it,'" Loomis said.

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"'Get yourself in shape. And then when we're able to get together, we'll move on and we'll have a great training camp and a great season.'"

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The Saints have the luxury of continuity throughout their staff and roster. Payton has coached the team for 17 years and Drew Brees has been its quarterback since 2006. Other NFL teams could struggle to acclimate to the idea of no off-season programs, with rookie quarterbacks, recently added free agents and first-year head coaches immersed in the challenge of preparation for the 2020 season.

The NFL and NFLPA agreed last week to modified off-season rules that include online classroom instruction and virtual workouts, for an indefinite period, to replace the workouts and classroom sessions that typically occur at team facilities.

The NFL's voluntary off-season program began Monday. The league will not allow teams to report to their facilities until all of the locations are opened in accordance with league protocols and state, federal and local guidelines.

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