Sean Payton, who has coached the NFL’s New Orleans Saints since 2000 and won a Super Bowl with them in a decade ago, told ESPN today that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. He is the first current NFL coach or player known to have been diagnosed the illness.
Payton told the Worldwide Leader that he went public with the news because he wants people to follow warnings and advice as the illness spreads throughout the United States and the world.
“This is not just about social distancing,” the 56-year-old coach told ESPN. “It’s shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It’s not complicated to do what they’re asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact.”
So far neither the NFL nor the Saints has commented on Payton’s diagnosis.
“I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have,” he told ESPN. I’m lucky. Younger people feel like they can handle this, but they can be a carrier to someone who can’t handle it. So we all need to do our part. It’s important for every one of us to do our part.”
Peyton is the league’s second-longest-tenured coach behind Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots.
With the NFL in its offseason, the league thus far hasn’t had to take any drastic measures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The NBA and NHL shuttered their seasons weeks before their playoffs were to have started, and the NCAA canceled its March Madness basketball tournaments. The league did, however, cancel all public events tied to its annual NFL Draft in Las Vegas, but its clubs will proceed with their televised player selections April 23-25.
“The NFL is exploring innovative options for how the process will be conducted and will provide that information as it becomes available,” the league said this week.