Now that the NFL season is over, the league, workers, players, and everyone involved should receive a round of applause. No games were canceled, and a Super Bowl champion could be crowned amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Orleans Saints, however, aren’t out of the woods yet.
The team has had coronavirus issues during the last week of the season. Now they could face severe discipline from the NFL over another COVID-19 violation.
New Orleans Saints COVID-19 issues during the 2020 season
Almost every team had to deal with the coronavirus in some capacity during the season. The Saints had multiple COVID-19 problems throughout the year, which resulted in players missing games and even discipline by the league.
Their first COVID-19 violation came in September, where the team was fined $250,000 when head coach Sean Payton didn’t adhere to mask guidelines. His mask wasn’t worn properly on the sidelines during a game. Payton was also fined $100,000 for the violation.
New Orleans violated the league’s protocols again in November. After a Week 9 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Payton and several players were recorded celebrating the victory without a mask. There was also a meeting where players didn’t correctly wear masks. The Saints were fined $500,000 by the league and forfeited a seventh-round draft pick.
The third time a COVID-19 situation hit the Saints, it was serious. Alvin Kamara tested positive for the coronavirus, making him unavailable for their Week 17 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Because of contact tracing, the entire Saints running back room had to miss the game. It was one of the weirder coronavirus situations of the NFL season.
The Saints have had to deal with COVID-19 related issues more than they would’ve liked to. The worst has yet to come for the team, as they could face severe punishment because of Kamara’s incident.
The Saints could face the biggest COVID-19 punishment yet
Kamara’s coronavirus situation was odd, and that is what could bring heavy punishment from the NFL. The league is doing more investigating, saying that the Saints could have violated more coronavirus protocols, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport. With this being the third time the team has violated protocols, the consequences could be severe.
The league has obtained surveillance video of Kamara speaking to someone who is not employed by the Saints at the team facility. The person he was talking to ended up testing positive for the coronavirus. The individual’s presence in the Saints’ facility is a violation of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, allowing unauthorized people in the building.
That isn’t all for New Orleans. According to The Athletic’s Jeff Duncan, their star running back had issues wearing the league-mandated tracking device. He refused to wear the device all season, which ended up hurting the team. Kamara not having the tracking device on made it difficult for the NFL to trace close contacts when he tested positive.
If the league does find violations, it would be the third strike for the Saints. Grave repercussions could come because of their third COVID-19 violation. The punishment for their most recent incident is likely going to be the biggest yet, according to NFL.com. This situation only adds to the challenging offseason facing the Saints.
New Orleans has one of the toughest offseason in the NFL
The likelihood of harsh punishment coming from the league because of COVID-19 violations is another obstacle in the Saints’ way this offseason. It was already going to be a difficult one, given their financial situation. New Orleans has one of the worst cap situations in football, almost $100 million over the cap. That isn’t helpful for a team that still has championship aspirations.
They are probably going to lose their Hall of Fame quarterback also. It isn’t official, but Drew Brees is expected to retire from the NFL. Luckily for the team, Brees agreed to a pay cut, which helps the team’s salary cap situation.
The team has many of their star players locked up, but their finances could make it difficult for them to keep many key pieces. Players like Jared Cook and Kwon Alexander might not return to the team to save cap space. According to Adam Schefter, the NFL salary cap will be set at around $180-181 million. The Saints are going to have to ball on a budget in 2021.
The New Orleans Saints offseason is already off to a rough start. They have to assess their financial situation before making any moves and now could suffer the biggest punishment related to COVID-19 violations. Sean Payton and company dug themselves a big hole they might not be able to escape.