It was reported earlier in the week that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was handling preparations for the upcoming “Sunday Night Football” game at the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers remotely because he was “under the weather.” The good news, through Friday morning, was that the fully vaccinated Payton had repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19, meaning he had a chance to work Sunday’s showdown in person.
That’s now changed.
The Saints confirmed Friday afternoon that Payton has tested positive for COVID-19 and, thus, won’t attend Sunday’s matchup.
“Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will assume the duties of head coach for the Tampa Bay game on Sunday, Dec. 19,” the Saints explained. “Payton will return to coach the Dec. 27 game against the Miami Dolphins in the Caesars Superdome.”
New Orleans enters the weekend at 6-7 but still has an outside shot to make the NFC playoffs.
On Thursday, the NFL announced updated guidelines for handling rising COVID-19 cases linked with the Omicron variant that include ways players, coaches and other staff members can “test out” of the protocols. However, New Orleans’ statement indicates Payton is not eligible to do so, likely because he has symptoms.
Payton also tested positive for the coronavirus in March 2020. It’s unknown if he’s had a booster shot this fall.