With New Orleans having been forced to play Monday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins despite a decimated roster due to COVID-19, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis voiced his displeasure with the NFL’s decision to not postpone the game.
The Saints (7-8), whose 20-3 loss to the Dolphins severely hurt their playoff chances, were hit hard by the virus late last week with the outbreak infecting 22 players and several members of the coaching staff.
“It’s hard to describe last week and how that happened and unfolded,” Loomis said Wednesday on WWL Radio. “I think the closest thing that I remember is back in 1987, when we had to put together a roster of replacement players. There was a strike, the lockout, and so we had to have these replacement teams and we were scrambling to put together rosters. It felt a little like that to be honest. It was a tough week.”
The Saints, who were still signing players the day before the game, were hard-pressed to field a competitive team with about one-quarter of their regulars in street clothes. Among those sidelined were the team’s top two quarterbacks, two starting receivers and both starting offensive tackles.
With three games postponed a week earlier due to COVID-19 concerns, Loomis felt the Saints should have been afforded the same exemption that was granted to the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams and Washington Football Team.
“If we had seven or eight or 10 COVID positives, we can handle that,” Loomis said. “But, man, when you have 18 active players and four of your practice squad players test positive for COVID, it’s just too much to overcome, frankly. It wasn’t fair to the players. It wasn’t fair to our coaching staff, and certainly not the fans.”
When asked why the game wasn’t pushed back to a later date, Loomis said, “I don’t know what the reasoning is in New York. Those decisions are made at the league level. But we were told pretty early on that the game wasn’t going to be postponed and we just had to deal with it. That was their solution: Play the game — no matter what,” Loomis said. “We don’t have to like it, but we have to live with it.”
The Saints were down to their fourth-string quarterback in rookie Ian Book after Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian went on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. Book had never taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game before Monday.