Saints coach Sean Payton tests positive for coronavirus

Sean Payton told ESPN he has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Sean Payton told ESPN he has tested positive for the coronavirus.Max Becherer

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton has tested positive for coronavirus, he told ESPN.

Payton's case makes him the first NFL coach, front office executive or player known to have tested positive during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Payton told ESPN he was publicizing his case because he wants the public to heed warnings relating to social distancing and attempting to limit the spread of the virus.

“This is not just about social distancing,” Payton 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.


“I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have. 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."

The NFL has continued to conduct its offseason business this week, with teams making trades and signing free agent players to contracts, while other sports that are in-season have shut down.

Payton told the network he was at home and would remain quarantined through the weekend. He took the test Monday after not feeling well Sunday, he said, and received the result Thursday. He also tweeted an update to his health status.

“Appreciate the well wishes," Payton wrote. “I’m feeling better and fortunate to not have any of the respiratory symptoms. [Four] more days at home.”

The Saints were gathering information and did not immediately comment, and the NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Many NFL teams have closed their training facilities. Free agent players have been prohibited from traveling to meet with teams or undergo physicals, and teams have been barred from traveling to meet with players. The league also prohibited teams from allowing their coaches and scouts to travel to college players’ on-campus pro-day workouts for next month’s NFL Draft.

The league canceled its annual meeting scheduled to begin late this month in Palm Beach, Fla. It postponed teams’ offseason workout programs for players indefinitely. It canceled the live event in Las Vegas associated with the NFL Draft, which will be held as scheduled April 23-25, but now will be a TV-only event.

Coaches, general managers and owners are scheduled to meet in May in Marina del Rey, Calif. Payton is a member of the league’s rule-making competition committee, which usually meets during the offseason to consider proposed rule changes. Payton participated in the committee’s meetings during last month’s NFL scouting combine.

Payton was in the Saints’ training facility as recently as last Friday, according to the league-owned NFL Network.