Rather than a filled media room at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center, New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis sat solo inside the team's indoor practice facility.
"It's a little different than our normal training camp opener," he said Tuesday.
Instead of physicals and conditioning tests, Loomis, other front office personnel, coaches and players mainly are undergoing COVID-19 testing during the week. It's the latest concession, and precaution, being observed due to the global pandemic as the Saints and the NFL safely attempt to return to the practice fields and, eventually, the game stadiums.
But the goal remains the same for Loomis and the Saints.
"Going in, I would say everyone in our building feels good about our team and yet we also understand that each year is brand new," he said. "Because we won some games last year doesn't mean we're entitled to win them this year. But we feel real good about our roster and real good about our leadership, and great about our coaching staff.
"And so, all the elements are there. But we've got to put in the work, we've got to put in the time. We have to find a way to focus on football. It's right there in front of us. Our expectations and our goals are to be successful, to go farther than we did last year and farther than we did the year before."
The Saints' 37 regular-season wins over the last three years lead the NFL, and New Orleans has won the NFC South Division each of those years. The starting lineup largely returns intact and the coaching staff that likewise experienced minimal turnover. The newness has been dealing with separation and restrictions.
"It's just been different because we spent a number of months where we couldn't even come to the office," Loomis said. "So having to work at home, having to work virtually, I think our staff has done a great job of dealing with that and yet, it's not the same as having face-to-face conversations and talking about the nuances of different things that we have to get done.
"So it's been different, and yet, we're really proud of our staff. We've got a lot of guys – particularly our medical staff, our trainers and doctors and our administrative staff – who have had a lot of work to do in a short period of time in order for us to deal with these protocols. We're grinding through it, is probably the best way to describe it."
The grind will continue until the Saints can return to the field.
"We're just trying to get through the testing and the ramp-up periods," he said. "We're a long ways from the practice fields yet. We've got some time."
Loomis said all players reported as expected. The evaluation process for the roster, as well as the rosters of other NFL teams, will be different due to the cancellation of preseason games.
"We're clearly not going to get the looks that we normally get at new players in the league that get the opportunity to show what they can do during preseason games," he said. "We don't have the ability to watch other teams' practices, we're not going to have scrimmages that are open to public. We're going to have a lot less information this year. We're going to have to rely on college reports and our prior year pro reports.
"We're going to have these guys in our building for the next month. We're going to have a lot of time watch them, to see them in meetings, to have practices, see them compete against veteran players. I think we'll do a real good job of evaluating, but the evaluation will be different."
Likely, game situations and intensity will have to be simulated in practice.
"I think the intention here is we've got this testing period, you've got the ramp-up period, we're going to have some OTA-level practices and then we're going to get into our normal training camp practices at some point down the road," Loomis said. "Those are intense practices. They always have been. You're always trying to get as close as you can to game-like situations and that'll evolve as we get into training camp."
But presently, Loomis said he feels much the same way as everyone else with regard to football returning amid the pandemic.
"We're all concerned," he said. "We're concerned about the health of ourselves, our families, and really our entire community. We've seen some devastating numbers and we're hopeful that we can get control of this. But I think, I would say, I'm feeling the same way as everyone is."