Few NFL teams have experienced disruption on par with the New Orleans Saints in 2021.
It didn't get better Monday, according to the NFL transaction wire.
Left defensive end Cameron Jordan, who never has missed a game in his NFL career, was placed on the NFL's reserve/Covid-19 list. Jordan, a three-time All-Pro who is tied for second on the team with four sacks and has 98.5 in his career, has started 171 of 172 career games since being drafted in the first round in 2011.
Jordan will need to produce two negative tests before he can return to football activities.
And receiver Deonte Harris, who leads the Saints in receiving yards (523), is second in receptions (31) and has three touchdowns, will serve an NFL-issued suspension for the next three games for an off-field transgression this offseason. Harris was sentenced to a year of supervised probation after pleading not guilty to driving under the influence, with an agreed statement of facts following a traffic incident in July.
"You're waiting, and now we'll go through that process," Payton said of Harris, who also averages 11.2 yards on 12 punt returns, and 23.6 on 25 kick returns. "We kind of knew at some point that was going to be something he was dealing with and then we as a team would deal with it."
With Jordan, the Saints already were thinned at defensive end – rookie Payton Turner is on injured reserve and has missed the last four games, Marcus Davenport (team-leading 5.5 sacks) has missed the last two and Tanoh Kpassagnon (four sacks) is on injured reserve – defensive tackle David Onyemata has taken snaps at defensive end. Carl Granderson started at right defensive end against Dallas.
"Part of it's out of necessity," Payton said of Onyemata. "Naturally, he's an inside three-technique, but he does have some flexibility."
Regarding Granderson, Payton said, "He's getting a lot of reps. We like the player and look at him as a young player who's ascending. He's stronger, there are some things technique-wise that he's working through, but he's a good, young prospect for us."
Already this season, the Saints (5-7), who have lost five straight entering Sunday's game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., have been without receiver Michael Thomas, the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, and kicker Wil Lutz, a Pro Bowler in '19. Both have been declared out this season without playing a down.
Also, starting quarterback Jameis Winston (torn ACL) was injured in the seventh game; running back Alvin Kamara, a two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, has missed the last four; right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, a three-time All-Pro, has missed the last three; and left tackle Terron Armstead, an All-Pro in '18 and three-time Pro Bowler, has missed five this season, including the last one.
That's not the entirety of the list, and doesn't include quarterback Taysom Hill. Hill, who started against Dallas, injured the middle finger on his right (throwing) hand against the Cowboys. He already has missed two games and didn't play in two while serving as the emergency quarterback.
Payton said the team will monitor Hill's finger injury this week.
"I know this, obviously, you prefer not to have any injury at all and I think that there's a comfort level that they have that it's not going to get hurt any worse," Payton said. "It's the middle finger, and it's the top ligament. I think we'll know a little bit more this week as he goes through the week of practice.
"Is it grip-related, or is it when the ball releases off of your fingertips? You guys have all seen it: A football comes off the hand, the last finger that leaves it is the index finger. The second-to-last finger that leaves it (is the middle finger)."