In some ways, there hasn't been a startling difference in operations for New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis caused by restrictions associated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The first part of it, we were in draft preparation and then the draft, and that went about as well as we could have hoped for, given the conditions," Loomis said Friday. "And since then it's been more project-oriented.
"We've had a couple of things with the team and we've had a number of projects – things that are on your plate that you dream up, but you haven't had time to do over the years. That's what we're into right now. Fortunately for us, this is normally a pretty slow time in the offseason outside of the offseason program for the players."
But eventually, the pace will quicken. And when it does, the hope is that a concrete plan will be in place. For now, however, the NFL hasn't been able to map out hard rules due to the shifting conditions.
"I think that's pretty fluid," Loomis said. "Until we get a little more direction from the league, we're all in a wait-and-see mode. Fortunately, we have some time to do that. I know at the league office, they're spending a lot of time on different scenarios. But we've got time yet."
The time New Orleans has had appears to have been used wisely.
In a quality-over-quantity draft, the Saints picked four players – center/guard Cesar Ruiz in the first round, linebacker Zack Baun and tight end Adam Trautman in the third and quarterback Tommy Stevens in the seventh – who fill specific needs for the roster. And in free agency, among the likely starters they retained and reeled in were defensive tackle David Onyemata, guard Andrus Peat, safety Malcolm Jenkins and receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Each outside free agent signee noted the team's culture as a deciding factor.
"We've been fortunate enough to have a lot of wins over the last three years and players want, I think more than anything else, they want to win," Loomis said. "Obviously, they want to make a good living. (But) recognize this: Somebody on every team, when you're a player that's a free agent, you probably know someone on almost every team, whether you ran across them in college or at all-star games or in the league.
"So they have sources within each team to describe the circumstances, describe the locker room, the type of coaching that they're going to get. I think the word of mouth for our club is pretty good right now. We certainly take pride in that. We pay attention to our locker room.
"The facilities themselves – they're important. It's important to have first-class facilities, I think we have that. We pay attention to it, we try to add something every year. We may not have the newest and brightest and shiniest, but we have a great facility."
The plan – until otherwise noted – is for players to return to it for training camp in July.
"There's been a lot of discussion, both internally and externally, about what that's going to look like when we do have training camp," Loomis said. "I would say this: Right now we're planning on having our normal training camp.
"What that looks like in terms of the logistics and what is different from normal, we don't know yet. But we're having discussions about that. Obviously, there's testing issues and then the consequence of a positive test. But those discussions are primarily being held at the league level and we'll get direction from them at some point. But we've got time. That's the fortunate thing here."
Time to decide and disseminate protocols and safety measures. Those measures could include games without fans, a possibility Loomis said he has considered simply due to dialogue that has floated that scenario.
"I think all of us think about that," he said. "Obviously, we can conduct the games, but it's hard to recreate the atmosphere that exists and the excitement that exists when you have fans present. That will be different. It will be unprecedented in terms of the NFL.
"You've thought about it and yet, I'm not ready to say that that's going to happen yet. Those are discussions that are happening at the league level and they'll get and process a lot of the medical information that comes out and we'll see what happens."