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New Orleans Saints GM Mickey Loomis prioritizes safety as front office, coaches work remotely

'It's nothing compared to the adversity that our health-care industry and the people that are out on the front lines are dealing with right now'

Whatever hardships the New Orleans Saints front office might be enduring while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis understands that they really aren't hardships at all.

Saints personnel are working remotely in preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft, attempting to squeeze in as much preparation as possible while unable to attend pro days, conduct face-to-face interviews or conduct physicals.

"I don't really recall us having this level of being disconnected from the rest of our group – we're not in the same room, not having conversations face to face," Loomis said. "But we've had adversity before.

"And look, it's nothing compared to the adversity that our health-care industry and the people that are out on the front lines are dealing with right now. I don't even like complaining about it because of the circumstances that exist. We're getting a lot of things done, we'll be ready to go when the time comes for the draft. And that's where we're at."

Where the Saints are, partly, is here: Having re-signed or agreed to terms with two of their unrestricted free agents (defensive tackle David Onyemata and left guard Andrus Peat), and two other unrestricted free agents (safety Malcolm Jenkins and receiver Emmanuel Sanders), even while Coach Sean Payton announced he'd tested positive for COVID-19 and self-quarantined (he now has been cleared).

Naturally, there was concern over Payton's health. But Loomis said it doesn't stop there.

"Sean did a great job of keeping us informed with where he was at and how he was feeling," Loomis said. "We're just thankful that he's recovered.

"(But) we'd be concerned with anyone that comes down with this virus right now that is connected to the Saints or the Pelicans or any of Mrs. B's (Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson) companies. Obviously, Sean's such a high-profile coach within our industry that I think everyone is concerned for him. We're concerned for anyone that's come down positive for this virus."

Nevertheless, free agency continues, the NFL Draft is upcoming (April 23-25) and whether or not the Saints are able to conduct business in person, there remains business to conduct.

Loomis said working remotely is "not my favorite thing, but we've got our IT guys and (Assistant GM/College Scouting Director) Jeff Ireland and that group has done a great job of using technology that's available so that we can marshal on."

Gayle Benson earlier this week lauded the leadership of Loomis, who also was Saints general manager when the franchise, and the Gulf South, dealt with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"I think the similarities are the adversity," he said. "We've got a lot of great people in the organization that are able to focus on tasks at hand. I think the difference here, more than anything else, is that it's affected our entire world. Certainly all of the NFL world, but all of the world. Everyone is dealing with this kind of adversity in some form or fashion.

"The health-care industry and those people that are out there on the front lines are true heroes here for us, and we're grateful for them. But when it's all said and done, we'll have learned some things, we'll have identified some things that we can could certainly do a lot better. But that's for the review after the fact, not while we're in the middle of it. Right now we're just trying to get our work done, trying to make sure that all of our people are cared for No. 1, and then that we're taking care of our responsibilities secondly."

And that includes being ready for the draft in April.

"We're still collecting information on these guys and in all likelihood, won't have as much as we normally do," Loomis said. "But we've also got a lot of information already, and Jeff and our scouting staff and our coaches are all continuing to work hard on this draft class. And we'll be prepared when the time comes to draft."