A Saturday night practice in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the New Orleans Saints very well could have served as a dress rehearsal for the 2020 regular season opener, if not as a taste of what the entire season could look and sound like: No fans, minimal noise.
"We've been here and practiced before with no fans," Coach Sean Payton said. "I told the team afterwards, I don't know what it's going to be like on game day. I can't control that; we can't control that. What we can control is our energy and our execution when it comes to playing.
"Will it be different? Certainly, it will be. But I think in a season like this, you try to spend more time on the things that you can control as opposed to the things you can't. I think that'll be a little bit of getting used to for every team in this league.
"Again, you're lining up and still playing a sport you love. I think the (television) broadcast will be able to pipe in the acoustics if they need to, so I don't think it'll be that noticeable for the fan watching on television."
Too, another factor the Saints may have to deal with is the fact that they're entering the time frame where if a coach or player tests positive for Covid-19, it could mean missing game time.
"We've discussed it, we actually haven't practiced it," Payton said of the possibility of a loss on the coaching staff. "Hopefully, we don't face that situation and yet, we have to understand that it could arise.
"The one thing I mentioned to our team is we're at that point in training camp now, where a true positive test – not a false positive, but a true positive test – puts a player and coach in jeopardy for that opening game. So I think it's important for everyone to understand that."
As for the work the Saints submitted in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Payton was encouraged by what he saw.
"I thought it was a crisp practice," he said. "We handled a few things. From the very beginning, just our pregame stretch and warmup routine – it's the first time for a number of these guys going through that. But then, it was more than just a warmup.
"We got, situationally, a handful of seven-on-seven reps and then team-wise, we got first and second down, third down and some red zone work. Kicker and punters got here early just to get a chance to kick and punt.
"I thought the surface, I think we're further along. There was a couple of years where you'd come out here and it was a little sticky, a little thick. I felt tonight was as good as it's been for the first night we've been on it. Every year, there's a new surface that's laid down and I thought tonight was really good."
ANNIVERSARY: Saturday marked the 15-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana. Payton was hired to coach the Saints the following January, in 2006. "I did not (reflect on it)," he said. "I thought we should have. I felt like there was a period of time where there were so many players on our roster that were a part of that time. I did not bring it up. There's a few people that are a part of what we're doing right now that were here and part of that challenge. But probably not enough (to remember Katrina as Saints)."
SIGNINGS: The Saints signed defensive ends T.J. Carter and Anthony Lanier II, and linebacker Wynton McManis on Saturday. In corresponding moves, the team waived/injured defensive tackle Jalen Dalton and waived tackle Darrin Paulo. "For us, we've got a little bit of time here before our cutdowns to look at some other players," Payton said. "And that was really the main goal. So we'll see how it unfolds. A few of these guys, we've seen before, whether in a practice environment with the Chargers. So it's really more of a chance to look at our depth and look at potential players that, if they're not active roster players, maybe they're practice squad candidates."