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New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray eager for playoffs after missing regular-season finale

'It was frustrating because I wanted to play'

CP-Latavius-Murray-week-4-2020

The worst part, Latavius Murray said, was feeling fine, being healthy, and not being able to suit up and play with his New Orleans Saints teammates in the regular-season finale against Carolina.

When running back Alvin Kamara tested positive for Covid-19, the contact tracing aspect of protocol kicked in. And since Murray and the rest of the Saints' running backs room – running backs coach Joel Thomas, fullback Michael Burton, running back Dwayne Washington and Murray – had been in close contact with Kamara, all were ruled out against Carolina.

Murray went from a likelihood of receiving the lion's share of the carries against the Panthers on Friday, to declared out a day later.

"It was frustrating because I wanted to play, and I'm thinking that I probably may have the opportunity to get a lot of opportunities," said Murray, the Saints' second-leading rusher (656 yards and four touchdowns on 146 carries) during the regular season. "And then that just changed kind of fast.

"So it was very frustrating not to be out there, not to be playing with my teammates and to sit at home. But tried to make the most of it – get some rest and ready to go now."

Ready, he said, for Sunday's Wild Card playoff game between New Orleans (12-4) and Chicago (8-8) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He, Washington and Burton returned to practice this week. Kamara can't practice this week, but will be able to play Sunday barring any setbacks.

Murray spent the off day much as expected.

"I just watched our game, watched some other games earlier since we had that second slot," he said. "That was it. I couldn't really do much, wasn't supposed to leave because of protocol. So I was just at the house, did a little bit of working out at home and that was pretty much it."

He already had given encouragement to the Saints' remaining running backs, Ty Montgomery and Tony Jones Jr., who was signed off the practice squad on Saturday for Sunday's game. Montgomery ran for 105 yards on 18 carries in the 33-7 victory, and Jones had 13 yards on three carries.

"I told both of those guys, Ty and Tony, that this was an opportunity for them," he said. "I remember getting my opportunities and injuries happen, these are the kind of things you don't wish for, you don't hope for, but when you're on the other side of it and it results in another opportunity for you, you embrace that.

"I knew that's what it was for them, and so I just was happy for them that they were going to get an opportunity to go out there and play. But for me, it was just more frustrating that I wouldn't be able to go out there and play, knowing that I felt great, felt good, but just had to sit out due to these protocols. Just hoping that we don't have that situation happen again and that everybody is able to dress up and play and stay healthy."

Murray said it's significant that the Saints appear to be returning to health for Sunday.

"I think the fact that we have everyone healthy, and our best players healthy and on the field together, that's something that we all want and that's something we all look forward to," he said. "There's no other feeling than that – having everyone healthy and having everyone available.

"Because like we said at the beginning, it's going to take everybody. Things happen, guys go down, we're dealing with Covid, too. Having everyone healthy just benefits the whole locker room and allows us to go out there and do the things that we want to do."

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