New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis
Opening Training Camp Virtual Media Availability
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
"I'm in the indoor facility. I'm here by myself, that's why I'm not wearing a mask. I hope everyone is well and I'm open for questions here. I know it's a little different than our normal training camp opener, but fire away with questions."
How much do you feel like this organization as a whole is able to handle the unknown of a situation like this better than other teams?
"I can't speak to other teams. I can only speak to what our experience has been. I think it's an advantage that Sean (Payton) and I have been together for a long time. I think it's an advantage that we have a (coaching) staff that's been together for a long time, as well as a core group of players who have been together for a long time. And look we've been through a lot. We've been through a lot of things that are outside of the norm of the course of business. This is different than all of that. This is something that is unprecedented and so I can't answer whether or not we're better equipped or less equipped to handle this because this is so different compared to a hurricane or some of the other things we've had to deal with."
Have you had any concerns about the season personally for you and your family?
"Yeah, listen, I'm in the same as everyone else. We're all concerned, we're concerned about the health of ourselves, our families, and really our entire community. We've seen some devastating numbers and we're hopeful that we can get control of this. But I think that I'd say, my guess is, I'm feeling the same way as everyone is including yourselves."
How do you deal with this all of these protocols etc. while also doing the normal things as usual?
"Yeah, good question. Listen, it's just been different because, look, we spent a number of months where we couldn't even come to the office. And so having to work at home, work virtually, I think our staff's done a great job of dealing with that. And yet, it's not the same as having face to face conversations and talking about nuances of different things that we have to get done. So it's been different and yet I'm really proud of our staff. We've got a lot of guys, particularly our medical staff, our trainers, doctors and our administrative staff who had a lot of work to do in a short period of time in order for us to adhere to these protocols. And so we're grinding through it is probably the best way to describe it, maybe."
Can you talk about mental health and if the team is bringing someone in during this difficult time?
"We discussed that (and) we have mental health professionals that we utilize. And so the answer to that is yes. I don't really want to talk about it specifically and I certainly don't want to talk about any specific individuals."
How closely have you been following what's happening with the Miami Marlins?
"Well, look first of all, I don't have an opinion about it, because I'm not qualified. I don't know all the details. I know what you guys know, in terms of reading it, they've had some players test positive and some people in the building that are positive. I do not think that positive tests are unexpected and yet the quantity and timing is probably the issue here. So, we're aware of it. I don't know that follow closely is the right terminology. Listen, we're watching all these sports. We're watching what everybody's doing and how they react just because it's all new territory to all of us."
Can players do anything else on campus aside from getting tested?
"No, just testing."
What are some of the specific new things you can share with us? That you guys are doing to try to protect against the virus?
"Oh, man. Yeah, it is a lot. And I don't want to get into the details of that because I'll leave something out. But we're doing all the things that you would expect. We are planning for the best way to social distance. We're planning on how do we clean the surfaces and facility on a regular basis and as often as we can. How do we provide PPE to our players? How do we how do we provide the materials that our players need in order to feel safe in the building and our staff? It's not just players, it's our entire staff. So there's just a myriad of things, including all of the protocols that we've been given by the league. And then the things on top of that, that we might want to do that we feel unnecessary here. So it's, the volume is pretty big."
Did you do anything specifically to the players locker room?
"Yeah. we've done some modifications in the locker room. We've basically created some barriers between each locker as part of the protocol and part of our plan that we sent to the league. So we have done some things. We're not moving walls. We are not tearing down walls, moving walls, but there's a number of things that we've done and look, we're continually looking at that and saying, hey, what else can we do?"
Did all the players report today aside from the two players that opted out?
"That's a good question. I think the answer that is yes. I haven't heard anybody that didn't come that was expected to be here. But I haven't actually gone through and looked at it on a line by line basis to make sure that that's the case."
No contract hold-outs or anything like that?
Does the ability to scout other teams roster cuts change with the current restrictions in place?
"That's good question. Um, look, we're clearly not going to get the looks that we normally get at new players in the league that get the opportunity to show what they can do during preseason games. We don't have the ability to watch other teams practices and then we're not going to have scrimmages open to public. So the answer is that, we're going to have a lot less information this year, we'd have to rely on, you know, college reports prior year pro reports. That's the only way I can answer that right now."
Is it harder this year for an undrafted player to make the roster with the limited time to see them on the field?
"Yeah, I think on the surface I would say yes and yet I don't really know. We're going to get to have these guys in our building. For the next month, we're going to have a lot of time to watch them and to see them in meetings, to have practices, see them compete against veteran players. So look, I think we'll do a real good job of evaluating, but the evaluation will be different."
Have you reached out the general managers around the league to share ideas and plans on how to prepare for all these Covid-19 protocols?
"Yeah, look, those conversations have definitely happened. It's not like I reached out to all 31 other teams, but there's a number of guys that I have talked to and we ask questions of each other, hey, how to handle this, this particular aspect? How are you handling that? Gives you an idea of (what they are doing) and maybe somebody has good idea that you didn't have so the answer to that yes."
What is your expectation for what the Mercedes-Benz Superdome might look like for that first game as far as the number of fans that would be in there?
"Well, I don't have an answer to that. I just don't know. I don't know how many fans will be able to have if any. That's a decision that will be made by, obviously the state and by ownership so we'll wait and see."
Is it possible to bring someone in for a tryout?
"Tryouts are not allowed right now. And look, part of the unknown is some of these procedures and processes are still up in the air, they're still being determined. And we'll get that information as we go along. But right now, no, we can't we can't do tryouts."
Is there a pretty good idea of how the team can simulate games conditions while you're weighing injury concerns?
"We haven't really discussed that. I think the intention here is we've got this testing period, we've got the ramp up period. We're going to have some OTA level practices and then we're going to get into our normal training camp practices at some point down the road here. And those are intense practices. They always have been and and look, you're always trying to get as close as you can to gamelike situations. And that'll evolve I think as we get into training camp here."
Was there a consideration to move to an outdoor stadium this season if no fans were allowed?
"I haven't heard any discussions about that."
Do you think there could be a disruption of play in the NFL next season?
"I think the way we are proceeding is we are focused on what we're doing right now. How can we get the beginning of training camp going? How we can adhere to the protocols? How can we make it as safe as possible for our players and our staff? And we are not focused on that. We are focused on the task at hand today and tomorrow. Not what if's about if we have a lot of positive tests, and there's disruption, we'll handle that if it comes along."
When do you guys start looking at the 2021 salary cap figure? Do you see that as a big problem? Or is that easily manageable going into next year with that 175 million dollar number?
"Well, it's never easy and having a lower number next year, significantly lower next year will make it more difficult, no question about it, but look, we'll handle that. We will manage it. And we don't know what that number is going to be. That's just, the way we understand that's just the floor for next year and we'll see what the results are for this year before that number is determined for next year. But look, I'm confident we can handle (it) and be able to manage our team and our roster under whatever cap (number) we have."
Has that already affected any decisions about extensions or potentially sign another free agent?
"Well, it just happened so we just got that information a few days ago. So I'd say no."
What are your thoughts on the situation that occurred with Drew Brees and the team last month after his comments, how has the team handled that and do you think that situation is behind you?
"Yeah, good question. I think our team and Drew have handled that. It's kind of in some ways, it's a private matter, between Drew and his teammates and I think we've handled that fine. I haven't had the opportunity to have a lot of conversations with our players yet, so it's tough for me to answer that fully and yet, I think it's been handled well."
Can you describe what today was like just walking into the facility? Can you just describe how it was different than other years on the first day of training camp or maybe even similar to recent years?
"Well, look, I have been in the facility here for a week or two and yes, it is definitely different, because the players are just coming, getting tested (and leaving). We're all getting tested. We're trying to practice the social distancing. And the building looks a little different here and there. So it is definitely different. I am more interested to see what happens when we get all of our players here and how we adhere to these protocols and we'll adhere to them, but how that affects us on a daily basis. But look, we're all concerned. I've seen a number of times that GMs and coaches around the league have said rightfully so that COVID-19 is our opponent right now. Look, I agree with that. So we have to find the best way we can deal with COVID-19 and win this battle first."
How is the team going to deal with roster size? Do you plan to stay at 90 until the cutoff point?
"We're still discussing that."
As far as roster size is concerned, and I know this is kind of a big picture question, but in your conversations with anyone high ranking at the National Football League level, do you believe that as the season goes along, just because this is with COVID and it seems like things can change week to week, with roster flexibility and whatnot. Is there any chance that there could be rule changes that could come depending on roster flexibility, how many guys you can have up on gameday, just depending on the uncertainty of certain situations that could arise that you know you're just thinking two steps ahead?
"Well, first of all, there's already been some things that have been done relative to the size of the practice squad and the ability to move players up and activate them from the practice squad and back down the return from injury, designated for return from injury/injured reserve has been loosened up so they've already done some things and look we're hopeful that those will be adequate in terms of making sure that our roster works for us during the season. Look, if there's a significant change I'm sure our league will address it, but I think we've already done a lot of really good things to address the potential of having guys that are missing games because of because the virus."
How important is the message to the players that how responsible they are just trying to keep everything under control as far as what they do away from the facility?
"Yeah, look, I think all of us, we've been bombarded with information over the last three or four months. You would have to be in a hole not to understand how serious the Coronavirus is and we all have to take it seriously. We get that information every day and certainly our league has done a good job of producing that information and disseminating it and look, our players understand that. I'm not concerned that they don't understand the seriousness of what we're facing."
Is there anything you guys have decided to do that is not spelled out in the schedule that you know you guys specifically want to do, whether it is bringing guys in in just position groups or groups of 20, quarantining backup quarterbacks or anything? Is there anything you guys have decided to do that is protocol?
"Yeah, we're still discussing a few things. There will be some things that we do that are different than other teams. We'll be definitely following the protocols. And yet, if we feel like there's something that we can do that enhances our ability to protect our players and our staff then we'll do that. We're discussing a few things, but I'd rather not disclose that right now."
Have you decided on a first practice day yet?
"Well, look, we're just trying to get through the testing and the ramp up periods. We're a long ways from practice days yet so we've got some time."
Have you guys had any talks with Alvin Kamara and his agent about a new contract this summer?
"Look, this is always a tough question. You guys always ask these questions about contracts. And I always say I don't like discussing that. That's really between the team and the player until we're ready to announce something."
So that's a I'm not going to answer that question?
"That's a definite I'm not going to answer that question."
With the two opt-outs today of Saints, do you foresee any more guys potentially opting out?
"I just don't know, I'm a little surprised by the number of opt-outs around the league. Surprise probably isn't the right word, but there's more than I would have expected day one, and look, we got a couple so I don't know how to answer. I don't have an expectation one way or the other. It's such a personal decision and I respect that for all of our players that do that. So I would say that I don't really have an expectation. I'm just like you. I'm waiting to see what happens here."
It's such a personal decision, but do you talk to the team about is there a certain point that, not that you put a deadline on something like that, but then you work with them to say, if they're considering it, come talk to us, or how do you handle something like that?
"There is a deadline (and) they know what the deadline is. They have been informed and so look, it is a personal decision. I am not going to try to talk someone into it or out of it. I think it's a personal decision and that's what we're going to leave it at."
When you talk about the salary cap management with this team, has your focus shifted in recent years? I think there was sort of a belief that maybe whenever Drew Brees retired, there might be sort of a year to catch up and rebuild and now you've built such a talented roster top to bottom, have you shifted your focus to we do not want to ever take a year off, take our foot off the gas, we want to we want to be able to, the year after Drew retires, we need to be able to afford a roster that can contend right away that year. Has that changed philosophy at all?
"No, our philosophy has always been we're going to do everything we can to get to and win the Super Bowl. The nuances within that can be a little different here and they're dependent upon your team and your roster and who's coming up as a free agent, what the numbers are relative to the cap going forward, but I wouldn't say philosophically anything's changed."
How curious are you to see, even if it might be limited, Jameis Winston in a Saints uniform? Obviously no preseason games probably will hinder that and a lack of practice time, but how curious are you to see him within this offense and really not be an opponent twice a year for the last few years?
"Listen, he's been fantastic in the things that he's done so far relative to our team. I have heard nothing but good things from everyone who's had had any interaction from him. But look, I'm anxious to see all of our all of the new players and rookies, undrafted free agents or free agents that we've signed. Emmanuel Sanders and all the guys that we've been able to acquire. Look, I'm anxious to see how they do in our culture and I'm anxious to see the things that they can contribute to that. So look, it's exciting and it's fun to get started, despite all the concerns that we have, and all the things that we've had to do to prepare for this training camp. I think we're all excited to get started here."
Did league business stall at all this offseason after like maybe that first wave of free agency? It seems like there's still a lot of quality players out there. Did the virus just kind of put a halt to things a little bit?
"I think that there's been a damper because of the Coronavirus because of the uncertainty relative to the economics of the game and look, we haven't had the ability to bring somebody in for a visit that maybe we might consider otherwise, that happens an awful lot after that first wave of free agency. You get interested in someone and you bring him in and we talk about what your vision is for the player and now his vision of how you might fit in so that hasn't happened and so I would say yeah, that's been slower than normal."
Is it harder at all, maybe just to even come to the idea of bringing maybe somebody in given that they only have three weeks of practice to get up to speed. Does that weigh on your decision making?
"I do not know that it is as direct as that. And yet I'd say yes, the answer to that is yes. It definitely affects your thinking. I think the main thing is you just have to have a firm vision of what the player brings to the table, as opposed to just bringing someone in and seeing what they can do, if that makes sense."
Are you guys still looking for ways to improve or do you feel pretty good?
"Absolutely. We're always looking to see who's available, who's out there, who can we fit in the structure of our salary cap? Absolutely."
Your fans are such a big part of what you do. I know you have talked a little bit so far about the structure of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and whatnot. But, watching these baseball games is really bizarre for a lot of us not seeing fans in the stands. Have you thought about that, the way your fans have impacted games in the past if they're not there for you?
"I've tried not to think about that because you're absolutely right. The atmosphere in the Superdome definitely has an impact on games and if we don't have that atmosphere, we're going to miss it. There's no question about it. So yeah, I've tried not to think about that too much."
Have you all discussed any way to create a homefield advantage in that environment at all?
"Well, no, we haven't really discussed that. We're open to ideas as long as it's within the rules of the NFL."
Since this whole process started and you let people back in the building, have you had to deal with any positive tests yet?
"Well, let's see, how can I answer that? I have to be careful about what I can and cannot say here. Clearly Sean (Payton) was positive at one time, he disclosed that. We have had a couple of other ones, but for example, yesterday was the first day of this five-day testing. And to my knowledge, we didn't have any positive tests as of yesterday from yesterday's test. Today's test, we don't have the results from. I can't discuss any individual results."
Sean (Payton) and Drew (Brees) are entering their 15th year together, you've obviously been here for all of that. So just from your perspective, what's been kind of a key to their relationship and making sure that they're able to keep it going without it souring? You do not see a lot of professional relationships last as long.
"I think first and foremost, they are both ultra-competitive people. Their number one goal's to win and be successful on the field. That is a common goal, they have great communication skills, both of them. The key to a long-term relationship is having success, right? We have had enough success that that keeps that relationship going obviously. I think it just speaks to the quality of our head coach and the quarterback."
Back to positive tests for a second, with Sean (Payton) testing positive way back in March, has that helped you guys is in terms of what maybe you can expect, like just his personal experience with it?
"I don't know that I would say that just because look, what from what we read, it sounds like there's a lot of different types of personal experiences, all the way from having no symptoms to having severe symptoms and so I don't know that you can read anything into that. Yeah, that's the best way I can answer that question."
How are you going to handle using the indoor field?
"In what respect? We're going to use it, yes."
Yeah, use it for football type stuff?
"We've tested it, the airflow and obviously we can open up the doors around the indoor facility to get airflow so not overly concerned about airflow in the indoor facility."
For all these rookies, they're obviously going to have to learn quick in a limited amount of time, but particularly Cesar Ruiz, your first round pick, I know it's been tossed out there that there could be a possibility maybe he plays center, maybe he plays guard too. I know he has some flexibility there. We talked this week though, with (Max) Unger and he talked about just how much knowledge you have to have to be able to grasp all of what (Drew) Brees and (Sean) Payton want to do offensively. Because of that, how realistic do you think it could be just based on your conversations with him and his cerebral nature, if you will, do you feel like he has the ability to step in year one and play center if needed?
"We definitely feel like he has the ability. Coaches have had a number of meetings with the rookies over the past two months and he's been participating in there. Listen, that's all speculation whether he can or can't do that. we're going to find that out over the next few weeks. I don't really want to spend a lot of time playing what if, can he or can't he. We're going to find out soon enough."
I just wanted to follow up on what I asked before real quick if you can even say, where those positive tests like staff, support staff, players?
"I can't really say it."
Can you just give us an overall expectation for this team? You all have had such good teams, won more games than anybody in the league the last three years. What are expectations from you for this team?
"It's good question. Look, I think going in, I would say everyone in our building feels good about our team. And yet we also understand that each year is brand new. Because we won some games last year doesn't mean we're entitled to winning this year, but we feel real good about our roster, feel good about our leadership, great about our coaching staff. And so look, all the elements are there, but we've got to put in the work, we've got to put in the time, we have to find a way to focus on football and it's right there in front of us. I would say, look, our expectations and our goal is to be successful, to go farther than we did last year and farther than we did the year before."
Is it tough having those expectations with all the uncertainty that hangs over this season or how do you handle that?
"No, it's not tough because all 32 teams are facing the same issues. I don't think that that in and of itself makes those expectations any different or any tougher than anyone else, but we do have some things, some challenges, all of us do. Not just in football, but all these sports so we're looking forward to it."