New schedule, new protocols await Saints veterans Jordan, Armstead
The Saints and the other 31 teams in the NFL are dealing with a totally different run-up to the regular season.
No mini-camps or OTAs. Zoom meetings. COVID-19 testing. No access to the locker room as of yet. More than two weeks from reporting day to the first padded practice.
But the season is still scheduled to start Sept. 13 when the new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Does this new schedule offer enough time to get ready for the opener?
“If you said, ‘Cam, could you play this Sunday at midnight?’ I’d meet you in the parking lot,” Saints defensive end Cam Jordan said Thursday. “I know for sure guys are biting at the bit to … win a Super Bowl.”
Offensive tackle Terron Armstead was confident as well, but not quite as declaratory.
“It’s a little bit of uncertainty, uncharted territory,” Armstead said. “We just need to go with the flow. We’ve got six weeks and that’s enough time. The margin for error is smaller, but we have time.”
Players continue to be tested for COVID-19, leading up to physicals on Saturday.
“We have different testing times,” Armstead said, “but you see a few of the guys. It’s like the first day of school.”
While two Saints players have chosen to opt out of the 2020 season, neither Armstead nor Jordan considered it.
“When it comes down to it,” Jordan said, “I feel like our team is so close to a championship. You discuss it with the (family). The love for the team and love for New Orleans is so strong.”
Said Armstead: “(If) the season was going to take place, I was going to be in. I’m taking COVID seriously, but I never thought about opting out.”
Both players added the need to be smart in the wake of the pandemic, whether in the facility or with the family.
“The level of exposure is what you’re trying to limit,” Jordan said. Whether you have to home school or limit the family interaction, these are things we’re still figuring out.”
Armstead said he will keep his family away until the regular season begins. “A lot of FaceTiming (and) texts,” he said. “My twins are old enough to text. I’m sure a lot of guys’ situations will be the same – their families won’t be down until the season starts.”
Jordan spoke multiple times about the cautions of having as many as 80 players around at one time. Armstead, on the other hand, laughed about some of the one-on-one encounters he’s had since players returned earlier this week.
“It’s like a quick little rock-paper-scissors game,” Armstead said about trying to greet his teammates. “You don’t know if you’re open hand or closed fist, rock or paper. We’ve got to do our duty to help get over this thing.”
Once the season begins, Jordan understands the environment will be different inside a Mercedes-Benz Superdome of few, or no, fans.
“I’ve prepared myself mentally that every game is going to be an away game,” Jordan said. “The level of volume Saints fans create, that is such a telling feature of our dome. You know you’re getting the loudest dome in America. Trying to prepare that there are going to be a limited number of fans or no fans, you just have to deal with it.”
Armstead and the offense might like the quiet a little more, but still…
“It’s gonna look different,” he said. “We’d love to have fans in the stands. That’s the energy and feel of sports, period. That’s what makes the game so special.”
Armstead said the Saints go into 2020 not just looking for a fourth consecutive division title, but with even higher expectations.
“It’s got to be Super Bowl or bust, in all honesty,” he said. “If we don’t get to the Big Dance, it’s a failure of a season.
“For our team, we have one goal, and that’s a big one. We’ve got to take any challenge as adversity and work through it.”
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…