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Saints Coach Sean Payton Is N.F.L.’s First Coronavirus Case


New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton is the first known member of the N.F.L. community to test positive for the coronavirus. Payton told ESPN on Thursday that his symptoms started on Sunday — the day after he attended the Rebel Stakes, a thoroughbred horse race at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. He said he was tested on Monday and received the results on Thursday.

“I’m feeling better and fortunate to not have any of the respiratory symptoms,” Payton said in a Twitter post, adding that he expected to stay home for four more days.

“This is not just about social distancing,” Payton, 56, said. “It’s shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It’s not complicated to do what they’re asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact.”

The Saints declined a request for comment clarifying the length of Payton’s planned seclusion.

The N.F.L.’s new league year began Wednesday, and teams are signing free agents and trading players despite travel restrictions. Players are barred from meeting with teams in person, and they must take physical exams — which are generally required to complete a deal — where they live instead of at teams’ headquarters, as they normally would. The headquarters are closed.

The league had already canceled its annual meetings for owners, general managers and coaches, which were scheduled for March 29 to April 1 in Palm Beach, Fla. It also shut down the spectacle surrounding its three-day draft, April 23 to 25 in Las Vegas, announcing that it would be held as a television-only event. The league has prohibited draft-eligible players from meeting with teams and all team personnel from traveling anywhere, including to college campuses, to visit with players.

Ken Belson contributed reporting.



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