The New Orleans Saints have an upcoming playoff game against the Chicago Bears. As the NFC South winner, the team will host the battle at a nearly-empty Mercedes-Benz Superdome due to COVID-19, but head coach Sean Payton wants to boost fan attendance. He revealed that he has a bold plan to pack the stands while preventing the coronavirus spread.
Payton spoke to reporters during a phone call on Wednesday and revealed that he wants to test and quarantine roughly 50,000 fans ahead of Sunday's playoff game. He wants to pack the Superdome with fans and wants to do so after ensuring that everyone is virus-free. According to TMZ Sports, Payton was serious about this idea and has spoken to team officials about it. Payton also reportedly said that he thinks his idea is still a legitimate possibility.
"I've brought up the idea of testing 50,000 people and quarantining them in a hotel and having like the most safest Superdome known to man, scientifically," Payton said during the call. "Bus them, they've tested every day, and you've got a COVID-free facility. I think that's possible."
If Payton's plan does not pan out, the Saints will have a much smaller crowd in attendance for the Wild Card playoff game. According to The Athletic, an estimated 3,700 members of the fanbase will be on hand for the game and trying to provide some form of home-field advantage. This number includes 3,000 ticket holders and 700 friends and family members.
Payton was one of the first NFL figures to test positive for the coronavirus. He revealed his diagnosis in March and provided some insight into his symptoms. He ultimately recovered and was able to coach the team during another winning season.
"Basically a weekend ago ... is when I first began to feel some flu-like symptoms, where you get kind of the chills," Payton said about his bout with the coronavirus in March, per USA Today. "Then Monday morning, they were certainly a little bit more significant. I had a low-grade fever, but the chills were back. That's when I had my test on Monday."
Despite dealing with injuries to starting quarterback Drew Brees and star receiver Michael Thomas, the Saints still achieved a 12-4 record and won the division once again. The Saints will now host the Bears to secure another playoff victory. Doing so would send them to the Divisional Round, one step closer to Super Bowl LV.