Drafting from a brewery?
The New Orleans Saints' decision to relocate their draft war room to a brewery owned by team owner Gayle Benson surely raised some eyebrows in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but Saints coach Sean Payton – recently recovered after contracting the COVID-19 virus – staunchly defends the arrangement as a solid option.
The war room, which the team began using on Wednesday for draft meetings, is situated in upstairs office space at the Dixie Brewery, located in a remote area of New Orleans.
“We might have the safest setup in the league for these meetings,” Payton texted to USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. “Remote location. Nobody here!”
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A look at the New Orleans Saints' war room setup at Dixie Brewery. (Photo: New Orleans Saints)
As Payton indicated earlier this week during an interview with USA TODAY Sports, he reiterated Thursday that a maximum of four people, including general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant GM Jeff Ireland, will be in the spacious room – and they will follow Center for Disease Control guidelines for social distancing.
Other staff members, including scouts and assistant coaches, will be connected to pre-draft meetings and the draft itself via teleconferencing.
“More importantly, the four of us in this room (are) all alone at home,” Payton texted. “Temperatures taken prior to entering room. Each day…cleaning and sterilized.”
Payton is undoubtedly mindful of the pandemic’s impact, including the hot spot that New Orleans has become with a significant number of coronavirus cases.
With the NFL’s decision to proceed with the draft as scheduled for April 23-25, teams were forced to establish alternate locations for their draft nerve centers, as franchise headquarters across the league were recently shut down by the league as a coronavirus measure.
Stay tuned. A memo distributed to teams on Thursday from the NFL’s football operations department and management council, obtained by ESPN, maintained that the league is considering allowing either team headquarters or “totally remote” residences to be used for the draft while limiting the number of people allowed in the room.
The Saints already seemingly came up with a solid plan at a location that is temporarily closed to the public – despite optics that might suggest there would be suds on tap.
Now if they can just continue their hot streak in recent years for generating impact picks.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
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