Saints coach Sean Payton wouldn’t commit to star running back Alvin Kamara playing in the wild-card game against the Bears on Sunday, when he’s first eligible to return off the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list.
“We’ll see,” Payton told New Orleans media Monday. “I think it would depend on the player and the situation. A lot of that will be our decision based on where we think we are with the week, the player. We’ve got to be smart.”
It seems unlikely the Saints would sit him, given the stakes and the circumstances, if he’s cleared to return. In his last game, on Christmas against the Vikings, Kamara tied an NFL record with six rushing touchdowns and ran for a career-high 155 yards.
Kamara, who tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday, won’t be able to practice with his teammates all week. He’ll take part in meetings remotely.
“Anything during the week will have to be Zoom,” Payton said.
It’s better than the alternative. Had the NFL scheduled the playoff game for Saturday, Kamara would have been ineligible to return in time. League rules state players can return 10 days after they test positive — provided they are asymptomatic, pass a heart screening and get medical clearance from the team.
Before the Bears’ game against the Saints on Nov. 1, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano called Kamara a “game-wrecker” and a “nightmare.” He ran 12 times for 67 yards and caught nine balls for 96 yards.
The Saints also could get star wide receiver Michael Thomas back this week. He has been on injured reserve with an ankle injury.