March 19, 2020 / 8:51 PM / in 20 days

Coronavirus hits NFL as Saints coach Payton reveals positive test

(Reuters) - The National Football League (NFL) community has its first confirmed case of coronavirus with the news that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has tested positive.

FILE PHOTO: Jan 5, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks on during the first quarter of a NFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Payton told ESPN that he was tested on Monday after feeling unwell and received the result on Thursday.

“I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have,” the 56-year-old told the network, urging his fellow citizens to take the health risk seriously.

“This is not just about social distancing. 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.”

Payton has been in charge of the Saints since 2006, the second longest current NFL tenure behind Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots.

Payton guided the Saints to a Super Bowl victory in the 2009 season and more recently the team has made the playoffs in the past three seasons.

The NFL, the most popular professional sports league in the United States, has largely escaped any significant impact of the virus until now because it is in the off-season.

But with free agency having now started and some players restricted in their travel movements, it is not immune.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) last Wednesday was the first major North American league to suspend its season, after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.

It was quickly followed by the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS).

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris

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