Saints’ Book hails ‘incredible opportunity’ to debut

New Orleans Saints quarterback Ian Book said that due to the unpredictability of COVID-19, he and fellow reserve QB Trevor Siemian have adopted the motto: “Stay prepared.”

Now, with a COVID-19 outbreak infecting at least 15 Saints players and several coaches, Book is about to see just how prepared he really is.

The Notre Dame rookie took snaps in practice Friday as New Orleans’ No. 1 QB and is set to make his NFL regular season debut as a starter against the Miami Dolphins at the Superdome on Monday night .

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Book said Friday night. “I don’t know what it’s going to do. I’ve played in big games, but I think this is the biggest, obviously. We’re professionals now and it’s Monday Night Football.

Book, who has been inactive for the first 14 games of his career, thought he would play when Saints regular starting quarterback Taysom Hill called him Thursday to let him know he had tested positive for COVID. -19. Siemian had also tested positive shortly before Hill, leaving Book as the only active QB on the roster.

“I did the math pretty quickly,” Book said.

New Orleans signed veteran Blake Bortles on Friday, but coach Sean Payton said the plan remains for Book to start.

It’s also possible that Hill or Siemian will test COVID-19 protocols in time to be activated on Monday night, but Book said he couldn’t afford to consider that possibility.

“I plan to play,” Book said. “You can’t just flip that switch on Monday morning, trying to get ready. It doesn’t work that way, especially at quarterback.

When Book receives game calls in the earpiece of his headset, the voice he will hear will be Payton’s. The coach returned to practice on Friday after his own battle with COVID-19 forced him to self-isolate for about a week and miss the team’s victory in Tampa Bay on Sunday night.

While Payton said Book was throwing well and seemed like a good “student of the game”, he also stressed that it’s up to the coaches and the whole team to help Book play to his strengths and feel like he’s in the game. comfortable.

“Obviously you have a new quarterback, but it’s more than quarterback,” Payton said. “It’s everyone who paints the right image, we play well in the foot game and in defense.

“He’s going to be fine. He is thrilled with this opportunity,” added Payton. “It’s up to us to give him the right things in relation to the game and where we are offensively.”

The timing seems fortuitous for Book. His family is visiting for Christmas, including a brother who attended an Army boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia. They all plan to attend the game, as does former Notre Dame de Book coach Brian Kelly, who left the Irish at the end of the college football regular season to take over at LSU.

And Books’ first chance also comes after months of seeing and studying how Payton’s offense is supposed to work. Whenever there was a wink in practice or at a game, Book noted, “I have to take it mentally.”

Payton said he’s not worried about Book’s balance — not after all the big games he’s played in for Notre Dame, where Book won a school-record 30 games in four seasons.

“He played in real big games and he did it consistently — if you measure wins and losses — better than any quarterback in Notre Dame history,” Payton said. “Obviously there is a transition to this level, but I think he is ready for the challenge.”

Saints players also offered enthusiastic support, Book said. Injured Saints QB Jameis Winston, who started seven games before a torn ACL ended his season, gave Book a “good mark.” Hill and Siemian offered advice over the phone.

“I have this whole team behind me,” Book said. “I feel like all of these guys are supporting me and just to hear everyone, how excited they are that I have a chance, that’s pretty cool.”

Of course, the same virus outbreak that gave Book that opportunity also robbed the roster of several top players this week, including linebacker and defensive captain Demario Davis, safety Malcolm Jenkins and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk. But Book doesn’t look fazed.

“There are a million excuses, or so I would say, and we won’t use any of them,” Book said. “I just have to go out there and play, have fun. It’s football.”

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