It’s already been a chaotic year for the NFL, but every coach and player knew that would be the case when they opted in. Over the weekend, New Orleans Saints fullback Mike Burton shared some insight on this unprecedented season.
Two weeks ago, Burton made headlines for reportedly testing positive for COVID-19. His test results were made public a little over 12 hours before the Saints’ showdown with the Lions. Burton’s test ended up being a false-positive, so the game went on as scheduled. After all, that’s the “new normal” for the NFL this season.
Burton sat down with The Spun to discuss if the NFL is handling COVID-19 properly, the Saints’ comeback win over the Chargers in Week 5, what he thinks about the “Drew Brees is declining” narrative and more.
Let’s get this interview started.
The Spun: What was it like pulling out that comeback win over the Chargers in Week 5?
Mike Burton: It felt great. Anytime you can be 1-0 in this league, it’s a great feeling. It’s hard to win in this league, and I think that game showed that exactly. It was a tale of two halves, which goes to show it’s never over until it’s over. You have to be resilient, and that’s exactly what this organization is. We found a way to win. Each phase played great and gave us an opportunity to win at the end, which is all you can ask for. I’m really proud of this team.
The Spun: There has been a lot of talk about Drew Brees and whether or not he’s declining. What do you see on a daily basis?
MB: Look, Drew is incredible. From how he handles himself as a player to a person off the field, his work ethic, his attention to detail is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He’s the ultimate competitor, and personally, I think he’s playing outstanding. He’s the leader of this team and he’s the quarterback of this team. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate and player to have at that position.
Drew Brees, weeks 1-3: 60.3 OVR grade (30/35 QBs)
Drew Brees, weeks 4-5: 84.0 OVR grade (5/36 QBs)
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) October 15, 2020
The Spun: Two weeks ago, the Lions-Saints game is in jeopardy after a reported positive test. Then we found out you had a false positive. Can you just walk me through what happened and how stressful that might have been?
MB: It was certainly stressful. First and foremost, you don’t want to be that guy that potentially brings COVID-19 into the organization and affects his teammates/coaches. Like I alluded to before, it’s hard to win in this league as it is. The last thing you want to be is a distraction. It was definitely stressful, but at the end of the day I’m glad it worked out and were able to win. We faced a little adversity and came together as a group. It’s not to say I can’t get it or anyone else can’t because obviously COVID-19 is still very much out there. But you have to understand that you need to follow the protocols and avoid risky situations.
The Spun: How do you think the NFL has done with these COVID-19 protocols?
MB: I can’t comment on what other teams are doing, I can only comment on what the Saints are doing. And like you said, the Saints are doing an unbelievable job. As soon as I found out that I could have been positive, every single protocol and guideline that needed to be in place, the Saints acted on and they acted on it fast. They make sure they put the safety of the players and coaches first. I can’t say enough great things about how they handle it day-to-day because it’s a lot. There are a lot of protocols and guidelines to keep guys safe. I just know that when you walk in the Saints’ facility, you feel safe.
From disbelief and frustration to the final wave of relief, get an inside look at the Saints' sleepless Saturday night after Michael Burton's false positive coronavirus test
"I think that's one of the worst feelings you can feel."https://t.co/SStoc7uOfD
— SaintsNOW (@SaintsNOW) October 5, 2020
The Spun: What’s the biggest issue this team needs to fix during the bye week?
MB: Each position group just wants to play better and improve their craft. If each individual gets one percent better, it’ll elevate us as a group. We just need to focus in on the details and play the best football you can in your role. This is as hard of working organization I’ve been around. Guys are working hard, and they’re doing this through the bye week. There is a standard and expectation here that is high. We’re going to meet that, and if we don’t, that is unacceptable. We’re going to keep working until we do reach it.
The Spun: It’s been an inconsistent start to the season for the Saints. How does the team feel in terms of its championship aspirations?
MB: 100 percent. This is a Super Bowl caliber locker room. We understand that and we know that, and our goal is to make the Super Bowl. Now it’s a matter of going 1-0 each week. Trust the process and control what you can control so you can meet your goal. We have the talent and coaches to get there. It’s truly a matter of executing on the field and taking care of business every week.
The Spun: What will the return of Michael Thomas do for this offense?
MB: He’s as elite of a player as there is at his position, so that’s only going to help us when he comes back. He’s also an elite competitor. Mike will help this offense and we’re all pumped to have him back on the field.
Michael Thomas: "Tell Stephen A. Smith I'll be back next week."
LETS GO!!!! https://t.co/losQuj7kMO
— Chris Rosvoglou (@RosvoglouReport) October 16, 2020
The Spun: Alvin Kamara has been unreal this season. What do you see from Alvin that makes him so special?
MB: He can do it all. I know that might seem like a basic answer, but it’s really true. Alvin can run the football, catch the football and pass block at an elite level. Most of the time you find a guy that can do one or two of those things at an elite level. Alvin runs routes like a receiver and runs the football like the best tailback in football, which he is. To be able do all those things is special. To be more specific, his contact balance is probably the best I’ve seen in this league. You see it, right? Guys bounce off him, and he always finds a way to fall forward. It’s really special to watch him in practice and even better to see it during games.
The Spun: Last question before you go, how do you think Rutgers will do this upcoming season?
MB: I feel great, I really do. I think the hire of Greg Schiano was excellent. He built a great staff with a lot of guys that were there when I was on the team. I think he has a solid recruiting class coming in. I know he’ll have his guys ready to compete on a weekly basis. I’m hoping I can catch their season opener next week and see all the hard work they put in this offseason translate to success on the field.
Burton and the Saints will return to the gridiron this weekend to take on the Panthers. It’s an important matchup that could have major implications on the NFC South standings.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.