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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Days after head coach Sean Payton missed last Sunday’s game due to COVID-19, the New Orleans Saints have suffered another huge hit from the latest coronavirus variant this week with 15 players now on the COVID list.

Starting quarterback Taysom Hill and backup Trevor Siemian were two of the nine listed on Thursday, which prompted Payton, who got the all-clear to return from team physicians, to promote rookie Ian Book in the depth chart as well as sign NFL journeyman Blake Bortles.

Book could see his first regular-season snap – let alone start – since he was selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Meanwhile, the Saints make for the fifth NFL team that 29-year-old Bortles has signed with since being drafted out of the University of Central Florida as the third overall pick in 2014.

The Saints (7-7) still have hope for the seventh-seed NFC playoff berth, but the team will need to run the table including Monday night’s home game against the Miami Dolphins (7-7) in the Caesars Superdome. Even with a perfect 3-0 to finish the regular season, the Saints must have help with the Minnesota Vikings (7-7) and Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) each being defeated.

Both Payton (top of post) and Book, along with center Erik McCoy (both below) addressed the media Friday afternoon via Zoom: