Payton: 46-man roster rule dated, ‘gotta change’

METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton said the 46-man roster on game days has “gotta change” for health and safety reasons.

The New Orleans Saints coach brought up the topic unsolicited Thursday while discussing how the team was down to its last healthy offensive lineman on Monday night at Carolina. He said teams need more players available on game days.

“The 46-man roster on game day is soon to be, I think, will be soon dated. I think that’s gotta change,” Payton said. “If we’re interested in health and safety — and it sounds like we are; at least that’s something we talk about a lot — that number should be higher. And that’ll affect the overall roster size. And that might cost a little bit more money, but that’s the price.”

Payton said this idea also comes up whenever people want teams to “rest their starters” when they have big leads late in games.

“Have you ever looked at the sideline during a game?” Payton said. “We played Cincinnati this year and we rested starters. You’re talking about three different changes, maybe. It’s just different than, obviously, college, where you have a large number of players on the sideline.”

Payton is not talking about making all 53 players active on game days — because he said there “obviously has to be that buffer” where both teams have the same number of healthy players available for a game. The seven inactive spots on game days are for injured players or developmental players who aren’t ready to play.

“I see that [total roster] number having to increase as well. That’s where the expense lies,” Payton said.

Earlier this year, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn also mentioned expanding rosters for both health and developmental purposes, among others.

Payton said there is ample support for expanding rosters among coaches and teams around the league, but he said it’s not something that can be changed by the competition committee — which he is a member of.

“Oh, absolutely, [there is support]. That’s an ownership-only decision,” Payton said. “It has nothing to do with the competition committee. It has everything to do with management council and the players union and ownership.”

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