NFL reinstates Saints’ Payton from suspension
The NFL reinstated New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton on Tuesday from his season-long suspension as a result of the league’s investigation into the team’s bounty program.
The league said the decision to reinstate Payton was made after a meeting between the coach and commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday in New Orleans.
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There are no winners or losers in Sean Payton’s reinstatement a week earlier than expected, but there should be closure to the bounty scandal now, Pat Yasinskas writes. Blog
“We had a very productive discussion,” Goodell said in a statement.
“Sean fully complied with all the requirements imposed on him during his suspension. More important, it is clear that Sean understands and accepts his responsibilities as a head coach and the vital role that coaches play in promoting player safety and setting an example for how the game should be played at all levels. We are committed to delivering football that fans love and the safety players deserve. Coach Payton agrees and I look forward to working with him going forward to do that.”
The NFL said Payton is allowed to attend Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala., this week and resume his duties with the team.
“I am thankful today Commissioner Goodell has granted me reinstatement. As I stated back in March, ‘I, along with Mickey Loomis, take full responsibility for all aspects of our football program.’ I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations,” Payton said in a statement.
“Furthermore, I have assured the Commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed. Lastly, I feel we have learned from our mistakes and are ready to move forward. I want to thank our owner, Mr. [Tom] Benson and all of our great fans for the overwhelming support throughout this past year. I am excited to be back as Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints!”
Sean fully complied with all the requirements imposed on him during his suspension. More important, it is clear that Sean understands and accepts his responsibilities as a head coach and the vital role that coaches play in promoting player safety and setting an example for how the game should be played at all levels.
” — Roger Goodell
Earlier this month, The Saints signed Payton to a five-year contract extension that runs through the 2017 season.
The deal is expected to pay Payton more than $8 million annually, which should establish him as the NFL’s highest-paid coach, a league source told ESPN.
“We are all thankful that Sean Payton has been reinstated. We have a lot of work to do and we are in the middle of it right now,” Benson said in a statement. “He is our head coach and we welcome him back. We look forward to a great 2013 season and making another run at a World Championship for our fans!”
Payton is the only coach in Saints history to win a Super Bowl. But his legacy was tarnished by the NFL’s bounty probe, as Goodell ruled that Payton failed to exert proper institutional control over a cash-for-hits bounty program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009 to 2011.
Williams was suspended indefinitely for his role in the bounty program. Williams has not been reinstated by the NFL and his status will not be addressed until another team is interested in hiring him, sources told ESPN. It was reported in early January that Williams would not return to the Rams, where he had been hired prior to his suspension.
The commissioner also suspended Loomis for half the season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games.
Payton is 62-34 in regular-season games as Saints coach and 5-3 in the postseason. During the three seasons before his suspension, the Saints won 41 regular-season and playoff games combined, more than any other team in the NFL.
Without Payton on the sideline this season, the Saints missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder and The Associated Press was used in this report.