New Orleans coach Sean Payton, with his seasonlong suspension set to begin Sunday, is checking to see if mentor Bill Parcells would guide the NFL team while he serves his penalty for allowing a Saints assistant coach and players to operate a crunch-for-cash bounty system.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sean Payton has planned the New Orleans Saints’ offseason, done some work on the upcoming NFL draft and jotted down ideas for the start of training camp.
And now, with his seasonlong suspension set to begin Sunday, he is checking to see if mentor Bill Parcells would run the team while he serves his penalty for allowing a Saints assistant coach and players to operate a crunch-for-cash bounty system.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the Saints were sanctioned for targeting specific opponents, Payton said Tuesday he will soon decide whether to appeal his suspension, something commissioner Roger Goodell said he would allow.
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Payton also said he was meeting with Parcells, who lives near Palm Beach, site of the NFL meetings, to discuss the plan for the season.
“For me to be down here, if I didn’t call him or try to set up a time to see him, I’d probably get his wrath,” Payton said.
Payton said he, general manager Mickey Loomis — a former Seahawks executive who is facing an eight-game suspension — and Saints owner Tom Benson are weighing a number of scenarios.
Among them: Does Parcells want to coach?
If Payton appeals, and he has until Monday, Goodell said he would “probably” allow him to continue working past the intended start of his suspension. Goodell also said he would expedite the appeal process and his decision, meaning Payton might only get a few more days of work before having to step aside.
The league’s investigation in New Orleans found Payton initially lied to league investigators about the existence of a bounty and instructed his defensive assistants to do the same.
Payton twice apologized for his role in an enterprise that offered payouts for knocking out opponents, saying he takes “full responsibility” for a system that operated for three years under his watch.
As many as 27 Saints players could also be sanctioned for their role in the bounty scandal.
“As the head coach, anything that happens in the framework of your team and your program, you’re responsible for,” Payton said. “And that’s a lesson I’ve learned. And it’s one that it’s easy to get carried away, in regards to a certain side of the ball or more involved offensively or defensively. And that’s something that I regret.”
Payton said he is confident he will coach the Saints again in 2013, and that his biggest challenge was realizing that for the first time in 39 years, he might not have an active role in football as a player or coach.
“You go through a range of emotions that kind of hit you,” Payton said. “You’re disappointed. You’re disappointed in yourself that it got to this point. I think we’re trained as coaches to begin preparation right away. I find myself reflecting on it, and you go through a lot of emotions.”
Asked if he might work in broadcasting this season, Payton said anyone in his position would keep their options open.
Payton said he hasn’t been in touch with Gregg Williams, the former Saints defensive coordinator who ran the bounty system and was suspended indefinitely. Asked if bounties were what he envisioned when he asked Williams to build a defense, he replied, “No, obviously not.”
Williams left the Saints after the 2011 season to become defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams.
Much of the conversation revolved around Parcells, the two-time Super Bowl winner who hired Payton as an offensive assistant in Dallas in 2003 and was a finalist for the Hall of Fame this season.
“He’s a great teacher,” Payton said. “Certainly I’m biased, having worked with him. But he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. And I would also say there’s some things probably set up in the framework of our program that would be exactly how he would have set those things up had he been the head coach here in ’06. So there’s some carryover that way.”
If Parcells returned to the sideline, he would have to wait at least five years after the season before becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame again, according to Hall bylaws. Parcells, who turns 71 in August, might not want to wait that long.
Asked by Sports Illustrated on Monday if he had a desire to coach another team, Parcells said, “I don’t think so.”
In addition to the penalties for Payton and Loomis, the league suspended assistant head coach Joe Vitt — a former Seahawks assistant — for six games. Goodell also fined the Saints $500,000 and took away second-round draft choices in 2012 and 2013.
Arthur Blank, owner of NFC South rival Atlanta, praised Goodell’s strong punishment.
“I think he dealt with it appropriately,” Blank told ESPN.com. “I think it will be one of the most significant decisions he’ll ever make as the commissioner. I think he’ll be the commissioner for the next 30 years and I think people will look back and say he sent a message to the teams, the players, the coaches, everybody in the NFL and sent a message to the fans that, ‘This is not what we’re going to have in this league.’ “
Payton said he didn’t want the scandal to “taint or tarnish” his team’s recent success.
“We’ll get through this,” he said. “This will be a challenge. … You know, we’ve gone through a lot of adversity and we’ve won a lot of games in really a short window of time.”