|Payton could take a TV gig this season. (Getty Images)|
Last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell slapped Payton with a one-year ban for his role in the bounty scandal that also saw former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams suspended indefinitely, assistant coach Joe Vitt for six games and general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games.
Compounding matters: quarterback Drew Brees has yet to sign his franchise tender in the hopes of landing a long-term contract, as well as reports this week that Loomis illegally eavesdropped on opposing coaches from 2002-2004.
Concerning the former, Brees sounds like he expects a deal will get done. As for the latter, Vitt, who is serving as the Saints' interim coach in Payton's absence, said Tuesday that the allegations were "ludicrous," "impossible," and adding that "I just know it's not true." A day later, Payton echoed those sentiments.
"I would say this, I think it's hogwash," he said according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Larry Holder. "The reason I say that and I'll be outspoken if you will on it. I know the reporter that came here spent a month and a half starting with really no story and began calling a number of different people in the organization and just asking generic questions about anything he could. So a month and a half later, you know he had to come back with a story and I think it's garbage.
"Obviously, I wasn't here, but I know Mickey Loomis well enough and I would consider him a close friend and professionally one of the best general managers in sport. And so for a guy to come here, not on a lead, but just to come here cherry-picking and looking and looking and looking, you know, I think the pendulum swung as people have begun to look at that."
Of course, Payton is currently playing golf instead of preparing for the Saints' draft because his former assistant coach was paying players to injure opponents. He was asked Wednesday about any public support he's received since being suspended.
“The fans have been _ yeah _ it's humbling, it's overwhelming," Payton said. ... "We've got the greatest fans in sport and you can point to season ticket renewals today ahead of any other team in the NFL. You can point to the waiting list of people to get on the season ticket list. You can point to our home game attendance. You can point to a lot of things. I think what's hard to point to unless you are in this region is their heart and their backing behind us. There's that bond that's been uniquely formed.
"It certainly started long before we ever arrived but it's gotten stronger since Katrina and the Super Bowl and so there's a close relationship that I don't and I know none of our players or coaches or anyone in our organization ever take for granted. And I think the fans feel that as well.”
Payton has been spending more time with his kids in recent weeks but he also might consider taking a television job as an analyst -- with the understanding that working from an NFL stadium would be a violation of his suspension. Ultimately, the decision will depend on how it fits into his family schedule.
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