Payton seeks Parcells' counsel about Saints' plan

By Tim Reynolds

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 27 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sean Payton has planned the New Orleans Saints' offseason program, done some work on the upcoming draft and jotted down ideas for the start of training camp.

And now, with his season-long suspension set to begin Sunday, Payton 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 run a bounty system.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Saints were sanctioned for trying to take out specific opponents, Payton said Tuesday he will soon decide whether to appeal his suspension, something Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he can do through Monday.

Payton also said he was meeting with Parcells — who lives near the site of this week's 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 arrived at the league meetings about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, and talked for 18 minutes with reporters in a resort hotel's lobby. He left for a breakfast meeting and departed shortly past 10 a.m., presumably for a meeting with Parcells. Payton said he, general manager Mickey Loomis — who is facing an eight-game suspension — and team owner Tom Benson are weighing a number of scenarios.

Among them: Does Parcells want to coach?

"I think it would just be considering all options, to be fair and really trying to do our homework on each option before making a decision," Payton said.

If Payton appeals, Goodell said he would "probably" allow him to continue working past the intended start of his suspension. Goodell also has 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 NFL's investigation in New Orleans found that Payton initially lied to league investigators about the bounty program, at first denying its existence, and also instructed his defensive assistants to lie. Payton twice has apologized for his role in the bounty system, which offered payouts for knocking out opponents, saying he takes "full responsibility" for the program that operated for three years under his watch.

As many as 27 players could also face sanctioning 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 fully confident that he will coach the Saints again in 2013. He remained composed throughout his surprise interview Tuesday — NFC coaches were not scheduled to meet the media until Wednesday — although he did say that the day's "biggest challenge" was the realization that for the first time in 39 years, he may not have an active role in football as a player or coach.

"You go through a range of emotions that kind of hit you," the 48-year-old 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."

He touched on several topics. Asked if he may work in broadcasting this season, Payton said anyone in his position would keep their options open. Asked about Gregg Williams, the former Saints defensive coordinator who ran the program and has been suspended indefinitely, Payton said he has not had contact with him about the penalties. Asked if bounties were what he envisioned when he asked Williams to build a defense, he replied, "No, obviously not."

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