Vitt also could be a candidate to step in, as he did briefly last season when Payton broke his leg, once his suspension ends.
Loomis will be able to oversee the draft and handle other roster moves. When the preseason concludes, he will serve his suspension for failing to put a stop to the bounty system in a timely way.
With all the uncertainty, Payton had been working long hours at the Saints' suburban New Orleans headquarters trying to cram as much planning for 2012 into whatever time he had left.
Payton has said he laid out plans for the offseason training program and the beginning of training camp, up until the Saints play Arizona in the Hall of Fame game Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.
The NFL has said Williams' bounty system, which ran from 2009 through 2011, offered cash payments of $1,500 for "knockouts," in which an opposing player was knocked out of a game, or $1,000 for "cart-offs," in which an opponent needed help off the field. The league has said the bounty pool grew as large as $50,000, reaching its height in the 2009 season, when New Orleans won its only Super Bowl.
The investigation also found that Payton initially lied to league investigators about the existence of a bounty program and instructed his defensive assistants to do the same. It also found that Loomis did not do enough to put a stop to the enterprise after he was informed the league was looking into it in early 2010.
Payton twice apologized for his role in the bounty program, saying he takes "full responsibility" for allowing it to flourish.
The NFL has said as many as 27 players also could be sanctioned in the scandal, but it is not yet clear when that might happen, creating additional uncertainty for New Orleans and some teams that have signed former Saints defensive regulars as they tried to build their 2012 rosters.
Suspensions could be coming for players — Goodell set a precedent last season when he suspended Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for two games for stomping on an opponent, and Steelers linebacker James Harrison one game for a flagrant tackle that gave Browns quarterback Colt McCoy a concussion.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.
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