NFL upholds New Orleans Saints suspensions of Payton, Vitt, and Loomis

By Brandon Winkler

Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t take very long to reach a verdict on his decision on whether or not to reduce the suspensions that were handed out on March 21st, 2012.

The NFL announced Monday, April 9th that they have upheld the suspensions of Head Coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis, and Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt of the New Orleans Saints.

All three appeals were heard by Goodell on Thursday and the odds there would be a reduced suspension were virtually non-existent. It did however, give Payton time to clarify what was allowed and what wasn’t during his season long ban from the NFL.

Also on Thursday, Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports broke news of an audio recording caught by Sean Pamphilon, who was hired by Steve Gleason to film a documentary, of former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams giving a fiery speech the night before the Saints NFC Divisional Playoffs contest with the San Francisco 49ers in January.

The NFL has said they knew of the media but they had not heard it. The release of the actual audio surely couldn’t have helped the Saints by any means.

Prior to the Saints first playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the Detroit Lions, Goodell notified the staff that if there were any “bounty system” still going on that they were to end at that moment. Head Coach Sean Payton relayed the message to Gregg Williams that the NFL was keeping a close eye on him. Yet he still made the speech.

There has been much debate about whether this is nothing different than anything else heard in locker-rooms across the league or if this was one of his “bounty” cases where he was offering money to take players out. Names were mentioned and injuries, so surely they were targets. No mention of money was made however, except a hand gesture.  How you interpret it is your decision.

Many agree though, that Pamphilon’s release of the audio the same time as the appeal was for promotional purposes due to his new film coming out. Pamphilon claims he was “doing the right thing,” but the fact of the matter is if this was the right thing to do, then why did it take three months to get released?

Either way, Saints fans didn’t expect the man who handed out the suspensions to suddenly change his mind without any new evidence that might claim their innocence.

Gregg Williams, defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, has decided he would not appeal his indefinite ban. He is eligible for reinstatement following the 2012-2013 season, but all signs for now seem to point at him not returning to the NFL.

There were  a few bright spots and clarifications that came as a result of the appeals by the New Orleans Saints.

Sean Payton’s suspension with out pay was moved from April 1st to April 16th as a result of appealing.

This allows for more time to plan ahead. With player discipline announced later this week, this also gives Payton some sort of say in what might happen to suspended players.

Sean Peyton will not be allowed to communicate with any New Orleans Saints players or staff directly or indirectly regarding football decisions during the suspension.

Think of this as the NFL lockout when coaches and staff were not allowed to communicate with any of the players. It’s practically the same situation.

“The club and the individuals will be expected to cooperate in any further proceedings and to assist in the development and implementation of programs to instruct players and coaches at all levels on principles of player safety, fair play, and sportsmanship,” the NFL said in a statement.

“If they embrace the opportunity and participate in a constructive way, Commissioner Goodell said he would consider mitigating the financial penalties on the individuals. In the case of the team, the commissioner would consider whether there are factors that would support modifying the forfeiture of the team’s 2013 second-round draft choice.”

In this case, should the Saints follow through with everything and cooperate, the modification of the forfeiture of the second-round pick in the 2013 draft could be huge.

The Saints, who were stripped of their 2012 and 2013 second-round selections, could have some big hope there. If it is modified, they will still lose a pick in the 2013 draft, just a much less valuable one.

The suspensions without pay of Mickey Loomis for eight games and Joe Vitt for six games will begin at the end of the preseason.

At the conclusion of their suspensions, the commissioner will review the status of each of the three individuals to determine their eligibility for reinstatement.

If Payton does what he is supposed to during his suspension this shouldn’t be an issue, but should he break a rule this could become a big deal. If found that he did not follow the rules set by Commissioner Roger Goodell, he could have the length of his suspension increased beyond the one year that was handed out.

A decision on who may take over as interim head coach has not been made yet. It’s reported that the Saints have interest in Sean Payton’s mentor Bill Parcells who has been in retirement.

Parcells has said he hasn’t had contact with the New Orleans Saints in over six days nor have they approached him with an offer to coach the team.

Should the Saints reach out to Parcells, the “Rooney Rule” would come into play. The NFL has said the Saints can comply with the Rooney Rule by interviewing an internal minority candidate for interim coach.

If the Saints look in house for a candidate, they have their offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who generated a lot of interest from teams such as the Oakland Raiders for their head coaching vacancy. Carmichael has said he preferred to stick with his current duties.

It’s unlikely that they will look to new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo who is new to the team and still putting his pieces in place and hasn’t even begun to implement his defensive strategy. Spagnuolo, who previously was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams, joined the team after Gregg Williams left to join his former team.

With Payton having an extra week to plan ahead and rumors of the Saints interest of Bill Parcell’s everywhere, Who Dat Nation should expect the team to hear news on who will take over the reigns very shortly.

If the Saints are in fact looking to Parcells to take over for Payton, expect them to pursue him aggressively in the coming days.



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