PALM BEACH, Fla. – New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, making his first public comments since the NFL announced his one-year suspension in connection with the bounty scandal, said Tuesday he is disappointed with himself, is mulling an appeal of the penalty and has been speaking with Bill Parcells but not necessarily to persuade him to coach the team this season.
"I've really called him more as more of a mentor, someone to shoot some ideas off of him," said Payton, who spoke to a gathering of about 25 reporters who waited for him in the lobby of the Breakers Hotel, where the NFL is staging its annual meetings.
Payton, who was an assistant coach under Parcells in Dallas, added: "The dialog I have with him would be pretty normal, especially in this area. In fact, for me to be down here and if I didn't call him or set up a time to see him, I'd probably get his wrath.”
Payton did not rule out the possibility of Parcells coaching the Saints in his absence, however.
"He's a great teacher," he said. "Certainly I'm biased, having worked with him. But he's a Hall of Fame head coach. And I would also say there are some things probably set up within the framework of our program that would be exactly how he would have set things up had he been the head coach here back in '06. So there is some carryover that way."
Payton has until April 2 to appeal the penalty, the first time in NFL history a coach has been suspended by the league. Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight games of this season in connection with the scandal, and linebackers coach Joe Vitt for the first six games. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
Payton said he has yet to decide whether to appeal his suspension.
"There's kind of a checklist, there's a lot to do here in a short period of time with the draft coming up, our specific coaching staff," he said. "We’re trying to get through all of that very quickly. I think by the end of this month we'll make a decision on an appeal]."
The Saints also will lose second-round picks in the next two NFL drafts, and have been fined $500,000.
The punishment is the result of a three-year league investigation of the team that determined players and Williams maintained a pool of cash and paid rewards to players for injuring opponents, including $1,000 for a "cart-off" and $1,500 for a knockout.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that when first informed about the investigation, the Saints lied by denying the existence of the bounty program, then continued the payouts.
"It is a serious violation of our policy," Goodell said. "It is something that has zero tolerance in the NFL. It is not acceptable to hide the issues, continue to violate NFL policy and put our players at risk. That is going to be dealt with very harshly."
Payton, who will lose about $7.5 million in salary as a result of the suspension, said he has gone through "a range of emotions" since being informed of the penalty.
"You're disappointed, you're disappointed in yourself that it got to this point, and I think we're trained as coaches to begin preparation right away," he said. "I find myself reflecting on it, and you go through a lot of emotions."
League officials have privately pointed to the fact that Payton is known to be a stickler for detail, something that he emphasized time and again in his book, so therefore he could not in good faith say he didn’t know what was happening on his own team, even if his specialty is offense.
Asked if he believes any opponents were injured as a result of the bounties, Payton said no but conceded: "Anything that happens in the framework of your team and your program, you're responsible for and that's a lesson I've learned. It's ... easy to get carried away with a certain side of the ball, more involved offensively or defensively, and that’s something I regret."
He said he has not spoken to Williams recently, and that he did not plan to address the owners of the other 31 teams Tuesday. The Saints' Tom Benson spoke to his fellow owners Monday and, Goodell said, was "very open" with them.
The league said that Payton, the 2006 NFL Coach of the Year, encouraged false denials by instructing assistants to "make sure our ducks are in a row."
Asked about that Tuesday, the coach said: "I haven’t seen specifically the report. As I mentioned, it’s hard for me to go through each item line by line."
Regardless of whether he appeals the suspension, Payton said he's "100% certain" that he will coach the Saints in 2013.
"I think the biggest challenge is driving in here this morning, this will probably be 39 years, as a Pop Warner player, as a high school player, a college player, then college coach, professional coach, this is potentially the first of 39 years where you’re not directly involved in football for a season," he said.
"But that being said, I look forward to getting back in this position, I look forward to winning. And we'll do that."
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