Just in time for the Super Bowl, the bounty scandal has come to a close New Orleans Saints.
The last remaining issue involving the Saints has been resolved (former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams remains suspended). The NFL announced Tuesday morning that coach Sean Payton has been reinstated from his season-long suspension. Initially, Payton was supposed to remain suspended until the day after the Super Bowl.
But Roger Goodell and Payton met Monday and the NFL commissioner decided to move up the timetable for Payton’s return.
“Sean fully complied with all the requirements imposed on him during his suspension,’’ Goodell said in a statement. “More important, it is clear that Sean understands and accepts his responsibilities as a head coach and the vital role that coaches play in promoting player safety and setting an example for how the game should be played at all levels. We are committed to delivering football that fans love and the safety players deserve. Coach Payton agrees and I look forward to working with him going forward to do that.”
There are no winners and losers here. But there should be closure for the Saints. Goodell isn’t absolving Payton of anything in the bounty scandal. He simply is cutting Payton a break and letting him get back to work a little early, which is nice because it allows Payton to make some decisions about his coaching staff and also allows the coach to begin working with general manager Mickey Loomis on offseason personnel decisions.
Payton, who is viewed by many around the league as arrogant, came across as humble and somewhat contrite in a statement issued through the Saints soon after the news was announced.
“As I stated back in March, I, along with Mickey Loomis, take full responsibility for all aspects of our football program. I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations. Furthermore, I have assured the commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed. Lastly, I feel we have learned from our mistakes and are ready to move forward. I want to thank our owner, Mr. (Tom) Benson and all of our great fans for the overwhelming support throughout this past year."
There, this whole sordid chapter officially is over for the Saints. It’s time for everyone to move on.