ATLANTA -- Speaking to the media before Sunday night’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed an earlier report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that said New Orleans coach Sean Payton’s contract is not valid in the league’s eyes.
The deal, which was agreed to more than a year ago, contained language that said Payton could get out of his contract if New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis was fired, left the team or was suspended. The league frowns on such stipulations in contracts for coaches because it is concerned that would set a dangerous league-wide precedent.
When asked if that makes Payton, who remains suspended for the rest of this season a free agent, Goodell did not give a definitive answer.
“I don’t know,’’ Goodell said. “The one contract that was sent in to us ... We told him what the issue was. Now, it’s up to the team and Sean Payton. So until I get something back, it’s up to them.’’
Goodell added that the Saints and Payton haven’t submitted a new contract since the NFL rejected the first one.
Payton isn’t allowed to talk to Saints’ officials while he’s suspended, so I don’t know that this situation will be resolved until after the Super Bowl.
That’s unfortunate for New Orleans fans, who have suffered a lot in recent months, because it likely means there will continue to be speculation that Payton may jump to the Dallas Cowboys. Payton previously has said he wants to return to the Saints after his suspension.
But he has a home in the Dallas area and previously was an assistant for the Cowboys. He also has a close relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
In other NFC South news, Goodell also talked about the new stadium the Falcons have been working to get and what he would say to taxpayers being asked to help finance the project.
“Well, I think there’s a recognition that they do need a new stadium,’’ Goodell said. “The question is how do you do something that makes sense for the community? And how do you combine that with what they want to do with the Congress Center? And do it in a way that’s responsible and creates more activity? And that’s what the discussion is on both sides.
Goodell also threw out the carrot that a new stadium probably would help Atlanta land a future Super Bowl.
“It would be very positive because it’s a great community,’’ Goodell said. “They have to have the right stadium and a stadium that will [enable them] to compete against other markets.’’