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Sean Payton not wasting any energy re-living bounty scandal

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Sean Payton stood in front of a group reporters nearly one year ago at the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., as a beaten man. The New Orleans Saints coach said he accepted the season-long suspension NFL Commissioner Roger ...

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Old 03-19-2013, 09:13 PM   #1
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Sean Payton not wasting any energy re-living bounty scandal

Sean Payton stood in front of a group reporters nearly one year ago at the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., as a beaten man. The New Orleans Saints coach said he accepted the season-long suspension NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hit him with in connection to the bounty program the league said the Saints ran from 2009-11.

Payton, an admitted control freak, said he was disappointed in himself and wondered how the team's pay-for-performance system and his handling of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had spiraled so out of control.

While saying the right things publicly, privately Payton was seething.

"I spent a month where the emotions were anger and bitterness in regards to the penalty," Payton said in a recent interview before this year's NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.

Payton didn't accept his fate until the suspension kicked in mid-April. If he hadn't come to terms with his punishment, a padded room might have been his next home.

"Knowing how long it was going to be, it was going to be counterproductive to continue to think that way," Payton said. "You'd go crazy for eight months."

Payton's walls were crashing in on him from seemingly every direction last year.

The league took away his job and paycheck for about eight months. He couldn't talk with most of his friends because they worked in the NFL. He was going through a divorce.

Any of those scenarios could be extremely taxing. All of them together could make someone crawl into a cave and hide from the world.

"Look, there were times when it was challenging," Payton said. "There were some positives that came of it."

Like spending more time with his two children in Dallas. And one look at Payton post-suspension and you can tell he hit the gym. In-season coaching life - especially in New Orleans - isn't conducive to staying fit and trim.

But then there were those Sundays where Payton sat in front of his TV with a yellow legal pad to watch the Saints play when the reminder of the suspension jabbed him in the ribs as the team stumbled to an 0-4 start and finished 7-9, out of the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and owners of the worst defense in NFL history.

"I think what was tough and frustrating was watching the struggles of the team and knowing, and I would get this question asked a lot, 'Did you want them to have success?' Of course I did," Payton said. "These are players that we've selected and signed. These are our family. This is our team. It's hard to watch a team struggle and not be able to help with a team you're a part of. It's probably the same feeling for someone who's on IR and he can't play. It was going to be important to me to look at it and say, 'How are we going to turn some of this into a positive?'"

Payton's contact with anyone remotely tied to the NFL was limited during his suspension. Payton said he spoke with Ray Anderson, the NFL's vice president of football operations, at least 40 times, calling whenever he felt even the slightest doubt if he was violating the terms of his suspension.

Payton was able to maintain a relationship, though, with two of the people he respects the most: Saints owner Tom Benson and Bill Parcells.

Benson, with the permission of the league, chatted with Payton at least one a week. The phone calls varied in length. But during his recent interview, Payton said about a half-dozen times how outstanding Benson was during the suspension.

"It could just be, 'Hey Coach. We miss you,'" Payton said. "A simple conversation like that with someone like Mr. Benson was important. You'd hang onto it. It's almost like a letter you would hang onto. It's conversations you would look forward to."

Payton talked about how much he appreciated the job he holds with the Saints. In particular, he understands how another owner may have viewed the widespread punishments and wiped the slate clean, firing Payton. Instead, Payton got a new deal.

"He (Benson) had a clear grasp as to everything that had taken place," Payton said. "It's another one of those reasons that I know I have a special job. With the owner I get a chance to work for, with Mickey Loomis and the staff and this locker room, but just as important is our fan base, weekly something could come that was a simple as the team photo where everyone wore visors."

Payton wasn't banned from talking to Parcells, an analyst for ESPN. Payton always viewed Parcells, his boss with the Dallas Cowboys, as more than a coach and mentor.

"Those phone calls and those chances to spend some time with Mr. Benson or a guy like Bill Parcells went a long way because that had to fill the void that was created," Payton said. "It was just being able to talk to someone. The conversations varied, but they were important. Really important for me."

And in typical Parcells style, he left a lasting message for Payton.

"He (Parcells) said at the beginning of it, 'You're going to have a different view of your team from afar than when you're in amongst the trees,'" Payton said. "When you step away, you have to figure out how we get the most from this. I think that equally important is that us turning the page is critical."

Turning the page is one thing. Forgetting who played a major role in pushing you away from the game for eight months and losing millions in salary is quite another.

Payton has no qualms about accepting blame for the bounty scandal. But as he made clear in his press conference at the Senior Bowl in late January, his first after the suspension was lifted, he has no desire to speak with Williams, now an assistant with the Tennessee Titans.

So does Payton regret hiring Williams?

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams congratulates Tracy Porter during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium on Nov. 25, 2010.Michael DeMocke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive

"No," Payton said. "Listen, we had a good run. He's a part of what we established as a staff and as a team. That's something that can never be taken away. For everyone of us as we get ready for another season, you're on to your next challenge. There's a little thing that Bill (Parcells) wrote ... there's a picture that he sent me, actually it was a letter. The last thing he wrote is success is never final. And he's right. The minute you feel like you've gotten there, within three weeks you're on to your new challenges.

"I have no regrets."

How can that be?

"It's uniquely unprecedented," Payton said. "I wish him well, and it kind of goes from there. But no, I think at that time (2009), I think we needed an influx and he brought a lot of things that helped us. Look, he's extremely talented and he was a big part of (winning Super Bowl XLIV). When you have that type of success, there's so many ..."

Payton paused.

"It gets back to, when you fail, aaagghh! You just want to blame the can," the 49-year-old said as he choked a can of Red Bull he deposited his dip spit into throughout the hour-long interview. "But, typically, there's just more than one individual or groups of people. And when you have that type of success, it's not just the can. So he was a big part of our success. This gets back to really turning the page and not ... We're coaching and preparing for April 15 not out of spite. That can't be our motivation. Our motivation is to win more championships because that's who we are and we're driven by that. If I can take that approach, and this is part of the eight-month process. Move past that three or four weeks of bitterness and anger, and then just truly getting focused on, and it kind of sounds like, 'Ah, come on,' but that other energy is just wasted energy. It really is."

When returned to the Saints' facility in mid-January and he barely recognized the place. Construction crews had transformed the Airline Drive offices. He said he's still adjusting to all of the new facets of the renovated building. And he could barely walk to his desk.

"There were boxes of mail," Payton said. "I'd say there were over 3,000 e-mails, boxes of mail. Probably more than 3,000 e-mails. That took a day just to go through that. That kind of stuff drives me crazy if it's not in order. So I came back just trying to get organized and trying to get everything back in place, along with the facility that's changed."

The Saints' on-field fortunes changed while Payton was gone, as every Saints fan is well aware the 7-9 mark matched Payton's worst record during his tenure.

But Payton said his return won't amount to an automatic turnaround.
"One of Bill's great strengths is understanding how to manage success, and just as equally important how to pick a team up when all of a sudden when they had a couple of tough losses," Payton said. "He really understood human behavior and understood how to get players, coaches, trainers, everyone in the building to perform at their best on a consistent basis.

"As it pertains to us right now, I think the approach we'll take as a staff and when the players get here, there's nothing promised for us going forward. Me coming back doesn't equate us going back right where we were in '09, '10 or '11, nor does it equate to where we finished a season ago. I think more so now than ever in our league, you start from square one."

On Wednesday, a full week into the new league year, Payton will sit down with the national NFL media again and be asked about the bounty scandal, his suspension, Williams, the Saints' awful 2012 season and what to expect in 2013. No matter what happens this season, Payton won't use the scandal and its punishments as an excuse.

"I've gotten to where if I hear it come up, it's just you have to stop with it," Payton said. "You remember in '06, that challenge was (Hurricane) Katrina. And of course it's on a much different scale. But we as a staff, there were a number of things that would come up during that offseason that weren't right. We didn't get the weights in, because of Katrina. The trucks didn't come in on time, because of Katrina. It came up time and time again where I just came to a point where I said we're not going to allow this tragedy that took place to be a reason why we don't at least have success or aren't prepared. But it became easy for anything that didn't go properly - the food isn't delivered on time, facility wasn't cleaned the right way, we were cut short because of whatever. It became this blanket that could handle and dump all of your excuses on this.

"Same thing is existing to a degree with this pay-for-performance program. It is what it is. We can sit down and be angry and be upset or any of those things, but it's all wasted energy right now. It's not going be the reason we're not successful moving forward. It's not going to be the reason. ... It was unprecedented for a team. Look, you come up with your plan and your preparation for it. But listen, it is what it is. For us and for me right this minute, and I say this right now: I don't give a lot of thought to it. Now I've had that quiet time where I could control that noise and not necessarily be exposed to it like the coaches and the players that were here.

"But I know what's best for us as we get started here moving forward. If I can get to that spot, I expect everyone else can to."

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Old 03-19-2013, 10:01 PM   #2
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Re: Sean Payton not wasting any energy re-living bounty scandal

So glad the man is back!
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Old 03-20-2013, 11:14 AM   #3
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Re: Sean Payton not wasting any energy re-living bounty scandal

Making the NFL pay through league domination will make him feel much better about it this year.
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Old 03-20-2013, 04:00 PM   #4
 
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Re: Sean Payton not wasting any energy re-living bounty scandal

Nor should he waste any time ... we have championships to collect!
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Old 03-20-2013, 04:42 PM   #5
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Re: Sean Payton not wasting any energy re-living bounty scandal

We all need to focus our anger toward Rogue Godhell where it belongs!
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