PALM BEACH, Fla. – The coaches from the AFC were supposed to have the spotlight to themselves this morning with their breakfast/interview session with the media (Shalise Manza Young will be posting some comments from Bill Belichick, who did show up this year), but an NFC coach got much of the attention.
Saints coach Sean Payton, facing an unprecedented season-long ban for his role in the bounty scandal, answered his first questions about the situation.
Payton, who amazingly said he hasn’t seen the NFL’s confidential report on the bounty issue, took questions for about 18 minutes and answered them straight on.
It sure sounded like Payton will appeal the suspension, if only to give the Saints more time to get their house in order. And Payton said he’s “100 percent certain” he’ll be back with the Saints after his suspension.
Here is some of what he had to say:
His initial reaction to the suspension: “None specifically. You go through a range of emotions that kind of hit you. 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. I find myself reflecting on it and you go through a lot of emotions.”
His reaction to the severity of the suspension: “Um, I think, the commissioner has done a good job communicating with us through this process. Being in a leadership role myself as a head coach, certainly I understand the position he’s in and I think he’s made it clear and for good reason. We have such a good product right now, just the idea of something of this magnitude is an important issue he wanted to address.”
On how it got to this point: “Listen, there’s a number of things just specifically in the report, some of which I can’t comment on, but I made this statement earlier, 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 one 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.”
On the assertion of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that Payton wasn’t truthful even the “past several weeks”: “I saw part of what he said and specifically I don’t know that he made mention of that directly to me. That being said, we take his office very seriously and the role he has and in the two trips to New York, I made sure to do everything I could in my power to answer the questions honestly.”
On what he would do during the suspension: “I don’t know yet. The specifics of the suspension is one in which we’re still trying to gather the information as well. But hopefully staying involved as best I can. We’ll be able to make that decision sooner rather than later. But it seems for me right now the checklist of things to do is what occupies my mind.”
On the leadership quarterback Drew Brees will continue to show: “I think the hardest thing is that this would possibly put a taint or tarnish the success we’ve had and I think our players feel that same way. We’ve won 41 games in the last three years. That’s hard to do. And that’s done through hard work. It’s done through discipline. It’s done through execution. It’s done through having good football players that are very coachable. So when we found ourselves maybe in a two-game losing streak or relocated because of a hurricane or we found ourselves kind of going through some tough times, we’ve always responded well. So this is uniquely different, but I do think our players and coaches will take that same response. That starts with our captains, guys that have been in our program for the whole six years that we’ve been together.”
On if he feels that he’s being unfairly punished for something that goes on elsewhere: “No, I accept this. I’ve heard that argument. I think trying to really look closely at how we and how I can improve has been probably a better way for me to handle this than to kind of vent or to look outwardly at other programs and I’ve tried to take that approach.”
On how difficult this has been: “They’ve been difficult, challenging. It’s interesting, you find out how close some of your friends are. I said this in the statement: the fans back in New Orleans have been amazing. My peers, guys that I’m very close with in this league, the players on our team. And really it’s like a family. That’s the thing that will get you through something like this.”
On talking to Bill Parcells about becoming interim coach: “I’ll have a chance to visit with him when I’m down here. But that would involve (general manager) Mickey (Loomis), myself, Mr. (Tom) Benson. My conversations to date with Bill to date have been about the uniqueness of this situation. … I think we’d just be considering all options to be fair and really trying to do our homework on each option before making a decision. But Mickey and I and Mr. Benson … I mean there’s a lot of small steps here before we would get to that point of making a decision.”
On how open Parcells is in considering to coach again: “We really haven’t gotten into it. I’ve really called him more as more of a mentor, someone to shoot some ideas off of him. That would be very consistent with what I do regardless of this being … obviously this is different. But I speak to him pretty regularly in regards to advice. So 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.”
On what’s intriguing about Parcells as a head coach: “You’re asking me what are his great strengths, and I would say to you he’s a great teacher. 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.”
On how much damage this has done to his reputation: “Certainly you take lumps, and I’ve taken them before. I look forward to getting back, being successful and being a part of it. 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. But that being said, I look forward to getting back in this position, I look forward to winning. And we’ll do that.”