NEW ORLEANS -- Excellent move, Commissioner.
Yes, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell picked a great time to reinstate suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton after serving a season-long suspension for his role in the Bounty scandal, 12 days out from Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It really makes perfect sense for RG1 to extend the olive branch now.
Think about it: This week is essentially a dead week on the NFL calendar, at least in terms of the Super Bowl and collateral hoopla. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are installing their game plans at their practice facilities well in advance of their scheduled arrivals here on Sunday/Monday.
Goodell has made his point, or, more succinctly, exacted his pound of flesh. Payton has served his sentence with time off for good behavior, expressed his obligatory mea culpa and now gets to be part of Super Bowl week in New Orleans, as a spectator, with his football team that yielded more yards in one season than any other in the history of the game.
A seemingly contrite Payton reportedly will join his coaches and scouts at the Senior Bowl and address the media Wednesday in Mobile.
At first blush, RG1 seemed to extend an olive branch to Payton, the Saints organization and, least we forget, the team's rabid fan base known as Who Dat Nation. While it's a nice gesture on the part of the commissioner, I don't think WDN is willing to forgive and forget just yet.
I'm not sure time will heal this wound anytime soon.
Meantime, let's review:
-- On March 22, 2012, the NFL suspended Payton for the 2012 season for his role in the bounty program.
-- On April 16, 2012, Goodell denied Payton's appeal, officially starting the clock on the coach's unprecedented season-long suspension.
-- In early November 2012, a story surfaced that Goodell voided a three-year contract extension Payton signed with the Saints in September 2011 because of a suspicious/curious clause that allowed the coach to walk away from the deal if Saints GM Mickey Loomis was suspended, fired or otherwise left the organization.
-- On Jan. 9, 2013, Payton signed a five-year contract with Saints owner Tom Benson worth an estimated $40 million, ending months of speculation that he might become a coaching free agent and join the Dallas Cowboys.
So what is the lesson that we have learned?
In a nutshell: One, DON'T LIE TO THE COMMISSIONER! And two, it doesn't pay to lie, although, incredulously, Payton is far richer now than he was before his suspension.
Is this end of the bounty saga?
Not totally. There still is the matter of this year's second-round draft pick and the $500,000 fine levied against the organization as part of the original sanctions. Remember, Goodell said he might restore that pick and take a lesser one and reduce the fine if all those involved minded their Ps and Qs.
But yes, finally, mercifully, the end is in sight.
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