NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Dismissing speculation that Sean Payton may leave New Orleans because of a glitch in his contract, Drew Brees has no doubt he’ll be reunited with the suspended Saints coach in 2013.
“I absolutely believe he’ll be back,” Brees said Monday night after guiding the Saints to a 28-13 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Payton was suspended for the season by the NFL for his role in the bounty scandal. The league has taken issue with a clause in the contract extension he agreed to more than a year ago, which was to have kept him in New Orleans through 2015.
“I haven’t seen the report or heard the report,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. “I don’t want to have any comment, but let me say this: This team loves Sean, and Sean loves this team. This city loves Sean, andSean loves this city. I think that’s a tough combination to beat.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Sunday he does not know if Payton might become a coaching free agent after the season.
“The one contract that they sent in to us ... we told them what the issue was,” Goodell said. “Now it’s up to the team and Sean Payton. So until I get something back, it’s up to them.”
Payton’s agent, Don Yee, did not return a message seeking comment.
According to ESPN, the league objected to Payton being allowed to nix the deal if general manager Mickey Loomis was fired, suspended or left the organization for any reason. Loomis received an eight-game suspension for his involvement in the bounty case and is eligible to return after the Saints (3-5) beat the Eagles.
Payton can return next season, but some wonder if he might be interested in moving to the struggling Dallas Cowboys if he has that option.
The Cowboys (3-5) have been a major disappointment, with a 19-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday only turning up the heat on third-year coach Jason Garrett.