Saints appeal to be heard this week

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 01, 2012
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The NFL expects to hold hearings this week on appeals filed in connection with the investigation of the Saints' bounty system, a league spokesman said. Greg Aiello said Sunday in an email to The Associated Press that he could not confirm who has appealed, citing league policies. He also could not provide the particular days or times that hearings would be held, saying the league leaves announcements of such particulars to those who are filing the appeals. Head coach Sean Payton is appealing his season-long suspension, a person familiar with the situation has told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no one has announced his plans. General manager Mickey Loomis is appealing his eight-game suspension, assistant head coach Joe Vitt is appealing his six-game suspension and the club is appealing its $500,000 fine and loss of second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013. The appeals will be heard by Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York. Payton and Loomis would meet with the commissioner on Tuesday according to ESPN, but Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said he could not confirm that. Payton, Loomis and Vitt were all suspended for their roles in New Orleans' bounty system, which offered improper cash bonuses for big hits that either knocked opponents out of games or left them needing help off of the field. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who left the Saints after last season to join the St. Louis Rams, ran the bounty program and has been suspended indefinitely. Payton's suspension was supposed to begin on Sunday, but the commissioner has said since the unprecedented penalties were announced that the Saints' coach would likely be allowed to continue working as his appeal was resolved. However, Goodell added that the challenge would be expedited, indicating that Payton would not likely be able to add on much work time should his appeal be upheld. Goodell also said at the NFL owners meetings in Florida that Payton could have some contact with the team but did not go into detail, and Payton indicated that he was still a little unclear about that, as well. With all the uncertainty, Payton is trying to compress as much planning for the 2012 season into whatever time he has left at Saints headquarters. The results of the appeals could affect whether Bill Parcells, who turns 71 in August, comes out of retirement to take over as interim coach while his former offensive assistant and protege is suspended. Parcells has said he would consider coaching the Saints if asked. Payton and Loomis played golf with the former NFL coach last week to talk to him about the team's predicament. If Payton's suspension is reduced, however, the Saints could decide it makes more sense to promote an assistant from the current staff. Vitt could be a candidate to step in as interim coach, as he did briefly last season when Payton broke his leg, if his own suspension is reduced. There are also three strong candidates among Saints assistants to take over as interim coach: offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. Payton expressed confidence in the abilities of his own assistants to compensate for his absence, but also has voiced some misgivings about saddling those coaches with additional responsibilities. Since his suspension was announced, Payton has been putting in long hours with his staff and that of Loomis as they try to lay out plans for the 2012 draft and season. Loomis will be able to oversee the draft and handle other roster moves up until the season starts. Then, barring a successful appeal, he will serve his suspension for failing to put a stop to the bounty system in a timely way. Payton said earlier this week that he had already laid out plans for the offseason training program and the beginning of training camp, up until the Saints play Arizona in the Hall of Fame game Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio. The NFL's investigation in New Orleans found that Payton initially lied to league investigators about the existence of a bounty program and instructed his defensive assistants to do the same. It also found that Loomis did not do enough to put a stop to the enterprise after he was informed that the league was looking into it.
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