Sean Payton has returned to the Saints, his season-long suspension lifted two weeks early by commissioner Roger Goodell after the two met on Monday.
Payton's clever statement did not directly admit to wrongdoing himself: "As I stated back in March, I, along with Mickey Loomis, take full responsibility for all aspects of our football program."
"I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations." While Payton took responsibility for mistakes "made" as a captain would for his crew, he made no indication that any of his actions of wrong. The league's bounty investigation maintained that Payton was a key among others in orchestrating the cover-up for the bounty program.
Further, Payton's statement assured the public that he would provide better controls over the organization, another clever shift of blame: "Furthermore, I have assured the Commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed."
"Lastly," Payton concluded, "I feel we have learned from our mistakes and are ready to move forward. I want to thank our owner, Mr. Benson and all of our great fans for the overwhelming support throughout this past year. I am excited to be back as head coach of the New Orleans Saints!”
Goodell's statement on Tuesday indicated that: "Sean fully complied with all the requirements imposed on him during his suspension. More important, it is clear that Sean understands and accepts his responsibilities as a head coach and the vital role that coaches play in promoting player safety and setting an example for how the game should be played at all levels. We are committed to delivering football that fans love and the safety players deserve. Coach Payton agrees and I look forward to working with him going forward to do that."
The two week reprieve probably won't temper the anger of fans towards Goodell, widely reviled in the Super Bowl XLVII host city, where "Free Sean Payton" and "F! Roger Goodell" shirts are popular attire. Aside from a forfeited second round pick in this April's draft, all punishments have been served in the Saints' bounty scandal.
Payton, whose new contract has also been approved by the league, was free to join coaches and scouting staff in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl. The Saints can also move forward with replacing offensive line coach and running game coordinator Aaron Kromer, who left for Chicago last week.