The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

January 22, 2013

NFL lifts suspension of Saints coach Sean Payton

(Continued)

"This is where you're building the foundation of your football team, with the evaluation process of these draft eligible juniors and seniors and the free agents that are out there."

There remains one outstanding issue for the Saints stemming from the bounty probe: What will become of the Saints' second pick next spring. As part of the bounty punishment, Goodell fined the Saints $500,000 and took away second-round picks in 2012 and 2013. However, Goodell left open the possibility of restoring the 2013 second-rounder and instead docking the team a later-round pick if he is satisfied with the club's level of cooperation in the bounty matter.

What the Saints do know is that the 49-year-old Payton is set to return to New Orleans for the next five seasons. Earlier this month he signed a contract extension running through the 2017 season.

The coach is the last person punished in the bounty probe to return to work. Before Tuesday, Payton had not been at work since mid-April, when Goodell rejected the coach's appeal of his suspension.

Loomis was suspended for eight games, Vitt for six and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams remains suspended indefinitely

Vilma and current Saints defensive lineman Will Smith, along with former Saints Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove, were given suspensions of various lengths, but never served a game. Their punishments were overturned after lengthy appeals which also coincided with exhaustive litigation in federal court.

The litigation included Vilma's defamation lawsuit against Goodell, which was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan last week.

Payton's reinstatement is one more step for the Saints to return to normalcy, but for Vitt, said it doesn't bring closure to the bounty scandal.

"It doesn't for me. You're going to have ask Sean that question, Mickey that question, Vilma that question. It certainly doesn't for me. I can forgive. I'm not going to forget. It is what it is."

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