New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton isn't supposed to have any contact with the organization, or any other NFL organization for that matter, as a condition of his suspension for the bounty scandal that rocked the franchise.
Sam Borden of the New York Times found out that players from the New York Giants—New Orleans' opponent on Sunday—aren't sure the punishment is being enforced. Steve Weatherford is among the skeptics to express his doubts.
Punter Steve Weatherford expressed a common sentiment when he said, "Of course he will get his message to them somehow."
Weatherford added: "I'm not saying anything about Sean Payton as a person or anything, but I think any coach would do that. It’s not like he’s just going to sit at home and watch the games and not have any thoughts. His message will be heard."
It certainly raises some questions.
In the Times report, Borden spoke with an intelligence expert as a part of his deep dive into the unique situation and was somewhat surprisingly told: "from a technical perspective, there’s really very little the NFL can do."
At first glance, the toughest part for the league is keeping tabs on every form of communication Payton has available. In the age of social media, there are seemingly endless ways for him to come in contact with his players and coaches—if he chose to.
The other side of the coin is Payton's future. Is relaying information to the Saints more important than making sure he's allowed to return next season? Rumors popped up last month linking him to the Dallas Cowboys upon his return.
Are the Giants right to express concerns that Payton is in contact with the Saints?
If he got caught talking with the Saints, his future in the league would be in doubt, whether that's with the Saints, Cowboys or another team. Deciding if the information he would pass along is important enough to risk that would be the key.
It's a tough punishment to enforce over the course of an entire season. If Payton used a middle man to pass along a note on a random Tuesday morning, the chances of Roger Goodell finding out about it are probably pretty low.
However, there's always a chance he does, and Payton would then be in a real tough spot. The Saints could certainly use his help. They are 5-7 and their playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread. That doesn't mean he's providing it, though.
It's no surprise the Giants are skeptical. They have every right to wonder if the NFL is making sure Payton is staying out of the mix. In reality, however, the game is won by players on Sunday and not some secret messages that likely don't even exist.
All told, if the league wasn't monitoring Payton closely before, it will start doing so now that concerns have been raised about the issue. In all likelihood, it's a non-issue.