Sean Payton and Gregg Williams are still officially suspended, but with the New Orleans Saints eliminated from postseason play, the NFL has reportedly begun discussing the reinstatement process of the two coaches.
The news comes from NFL.com's Ian Rapoport:
The @nfl is internally discussing reinstatements of Sean Payton & Gregg Williams, I'm told. Payton has not yet applied. Unclear on Williams— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2013
According to Rapoport's report, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said that the league is focused only on the playoffs right now, but another source indicated the reinstatement discussions are underway.
Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt, who were also suspended after the bounty scandal, both returned straight to work after their shorter suspensions came to an end.
Williams, who is New Orleans' former defensive coordinator and is currently unemployed, would have to apply to commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement, as his suspension is of the indefinite nature.
It's unclear, however, what route Payton will have to take to return as the Saints' head coach. His season-long suspension is set to end the day after the Super Bowl, but no one seems to know if he can just simply return like Loomis and Vitt or if he will have to apply like Williams.
For what it's worth, he has yet to start filing any paperwork for a reinstatement.
Whatever happens, this is good news for the Saints.
The team finished with a disappointing 7-9 record and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. As such, this will be the most important offseason in a while, and having the head coach there to discuss any signings, draft picks and other moves will be incredibly crucial.
Figuring out the reinstatement process now will only help expedite Payton's return.