Payton was originally suspended from his duties and banned from any Saints-related activity until after Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013. He met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Monday and was let off the hook 13 days early.
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.
Vitt spoke to the media Tuesday from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. elated that Payton would be able to join the team immediately, according to the Times-Picayune.
But along with happiness, Vitt sounds as if he’s dealing with some pent-up anger. And who could blame him?
Listen, I can't wait for him to come back. Nobody has ever had anything like this before. I think I've made it clear what I think. I don't think I need to go into that any further. But it is what it is. Will I forgive? Yeah, I guess I will forgive. But I will never forget what we've gone through and what this team has gone through with the sanctions and the penalties they've imposed upon us.
Vitt’s not likely going to be sitting in a spare bedroom poking needles in a Goodell doll, but don’t underestimate the power of a driven coaching staff with something to prove.
Without Payton, the Saints had a dismal season—finishing with a 7-9 record and sitting at home during the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. Could Payton have been worth three extra wins, victories that would have put the Saints in the playoffs?
There’s no way to answer that, but the Saints front office and the coaching staff now have 13 extra days to regroup and put a plan together to rebound in 2013.
The best, and only, way for Vitt, Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis to make sure "Never Forget" becomes as much a mantra for the Saints as a statement of anger from Vitt is to put a good thumping on the league next season on the field.
Only time will tell if these extra 13 days mean much to the Saints on the field; I surely believe they will.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.