It doesn’t matter whether you believe Payton's season-long suspension in 2012 for his role in the pay-to-injure scandal involving the Saints was the unnecessary flexing of commissioner Roger Goodell's muscles, was laughable or not steep enough.
What matters now is that the Saints and Payton must find a way to put the past behind and push through into a new season.
Working through Payton’s punishment last season wasn’t easy on the franchise nor the coach. Filling in for Payton was a revolving door of coaches that changed so frequently it had to be hard for the team to find a rhythm.
Linebackers coach Joe Vitt guided the Saints through training camp and the preseason until he had to serve a six-game suspension. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer—now the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears—stepped in for the start of the regular season until Vitt was able to re-join the team. Even general manager Mickey Loomis had to miss the first eight weeks of the season under suspension.
Not having a consistent leader in not having Payton was a burden that the Saints didn’t handle well. The proof was in their 0-4 start and their 7-9 final record.
Payton has been reinstated as the Saints front man and now has to direct his roster back towards the playoffs, but it won’t be easy.
Here are five monumental challenges facing Payton after his league-imposed season off.