The National Football League announced on Tuesday that suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has been reinstated.
On March 22, 2012, Payton was suspended by the NFL for one year for his role in the team's illegal bounty program. Payton appealed the suspension, but that was denied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the suspension commenced on April 16.
Payton's suspension was to run through Super Bowl XLVII, but the head coach met on Monday with Commissioner Goodell, who issued the following statement:
"We had a very productive discussion," said Commissioner Goodell. "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. We are committed to delivering football that fans love and the safety players deserve. Coach Payton agrees and I look forward to working with him going forward to do that."
Payton took full responsibility for his actions and released a statement of his own through the Saints' public relations department.
"I am thankful today Commissioner Goodell has granted me reinstatement," said Payton. "As I stated back in March, I, along with Mickey Loomis, take full responsibility for all aspects of our football program. I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations. Furthermore, I have assured the Commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed.
"Lastly, I feel we have learned from our mistakes and are ready to move forward. I want to thank our owner, Mr. Benson and all of our great fans for the overwhelming support throughout this past year. I am excited to be back as Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints!"
Without Payton, the Saints were coached by Aaron Kromer and Joe Vitt, finishing with a 7-9 record and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. During his suspensions, Payton lost nearly $6 million in income in the final year of his contract, but did sign a new five-year extension with the club on Dec. 29.
"We are all thankful that Sean Payton has been reinstated," said Saints owner Tom Benson. "We have a lot of work to do and we are in the middle of it right now. He is our head coach and we welcome him back. We look forward to a great 2013 season and making another run at a World Championship for our fans!"
Now that his suspension has been lifted, Payton will be allowed to be a part of the Saints' contingent at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
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