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New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is out of the NFL for the entire 2012 season for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal, but that doesn't mean he's lost his love for coaching the game. In one way, Payton has used his off-time to mix family and football as never before. This fall, Payton is coaching the Liberty Christian Warriors, the Dallas-area team that includes Payton's sixth-grade son, Connor.
Payton isn't even a head coach for the Warriors -- his official title, if he has one, would be "Offensive Assistant" -- and he is using the same base offensive verbiage he used to propel the 2009 Saints to a Super Bowl championship, and quarterback Drew Brees to one of the most productive spans in the history of the game.
"I run the offense," Payton told Mike Triplett of Nola.com on Tuesday. "The head coach is Brennan Hardy, who does a great job. We had our first game Saturday, and we won 30-0. Obviously it's a completely different element. Yet you get just as excited to see the team you're a part of do well. It was about 110 degrees on the Astroturf, I was just glad no one melted. But it was a good win for us to start the season. We scored a lot of points and created some turnovers. And they get excited about it, which is great to see."
Of course, an entire Saints playbook wouldn't go over too well with a horde of kids, so the Warriors use just a handful of plays on gameday.
"We have 12 plays on the wristband," Payton said. "The terminology is the same as we used in New Orleans. The kids said, 'This looks hard.' But I said, 'I've seen your homework. That's a lot harder.' And they've done a great job with it."
Of course, Payton will watch the Saints through the season. Per his suspension, he can't contact the team (or any NFL team) on any matters, especially matters having to do with football, without first contacting NFL VP of football operations Ray Anderson. That "break" has given the coach, who is one of the game's great offensive minds whether you like him or not, a chance to study the game from a wider view.
Payton also told Triplett that he doesn't anticipate reinstatement this season, but certainly understands the imperative players Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita have in opposing their suspensions through whatever legal avenues are available to them.
"I'd rather not get into it specifically, because we could elaborate for an hour," Payton said, when asked what he thought the NFL got wrong in their bounty investigation. "I think it's better to just leave it at that. There's a lot at stake still for guys like Jon Vilma. They're working hard to get the correct ruling."
Currently, the four suspended current and former Saints players are waiting for potential rulings from two parties. New Orleans Judge Helen G. Berrigan said from the bench in mid-August that she had some serious questions about the way NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handled the investigation, but she may be inclined to await an appeal ruling from arbiter Stephen Burbank.