In a minicamp press conference that touched on a variety of topics, Saints coach Sean Payton was asked more than a few questions regarding a subject about which he understandably doesn’t want to say much.
It’s been a week since his name came up in connection with the lawsuit filed by former Saints director of security Geoffrey Santini, who claims that he resigned after G.M. Mickey Loomis tried to cover up the abuse and/or theft of Vicodin by two unnamed senior staff members, who turned out to be Payton and assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt.
Last Saturday, Payton issued a statement denying any abuse or theft of Vicodin. He has since said nothing publicly.
“I really can’t [talk about the case],” Payton said in comments distributed by the team. “With respect to the process, that’s the position I’m in. I understand the questions surrounding it, yet I’m not at liberty. I think as time goes forward, we’ll know more and more.”
Of course, that didn’t stop the assembled media from asking him more questions about it. (And we can dig it.)
“I just think there needs to be steps and when you have a civil suit, those become probably more complicated,” Payton said in response to the question of when he possibly will talk about his side of the situation. “Nonetheless, that’s the thing that’s challenging.”
Payton added that it hasn’t been a distraction. “Fortunately most of the time and attention has been for us in this offseason in regards to workouts, the roster, the signings of guys like Jahri Evans and Darren Sharper and this camp, which is always the second weekend after the NFL draft,” Payton said. “That’s where our focus is.”
Payton added that he has not addressed the situation with his players. He was then asked to address with the media the perception that Vicodin is available “in a candy jar” for NFL players and coaches, Payton said, “I appreciate the question. It would be wrong for me to try to paint any picture. That would be inappropriate and it wouldn’t be a smart thing or really the right thing to do.”
Payton also declined to say anything on behalf of Vitt. “It would be inappropriate for me to speak on anyone’s behalf,” Payton said. “He’s someone I think a lot of and having hired him in our first year here, he has as much to do with this Super Bowl run that we had as anyone in this building. But I don’t think that would be fair, nor would it be right or appropriate.”
Finally, Payton declined to comment on whether the situation could linger into the season. But we’ll do it for him.
Barring a settlement or a dismissal of the case in the short term, it definitely will linger into the season — and the questions far bigger than the civil lawsuit come from whether and to what extent the federal authorities put the squeeze on Vitt (and/or others) to find out how deep the rabbit hole does or doesn’t go, and if (or perhaps when) the league office decides to apply to the Saints one or more of the policies that presumably would apply with speed and certainty if the allegations involved not coaches and a General Manager but players.