As we peel the onion on the theoretical limitations regard the activities of suspended Saints coach Sean Payton, here’s a restriction that should be fairly easy for the league to enforce.
Payton is not permitted to attend any games.
Specifically, the policy (as provided to PFT by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello) states as follows: “Suspended coaches or club executives are banned from all NFL facilities, stadiums or offices at any time during the suspension, in any capacity, except as authorized by the Commissioner.”
And so, to the extent that FOX remains interested in hiring Payton, he won’t be able to provide analysis of games, unless he does it remotely. Moreover, even if other head coaches would have been inclined to welcome Payton to practice or a production meeting, Payton can’t talk to any players or coaches.
Thus, if he works for FOX or anyone else, Payton will be working in a studio, and he won’t be allowed to communicate directly or indirectly with “employees” of teams.
On this point, the league’s policy expressly applies only to team employees: “While suspended, coaches or club executives are prohibited from direct or in-direct communication of any sort with employees of the 32 NFL Clubs, including through third parties; and such prohibited communications shall include, but are not limited to, phone or electronic contact with employees of any of the 32 NFL Clubs. Except for reasonable contact with the affected club’s principal owner and/or human resources manager for personal reasons, this prohibition applies to all club personnel (including players, coaches, physicians, trainers, videographers, scouts, executive assistants, business operations personnel, etc.).”
That gives rise to the legitimate question of whether Payton may communicate with Saints quarterback Drew Brees, given that Brees currently isn’t an employee of the Saints, or any other team. Though the Saints retain exclusive rights to enter into a contract with Brees, there currently is no contract and thus no employment.
The league, as we understand it, interprets the suspension to prevent Payton from talking to Brees. But this is an exercise in academics; Payton and Brees will talk as much as they want to talk, before and after Brees signs with the Saints.
The only question is whether they’ll ensure that they aren’t caught. Given that it took the league three years, a failed investigation, and an unexpected whistleblower to blow the lid off a bounty/pay-for-performance system that was operated brazenly and openly before dozens of players and staff for three seasons, if Brees and Payton ensure that their communications are restricted to one-on-one calls via a private cell phone that the league can’t track, and if they are careful not to blab to others about the calls, the league will never know.