Though most if not all of this is necessarily implied by the concept of a full-season suspension, it’s worth pausing for a minute to contemplate the meaning of coach Sean Payton’s banishment, which began on Monday.
As Adam Schefter of ESPN explains it, Payton can have no contact with any Saints employees or any employees of any other teams. If Payton has contact with any employees of the Saints or any other teams, he must communicate that to NFL V.P. Ray Anderson.
That’s fine, but as we’ve written in the past, it’s highly likely that Payton will find a way to discreetly stay in contact with quarterback Drew Brees, interim head coach Joe Vitt, and whoever the interim interim head coach ends up being.
Payton subjectively believes he has been unfairly suspended. Brees subjectively believes that the team is being improperly persecuted. It therefore will be easy for the two men to justify continuing their relationship via dummy cell phones or other electronic means.
For now, Brees isn’t even under contract. He’s not an employee of the Saints or any other NFL team. Even after Brees signs, good luck ensuring that Brees and Payton won’t continue to maintain a relationship that will persist beyond the conclusion of Payton’s suspension.
The real question is whether the NFL is willing to roll up its sleeves and chase Payton around and monitor his activities and ensure he doesn’t violate the terms of the suspension. Even if the NFL tries, it will be impossible to prevent Payton and Brees or Payton and Vitt or Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis or Payton and owner Tom Benson from talking to each other whenever they want, as long as Sean Pamphilon isn’t around to record the conversations.