Per the terms of his suspension, Saints coach Sean Payton can’t have any communication with his co-workers in New Orleans, or any team.
And while risking the wrath of the guy who doled out the one-year ban would seem plenty of deterrent, not everyone believes that a year without any kind of contact is easy to swallow.
The terms of Payton’s suspension say he’s “prohibited from direct or indirect communication of any sort with employees of the 32 clubs, including through third parties; and such prohibited communications shall include, but are not limited to, phone or electronic contact.”
Many have scoffed at the practicality of such a shut-down, with the ease with which someone could send messages (disposable cell phones, Twitter accounts, etc.).
Giants punter Steve Weatherford was willing put his name next to the skepticism, saying: “Of course he will get his message to them somehow.”
“I’m not saying anything about Sean Payton as a person or anything,” Weatherford said, via Sam Borden of the New York Times. “But I think any coach would do that. It’s not like he’s just going to sit at home and watch the games and not have any thoughts. His message will be heard.”
As you might imagine, the league disagrees.
An NFL spokesman wouldn’t discuss the methods they used to monitor Payton or any other suspended personnel, saying only that the Saints coach “is expected to comply with the conditions of the suspension.”
But the Times talked to a counterterrorism and intelligence expert who essentially scoffed at the notion Payton could be prevented from getting word back to his team if he wanted to. But he also noted that the risk might be enough to coerce compliance.
“No one wants to lose their clearance,” said Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That’s No. 1. So even if you want to talk right then, you don’t. It’s a risk-based decision and I’d imagine Payton is facing the same thing.
“Even if he thinks he’s got the secret to winning this game, the choice is the same as an agent’s: is the reward of talking about it worth the risk of being exposed?”
With a huge payday, from the Saints or others on the line when he is reinstated, trying to sneak help the Saints this year would seem to be the ultimate act of hubris.