The New Orleans Saints and suspended coach Sean Payton will indeed be together again next season as the bounty scandal fades into history and the bid to win a second Super Bowl resumes.
Payton has agreed in principle to a multiyear contract extension, according to two people familiar with the deal.
“Very happy it is official,” quarterback Drew Brees said in an email to the AP. “Never had any doubts.”
Payton was due to begin his seventh season as the Saints’ head coach in 2012 before being suspended for the whole season by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in connection with the NFL’s bounty investigation.
Payton signed an extension in 2011 that would have kept him in New Orleans through 2015, but Goodell objected to certain language in that deal, leaving Payton’s future uncertain until the deal was reached Friday. The language in question in the previous extension gave Payton the right to opt out early if general manager Mickey Loomis left the club for any reason.
The new agreement also must be approved by the NFL.
Payton is the only coach in Saints history to win a Super Bowl, a title earned at the end of the 2009 season. But his legacy was tarnished by the NFL’s bounty probe, as Goodell ruled that Payton failed to exert proper institutional control over a cash-for-hits bounty program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009-11.
Although the Saints objected to the characterization of what coaches and players have said was nothing more than a performance pool for big plays, Goodell suspended Payton for the entire season. The commissioner also suspended Loomis for half of the season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games.
Two QBs get first starts
Terrelle Pryor will make his first career start at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders in their season finale in San Diego.
Coach Dennis Allen announced Friday that he is picking Pryor to start Sunday’s game in place of the injured Carson Palmer. Pryor and Matt Leinart had been splitting time in practice earlier this week but Allen decided to go with the younger Pryor.
Pryor has been on the field for just seven snaps this season.
Also, injured Browns quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy are not practicing, making it almost certain that third-stringer Thad Lewis will start the season finale at Pittsburgh.
Lewis’ first NFL start will be daunting one. The Steelers’ defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL. The Browns signed free agent Josh Johnson as backup.
Around the league
San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) TE Vernon Davis practiced in a non-contact black jersey for the second consecutive day and is taking the necessary steps, according to NFL-mandated protocol, to return from a concussion he sustained during last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks (10-5). He has yet to be cleared for Sunday’s regular-season finale. … The 49ers placed starting WR Mario Manningham on injured reserve Friday. … Baltimore Ravens (10-5) S Ed Reed was fined $55,000 by the NFL for his high hit on New York Giants (8-7) WR Victor Cruz last weekend. … Carolina (6-9) QB Cam Newton was fined $21,000 for abusive conduct toward a game official, and another $10,000 for kicking Oakland’s (4-11) Tommy Kelly after a play was over. … New England (11-4) DT Vince Wilfork was docked $30,000 for hitting Jacksonville (2-13) OL Steve Vallos in the head with his forearm on a play in which possession changed.