You also have heard that the Saints and the NFL discussed the issue many times, but they never found a resolution. And what all this means, you have been told, is that Jerry Jones is serving Sean Payton Mai Tai's in his Dallas pool, waiting for the 2012 season to end.
Thankfully, the real news is not as dismal. Sean Payton's 2012 contract will be pushed to 2013 because of his suspension, which gives the club and the league a year to work out the provision that could not be resolved when the two sides reached a good-faith agreement in 2011. As Payton told Fox Sports and NFL Network: "I absolutely plan on being a New Orleans Saint."
Here are the gory details: At the time the NFL raised the issue about the questionable clause, the details of which still have not been revealed publicly, Payton's contract was tentatively approved but was not sanctified by the NFL comma cops. In other words, nobody disputes that the club and its head coach reached an extension sometime in 2011, but the questionable language had to be worked out before he could be paid under its provisions.
After any contract is agreed to, it is customary the league review the language to assure it meets league rules and regulations and does not contain language that is not legally enforceable. And there it sat in somebody's inbox through the 2011 season and beyond when football was more important than contracts. By now, most NFL watchers know that after the 2011 season, the fiasco that became Bountygate developed and consumed all other issues.
Nobody paid much attention to the flyspecks in the pepper of a contract, but after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell levied the season-long penalty on Payton, it meant that such issues could not be resolved. Payton could not have any contact at all with Saints personnel on any subject, including the challenged language of a contract that was never resolved. The contract then would have to wait until Payton was rehabilitated, as the Kremlin used to say about dissenters. In other words, the loose ends could not be tied up until Payton returned to active status, at the end of the 2012 season. What happened in the meantime was that an intrepid reporter remembered that Payton's contract had never been finalized, and, lo and behold, thought he had another bombshell to heave into the Saints organization.
Let's make it clear that Payton's 2012 contract, as a result of his suspension, will be "tolled," which in NFL parlance means it is merely frozen and pushed forward until the next season he is active, or in this case 2013. The tolling provision has been in effect for years, mostly when a player misses a season because of a non-football injury. Season-long suspensions are rare, but in that event the existing contract is tolled, it merely goes into effect the following season.
So it is with Payton. His contract does not expire at the end of the 2012 season, nor does he become a free agent, as the public reports have suggested. His contract extension will be revisited after his suspension is ended at which time the Saints are permitted to speak again with their employee. Although it sounds like a complicated issue, the only complication is the news media's hell-bent desire to find something else wrong with the Saints. Such alleged wrongdoing, in this case, came only because the reporter did not understand league rules.
And Jerry Jones will have to look elsewhere, if he, or any other NFL owner, decides to make a change in the coaching department after the season.
by Jim W. Miller, former Exec. VP of the New Orleans Saints
His new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores, at Amazon.com and at his website: www.JWMillerSports.com
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