Goodell hears Saints' appeals

Payton

NEW YORK — Sean Payton slipped out a back entrance from NFL headquarters and directly into to a waiting car.

The Saints’ Super Bowl-winning coach now must wait for Commissioner Roger Goodell to decide whether he will reduce any of the penalties in the team’s bounty scandal.

Payton declined comment Thursday after meeting with Goodell to discuss the season-long suspension he received for his role in the bounty system. Earlier, the commissioner heard appeals from general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt.

Goodell suspended Payton for all of next season, while Loomis was suspended for eight games and Vitt for six. The Saints were fined $500,000 and docked second-round draft picks this year and next.

Goodell spent six hours Thursday hearing appeals, meeting separately with team representatives, Loomis, Vitt and finally Payton. Goodell plans to make a decision quickly but has not specified a timetable.

Vitt, with lawyer David Cornwell, was the only Saints official to speak to the media gathered outside the league offices, where a lone fan held a “Free Sean Payton” sign.

Cornwell said Vitt understood he had to be held accountable, but they wanted to convey that the coach did not participate in a strategy to injure players.

“I thought the commissioner was extremely receptive,” Cornwell said.

Asked whether he thought his punishment would be reduced, Vitt said: “I have no feel for that.”

“The commissioner’s got a tough job,” he added. “I’ve worked hard to earn the respect of my players and now I want to earn his respect.”

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