Many Saints fans are speculating that Commissioner Roger Goodell may allow Head Coach Sean Payton to return before the end of the NFL season. However, unless there is some sudden movement on the part of the league, it's looking like Payton won't be back before February 4.
I emailed NFL spokesman Greg Aiello and asked if there is any update on the reinstatement of Payton and if there had been any meetings scheduled between the league and Payton's people. He told me, "None has been scheduled at this time."
Look...obviously, at some point it's going to happen. As much as I'd like to see Payton back sooner rather than later, it's looking like the league is going to wait until the full suspension has run.
A lot of fans and media types have speculated that Goodell might ease up on Payton's suspension, since the Black and Gold's season is over. And that seems logical, because when this penalty was handed down, the Saints were looking like they could seriously make a run at playing the Super Bowl in their own home town. So a lot of people think he should now be reinstated fairly instantly. I also agree that he should be reinstated now, because what's the point of keeping him out another month? Goodell has made his point. The Saints organization, Payton, and the fan base deserve to have some rapid closure.
Keep in mind, however, that the whole thing is at the discretion of Goodell. Payton has to keep his head down and just wait to see what happens. He doesn't have advantage of having a union go to back for him, like the players did.
I think it would be a good step toward putting the whole mess behind everyone if Goodell would allow Payton back early. He might also instill some good will with New Orleans residents as the Big Game gets ready to crank up in the Big Easy. However, I honestly think Goodell doesn't care much what the fan base thinks, as much as he cares about what he perceives as the integrity of the game.