NEW ORLEANS - Decisions are still pending on a possible appeal of Sean Payton's suspension or an interim coach should his season-long punishment be upheld, a person familiar with the situation said.
The person says Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and their staffs were in meetings at the team's suburban headquarters Thursday and focused primarily on preparations for next month's NFL draft. The person spoke to The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity because the Saints have not announced their plans.
Payton's suspension in connection with the Saints' bounty scandal is slated to begin on Sunday, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he has until Monday to appeal.
Payton has sought advice on the matter from his friend and retired coach Bill Parcells, who has told several media outlets he'd consider taking the Saints' interim coaching job if Payton, his protégé, asked him to take over.
"I had plenty of opportunities to do things with different teams, and I've turned them all down," Parcells, who turns 71 in August, told the New York Daily News. "But this one is special. This guy is like family to me. And if I could help him, I would."
Payton began working with Parcells in 2003, when he was hired as an offensive assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. The two have been close ever since and Payton, throughout his six seasons as New Orleans' head coach, has continued consulting his mentor on numerous matters, including how to handle preparations for the 2010 Super Bowl.
However, the Saints must clear up several matters before they can choose an interim coach. They must not only decide whether to appeal, but would have to see if an appeal resulted in a reduced punishment.
If Payton's punishment is upheld, the Saints could then proceed with finding an interim coach either from their own staff or outside the organization. If the Saints choose the latter approach and Parcells becomes a top candidate, the club would still have to interview a minority candidate under the NFL's "Rooney Rule."
There are also three strong candidates among Saints assistants to take over as interim coach: offensive co-ordinator Pete Carmichael, defensive co-ordinator Steve Spagnuolo and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. Payton expressed confidence in the abilities of his own assistants to compensate for his absence, but also has voiced some misgivings about saddling those coaches with additional responsibilities.
"We feel like we've got a number of good candidates" on the staff, Payton said earlier this week at NFL meetings in Florida. "The trick then is what it does to affect their roles that they currently have."