Sean Payton probably did more in 45 minutes Wednesday to put some closure on the bounty saga than anything else that came before it. Whether Payton is genuinely ready to move on himself - or whether he simply views that as the best way to move his team forward - his message was clear:
Let's get past this, people.
The New Orleans Saints coach said he filled plenty of yellow notebooks with ideas during his season-long suspension. And he admitted that the need to fix his defense is "the one thing that keeps me up at night right now."
But during his first visit with the media following Wednesday's morning Senior Bowl practice, Payton's top priority was clearly to try and put the bounty controversy in the rear-view mirror.
He used the word "closure" a half-dozen times, even imploring fans to be gracious to Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL during next week's Super Bowl 2013 festivities.
And he insisted that he will spread the same message to his own team - including players like Drew Brees and Jonathan Vilma, who have remained very vocal about the lingering bitterness the bounty scandal has created.
"I'll be able to handle that," Payton sad firmly, when asked about the feelings of such players. "Real quickly, we're gonna understand where we are as a team as we head (forward). We've got a ton of challenges right now. A ton of work. ... That's what 7-9 is."
At another point, Payton said, "It's no different than what we teach our players when maybe a call doesn't go your way. In other words, you're on to the next play. And this - in a much bigger scheme of things - had to be the same approach by me."
Payton's desire for "closure" didn't seem to be solely about strategy, though.
And it didn't seem to be motivated solely by getting back in the NFL's good graces - though Payton did say that he chose to never be publicly critical of the bounty sanctions during his suspension in part because he never wanted to do anything to "jeopardize" his reinstatement.
Sean Payton's first priority with New Orleans Saints: Moving past the bounty saga
New Orleans Times-Picayune | Jan 24