But what exactly does that mean? Ahh vague legal jargon. Without you, there would be no need for people who are employed to translate lawyer scribblings.
Sean Payton’s year-long suspension officially started yesterday, the first day of the Saints’ organized offseason team activities. Since this is a historic punishment and the first time a coach has ever been suspended for a full season, a simple question that should have a very simple answer came up naturally.
What contact–if any–is Payton permitted to have with his team?
The clear assumption is that his allowed contact is either non-existent, or very, very minimal. But Mike Freeman from CBS Sports dusted off his trusty NFL rulebook to see the official NFL legalese on suspensions, and he inevitably uncovered some vague language.
The first part is quite clear:
“While suspended, coaches or club executives are prohibited from direct or indirect communication of any sort with employees of the 32 NFL clubs, including third parties.”
OK, fair enough then. Payton will be under permanent house arrest, and the only contact he’ll have with his team is through an intricate system of underground tunnels. But wait for the mixed signals, because they’re coming…
That’s still innocent, but a tiny pin prick in the impenetrable suspension wall is all that’s needed to allow the suspended coach to have even a passing influence on the team he’s banned from. By specifying “personal reasons” the league is presumably acknowledging that the suspended player or coach is still an employee, and they’re therefore permitted to have contact with their highest superiors should the need arise.
But what exactly are the parameters for “personal reasons”? And how is “reasonable contact” defined? The loss of a head coach for the entire year seems like a black and white process, and for the most part it is. But there are still a few shades of gray tossed in, enough to give Payton the opportunity to still have intimate conversations with owner Tom Benson, and what’s said to Benson can quickly travel to interim head coach Joe Vitt.
While the league pretends to wave an iron fist, it’ll be impossible to police Payton’s punishment, and fully prevent him from sneaking through a few back alleys to reach his team, whether those allies are real or digital.