His one-year league suspension has yet to even start, he continues to mull over his appeal options, and it's still far from clear as to who will replace him this season in New Orleans on an interim basis. But in reality, Sean Payton began focusing on the rest of his NFL head coaching career here Tuesday morning, taking a first fledgling step in the attempt to restore a reputation that has been badly damaged by the Saints bounty scandal.
Meeting with the media Tuesday morning in The Breakers hotel, where the NFL's annual meeting is being conducted, Payton, for the first time, took questions on his role in the bounty program.
Payton was at times both contrite and evasive in the almost 18-minute interview, but just showing up and talking here at the league meeting was a significant step, one he has been counseled to take by those who realize that this gathering doubles as a future job interview of sorts with 31 potential employers -- the owners of every other NFL team except the Saints.
Some day, and who knows when, Payton will not be the head coach in New Orleans. And that's when it could well matter how he conducted himself here this week, with his words and actions speaking either to a willingness to accept responsibility and learn the lesson of his mistakes, or being used to set a defiant tone that could come back to hurt his chances of being hired for a second NFL head coaching job by one of these very same owners.