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Saints promote Vitt to interim coach; Payton aide to miss six games as part of bounty punishment

NEW ORLEANS -- Sean Payton handed over control of his team to Joe Vitt once before and the Saints have decided to do it again.

The Saints on Thursday named Payton's trusted second-in-command their interim coach, despite the fact that Vitt will miss a third of the season for his role in New Orleans' bounty system.

For his part, Payton received a season-long suspension -- which begins Monday; Vitt, who takes over Monday, was handed a six-game suspension.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said in his announcement that the team will address at a later time how to divvy up Vitt's responsibilities during his six-week absence.

"It is important that we keep Sean Payton's philosophy front and center during this season," Loomis said. "Sean has been the driving force behind the tremendous success our team has enjoyed during the past six years, his leadership will be missed. But we need to set a course of action that gives us the best chance to win this season without our head coach.

"We considered a number of great options to handle Payton's duties both internally and externally, but believe this will provide the most seamless transition for our players and our coaching staff, allowing our offensive and defensive staffs to remain intact with the fewest changes," Loomis continued. "This is the same structure we used last season during Sean's knee injury."

Vitt, who carries the titles of assistant head coach and linebackers coach, briefly stepped in as acting head coach last season when Payton broke his leg. Vitt also was interim coach with St. Louis in 2005 before joining New Orleans as part of Payton's very first staff in 2006.

Vitt will be able to oversee the offseason training program and training camp before stepping aside for the first six weeks of the regular season.

The Saints' assistants who can pick up the slack during Vitt's absence include: offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, offensive line coach Aaron Kromer and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

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Karras joins concussion suit

To a generation of TV and film fans, Alex Karras will forever be the loving adoptive dad on the 1980s sitcom "Webster" or the big guy who punched a horse in 1974's "Blazing Saddles." Before his acting days, he was a football star, a three-time All-Pro defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions in the 1960s.

Now 76, and diagnosed with dementia, Karras is taking on the role of lead plaintiff: He and his wife, Susan Clark, are two of 119 people who filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the latest complaint brought against the NFL by ex-players who say the league didn't do enough to protect them from head injuries.

"All through the time that I've been with him, he has suffered headaches and dizziness and high blood pressure and all kinds of things that are usually the result of multiple concussions," Clark said from Los Angeles in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

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Around the league

*The NFL will allow teams to accept advertisements for casinos and other state-licensed gambling-related establishments during the next two seasons. Those ads can appear only in game programs, on local radio broadcasts and in the upper bowl and inner concourses of stadiums.

*The Pittsburgh Steeler agreed to terms with free agent wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and offensive lineman Trai Essex.

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