Without Payton on the sideline this season, the Saints missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Brees remained prolific, but his 18 interceptions also tied for a league high heading into the final weekend of the season.
The Saints headed into Sunday's season finale against Carolina at 7-8, hoping to avoid their first losing season since they went 7-9 in 2007.
Payton is expected to return to the Saints immediately after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, unless Goodell allows him to return earlier.
When Payton reports back to work, it will officially close the book on the bounty saga that has overshadowed the Saints' organization since the NFL first announced on March 2 that it found the Saints ran a program that paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents.
In addition to the suspensions of Payton, Loomis and Vitt, the Saints also were docked second-round draft choices in 2012 and 2013, though Goodell has said he could potentially restores the Saints' 2013 second-round choice and dock the team a later-round pick.
Meanwhile, four current or former Saints were initially given suspensions of varying lengths. Two current Saints defensive captains, linebacker Jon Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, were among those suspended. Vilma was banned for the whole season and Smith for four games, but the players successfully challenged their punishment with the help of the NFL Players Association and never served a game.
Former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed by Goodell to oversee the players' appeals, ruled that the NFL probe was accurate in its findings that the Saints ran an improper program and attempted to cover it up, but that the evidence was not strong enough to warrant unprecedented suspensions for players who had been only fined for similar behavior in the past.
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