NFL reviewing Saints coach Sean Payton after unsportsmanlike conduct flag
The NFL is reviewing the behavior of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton toward the officiating crew during Thursday night’s 20-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, as per its standard practice whenever a penalty is issued for unsportsmanlike conduct toward officials.
Referee Clete Blakeman’s crew penalized Payton for running onto the field toward field judge Joe Larrew with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining in the game. Payton said he was trying to call a timeout and then Larrew “asked me again.”
Payton added: “I said, ‘I’ve already called the timeout.’ I probably said it with a little more oomph or vigor than I was supposed to, but I had enough. I gotta be smarter than that.”
The Falcons had been facing third down, and the first down by penalty essentially ended the game. Of the Falcons’ 26 first downs Thursday night, 11 came by penalty.
The NFL can issue fines and even suspensions for conduct toward officials if it chooses.
The NFL’s review of Payton’s behavior comes as it has faced some pressure from the NFL Referees Association to deter both unsportsmanlike conduct and physical contact against officials. Most notably, side judge Laird Hayes was knocked down and suffered bruised ribs while trying to break up a fight between the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders in Week 12.