WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va — Time may not have healed the relationships of the main coaching figures in the Saints’ Bountygate scandal.
Or, maybe it has.
Sean Payton and his former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, will they greet each other Friday night at Edward Jones Dome?
Or ignore each other.
Once confetti cohorts, the former Super Bowl XLIV coaching peers will stand across the field from each other for the first time since Payton returned from his suspension which spanned the 2012 regular season and Williams was reinstated last August.
The Saints open the preseason at the St. Louis Rams on Friday night.
As of Tuesday, Payton gave no clue as to how he would handle a potential meeting with Williams.
“That’s not even, in my opinion, a big deal at all,” Payton said of his future dealings with Williams, whose testimony in the pay-to-injure controversy helped to strengthen the league’s case against the Saints.
The NFL said as many as “22 to 27 Saints players” pooled money with Williams to pay out performance bonuses based on shots against star players like Brett Favre and Kurt Warner.
“That’s such a far-away topic,” Payton said. “It’s not a big deal. Our jobs are to make sure we get our guys ready for this first preseason game.”
Payton was previously asked about Williams during his first media interview following his reinstatement.
“I have no interest in talking to Gregg,” Payton said in January 2013 at a Senior Bowl practice.
In 2012, Payton was suspended for the entire season, his suspension later shortened. Also suspended were Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis (eight games), assistant coach/linebackers Joe Vitt (six games) and four current and former Saints players — most notably linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith — later, form NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated the player suspensions.
Williams, who was with the Saints from 2009-11, returned to the league as a senior defensive assistant with Tennessee, and is now in his first season as defensive coordinator with St. Louis.