Sean Payton has been reinstated

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Sean Payton has been reinstated

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Sean Payton is back as coach of the New Orleans Saints.Payton's season-long suspension for his role in the Saints' bounty program was lifted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday, nearly two weeks earlier than expected.The decision allows Payton to attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Saturday, where some of the top college players available for the NFL draft will be competing.Payton, along with assistant head coach Joe Vitt, general manager Mickey Loomis, and four players including Jonathan Vilma, was suspended after an investigation found the club had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned."I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations," Payton said in a statement. "Furthermore, I have assured the commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed."The suspension was scheduled to end after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, but was moved up after Payton and Goodell met on Monday."Coach Payton acknowledged in the meeting his responsibility for the actions of his coaching staff and players and pledged to uphold the highest standards of the NFL and ensure that his staff and players do so as well," Goodell said in a statement. "Sean fully complied with all the requirements imposed on him during his suspension."More important, it is clear that Sean understands and accepts his responsibilities as a head coach and the vital role that coaches play in promoting player safety and setting an example for how the game should be played at all levels."Saints owner Tom Benson welcomed back his coach."We are all thankful that Sean Payton has been reinstated," Benson said. "We have a lot of work to do and we are in the middle of it right now."Payton also needs to fill a key position on his coaching staff following the departure last week of offensive line coach and running game coordinator Aaron Kromer, now the offensive coordinator in Chicago.Loomis and Vitt are in Mobile evaluating players. Loomis said he was caught off guard by the news of Payton's return. But he said having Payton back sooner than expected will help the Saints."Every day makes a difference. We've certainly missed Sean in terms of the football team and all the things that go with our business and the game. But look, I miss his friendship. We all miss his friendship. We miss him as a person. I'm excited that he's going to be back here and fired up that he's back."Vitt said he talked to Payton Tuesday morning and that he should join the Saints' contingent in Alabama on Wednesday."We just found out on the way to practice," Vitt said. "Mr. B called Mickey and we're all excited. Sean went and spent the day in New York (Monday). He just got back in Dallas. I talked to him on the phone about 5 o'clock this morning. He's packing his bags so we'll expect he'll be here some time" Wednesday.Vitt agreed with Loomis that the timing of Payton's return is good for the team.Payton is "going to hit the ground running with both feet. His jaw is going to be set. He'll have a note pad full of thoughts and ideas and he's going to have to get himself caught up with the evaluation process of our team and looking at film, which he'll do. This is perfect, getting him back now, because he's going to be here for the readings of our players. He's going to be here for the readings of these college seniors. We start handing out unrestricted free agent tape on Thursday and Friday of this week."This is where you're building the foundation of your football team, with the evaluation process of these draft eligible juniors and seniors and the free agents that are out there."There remains one outstanding issue for the Saints stemming from the bounty probe: What will become of the Saints' second pick next spring. As part of the bounty punishment, Goodell fined the Saints 500,000 and took away second-round picks in 2012 and 2013. However, Goodell left open the possibility of restoring the 2013 second-rounder and instead docking the team a later-round pick if he is satisfied with the club's level of cooperation in the bounty matter.What the Saints do know is that the 49-year-old Payton is set to return to New Orleans for the next five seasons. Earlier this month he signed a contract extension running through the 2017 season.The coach is the last person punished in the bounty probe to return to work. Before Tuesday, Payton had not been at work since mid-April, when Goodell rejected the coach's appeal of his suspension.Loomis was suspended for eight games, Vitt for six and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams remains suspended indefinitelyVilma and current Saints defensive lineman Will Smith, along with former Saints Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove, were given suspensions of various lengths, but never served a game. Their punishments were overturned after lengthy appeals which also coincided with exhaustive litigation in federal court.The litigation included Vilma's defamation lawsuit against Goodell, which was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan last week.Payton's reinstatement is one more step for the Saints to return to normalcy, but for Vitt, said it doesn't bring closure to the bounty scandal."It doesn't for me. You're going to have ask Sean that question, Mickey that question, Vilma that question. It certainly doesn't for me. I can forgive. I'm not going to forget. It is what it is."

Patrick Towles throws for 2 TDs, Boston College beats Buffalo, 35-3

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Patrick Towles throws for 2 TDs, Boston College beats Buffalo, 35-3

BOSTON - Patrick Towles threw for two touchdowns, Davon Jones and Jon Hilliman each ran for one and Boston College coasted past Buffalo, 35-3 on Saturday afternoon.

It was the second straight win for the Eagles (3-2) after they beat FCS-school Wagner last week.

The Eagles, who entered with the nation's sixth ranked defense, dominated on the defensive side.

"I think it was a pretty clean performance," Eagles defensive end Harold Landry said. "It was expected. We were supposed to do that. We don't expect nothing less."

Towles, a graduate transfer from Kentucky, completed 14 of 25 passes for 234 yards with no interceptions. He also ran eight times for 18 yards, but fumbled it away twice.

Hilliman had 54 yards rushing and Jones 53 for the Eagles.

"Totally dominating performance," BC coach Steve Addazio said. "It's great to get a win and go out and do what we needed to do."

Buffalo (1-3) was held to just 67 total yards. Quarterback Tyree Jackson completed 9 of 21 for only 42 yards, and the Bulls had just 26 yards on the ground.

"Never had any semblance of any type of sustained drive or movement, so that's disappointing," Buffalo coach Lance Leipold said.

With a steady mist blowing most of the game on a cool day, the Eagles came out throwing the ball more than usual and opened a 21-3 lead at halftime.

BC redshirt freshman receiver Chris Garrison made an outstanding catch to set up the first TD, but was taken off the field on a stretcher after the play in the first quarter with a fractured left tibia.

Garrison made a leaping grab on 44-yard pass from Towles at the Bulls' 11-yard line, but he came down awkwardly on his leg. Trainers called for a stretcher and an air cast was put on before he was taken off.

Five plays later, Jones had a 1-yard scoring run to push the Eagles ahead 7-0.

Midway into the second quarter, Towles topped an 11-play, 54-yard drive with a 7-yard TD toss to Charlie Callinan.

After a 28-yard field goal by Buffalo's Adam Mitcheson, Towles connected on an 11-yard TD pass to receiver Michael Walker along the back line of the end zone - just over the outstretched hands of linebacker Jarrett Franklin - to make it 21-3 with 21 seconds left in the half.

Heinen coming up big with Bruins' roster openings on the wing

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Heinen coming up big with Bruins' roster openings on the wing

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Danton Heinen has to know he’s got a fair shot to win an NHL job out of B’s training camp if he plays with confidence and assertiveness. 

So far, that little Black and Gold carrot has served him well in the preseason. The 21-year-old winger has scored a goal in each of his first two preseason appearances for the Bruins. He will be pushed back into the lineup again vs. the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.

The difference this time around is Claude Julien will be behind the bench once again for the Bruins after his time with the World Cup of Hockey and the B’s lineup will start to take on more of a real NHL feel with David Pastrnak and David Backes entering the mix.

Julien has liked what he’s seen thus far out of the University of Denver product, and clearly he’ll keep getting looks as long as the production and good work ethic are there.

“I think he’s been a real good player. He’s a smart player that seems to be heady and sees the play well. He seems to be in the right place and understands the game,” said Julien. “The hockey sense is something that you either have or you don’t, and I think he has great hockey sense. It certainly makes a great hockey player. I’ve liked him so far and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.”

One other thing is certain: wing positions are open on the roster with Frankie Vatrano out for three months and Jimmy Vesey sharpening his skates at Madison Square Garden as a New York Ranger.

“We have to keep an open mind.  Frank Vatrano is hurt, and we kind of felt that he was going to have a really good start to this year. His confidence seemed to be at its highest, and the World Championships were good for him,” said Julien. “We have to look at what we have for a replacement. We went after Jimmy Vesey and we didn’t get him. So there are some spots that are open, and there’s no doubt about it.

“I’m going to be looking at compete level and I’ll be watching for the next three games to see who can fit in those spots. There are open spots, so it’s not cut-and-dried like a lot of years when it has been.”

Clearly, the high-end offensive skill is there after posting 36 goals and 93 points in his first two years at the University of Denver prior to going pro, and Heinen has a dollop of pro experience after getting into three AHL games with Providence at the end of last season. 

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder showed off the playmaking ability setting up his teammates for chances in Friday night’s win over the Red Wings, and then finally scoring at crunch time in the third period when the coaching staff moved Zach Senyshyn to his opposite wing.

Both of his goals in this preseason have been tying scores in the third that factored prominently in the game’s outcome. That’s been impressive for a young prospect in his very first NHL camp.

But Heinen claims there is still more to come in his game, and that’s encouraging. He’s just starting to get comfortable as a player that uses his vision, hockey IQ and passing to generate loads of scoring chances when he’s on the ice.

“I feel pretty good. I’ve felt better as things have gone on, and I felt better [on Friday against Detroit] than I did in the first game,” said Heinen, who finished just behind a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin for the NCAA scoring title as a freshman a couple of years ago. “I just need to keep getting better. I think I have a lot more to give. I’m just trying to put my best foot forward, and we’ll see what happens.

“I think I’ve rushed a few plays where I feel like I could hang onto [the puck] and make a smarter play. So it’s little things like that. As I play a little more then I get more comfortable hanging onto it, so I hope to do a little more than that.”

It will also be interesting to see how Heinen responds to again being in the B’s lineup on Saturday for back-to-back, physical preseason games when the NCAA schedule can be a bit more spaced with weekend games. 

There are other candidates like Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn that have enjoyed solid training camps to date for the Bruins, but it feels like Heinen is starting to push ahead for one of those winger roster spots Julien has in mind as he watches these final four exhibition games leading into the regular season.