Payton Back at Work

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Byline: Associated Press

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton likes to jot down to-do lists and notes on yellow pads.

Payton has had time to fill a nice stack of those this season. The Saints coach returned to work Wednesday following a nearly yearlong suspension for his role in the team's bounty program with some catching up to do.

The newly reinstated Payton watched the Senior Bowl practices and planned to meet later in the day with the staff to evaluate a defense that struggled during a 7-9 season and opened with four straight losses. Payton said there are plenty of challenges, from fixing the defense to replacing departed coaches and evaluating staff and players. Then, of course, there's getting ready for the draft and studying available free agents.

He also said he feels that New Orleans fans will extend Goodell a "gracious" welcome during Super Bowl week despite any residual anger over the bounty saga.

Future of Pro Bowl at stake?

The NFC team ended its first Pro Bowl practice by breaking the huddle and shouting, "Win."

One night earlier, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning asked his fellow all-stars to play the game hard.

And players on both sides pledged Wednesday to play more determined in a game with a reputation of being taken less seriously than preseason exhibitions or meaningless Week 17 contests.

The future of the game to be held Sunday in Hawaii is uncertain.

A league executive said Tuesday the NFL wants to decide on the future of the Pro Bowl by April, when the next regular-season schedule comes out. …