FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2006 file photo, then...

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2006 file photo, then Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, right, shakes hands with New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton after the Saints defeated the Cowboys 42-17 in an NFL football game in Irving, Texas. Credit: AP

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- If Bill Parcells decides to come out of retirement for a third time to coach the Saints this season, it will be for one reason only.

"If this guy says to me, 'Bill, I need you to do this,' " Parcells said yesterday in an interview with Newsday. "That's what friends are supposed to be for."

"This guy" refers to Saints coach Sean Payton, who is very close to Parcells and is considering whether to ask the former Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys coach to fill in for him during his suspension for the 2012 season. Payton was suspended for not stopping the Saints' prohibited bounty program, which the NFL said was used extensively from 2009-11 as an enticement to knock players out of games.

Parcells, 70, said he has turned down two head-coaching opportunities since retiring from the Cowboys after the 2006 season, but he said this situation is different. "The thing with this one,'' he said, "it's a little more personal to me, because this is one of my guys."

Parcells hired Payton as an offensive assistant in 2003, and they spent three years together in Dallas before Payton became the Saints' head coach in 2006.

Parcells met Tuesday with Payton and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who has been suspended for the first eight games next season, near Parcells' home in Jupiter, Fla. Parcells said the Saints' head-coaching job was not discussed specifically, and that he believed Payton wanted him to get to know Loomis. The two had never met.

"We literally did not talk about that job at all [Tuesday]," Parcells said. "The only thing he told me is, 'You're going to like this situation .' I know a few of their players, just a couple. I think Sean wanted me to meet Mickey Loomis. I didn't know him very well."

Asked if the two got along, Parcells said, "It's hard not to get along playing golf. There wasn't too much contentiousness out there."

Parcells said he doesn't expect an immediate resolution of the situation, citing a potential appeal by Payton. He has until Monday to file but might do it sooner. If the Saints want to hire Parcells, they first would have to interview a minority coaching candidate to fulfill the Rooney Rule requirement.

If Parcells joined the Saints as a consultant, they would not have to interview anyone else. He was the Dolphins' top football administrator from 2008-10.

"I think there are a few more things to be settled before they would be ready to move on from where they are," Parcells said. "I don't know whether they're going to appeal or not. That would take a little time. I don't know exactly how long."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that if Payton did appeal, it would be an expedited process. Goodell said, however, that Payton would be allowed to continue working for the Saints until the appeal is heard. No decision on a coaching hire would be made until Payton hears if the suspension is upheld.

Parcells said he knows returning to the sideline would push back his eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a finalist this year but was not selected. Hall of Fame rules require a coach to be out of the game for at least five seasons before being eligible; returning, even on an interim basis, would restart the clock.

Parcells said he wasn't worried about his Hall of Fame status.

"That's not even a factor right now," he said. "I can't live my life worrying about something that might never happen. I have to be honest with myself. I don't know if that's going to happen or not. Why would you live your life worrying about something that's not going to happen? Don't assume that I don't think that's important to me, because it is. But I'm not making any personal decision based on that."

For now, there is no offer.

"I would have to know a lot more than I know now," Parcells said. "They said they'd be in touch."

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