PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Could Bill Parcells be returning to the sideline again?
The former Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys coach said Monday he has been in regular contact with suspended Saints coach Sean Payton, but he declined to say whether they have discussed the idea of Parcells coaching New Orleans in 2012.
Payton was suspended for the season by commissioner Roger Goodell, who ruled he failed to stop the team from having a bounty system run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. It is uncertain whether Payton plans to appeal the suspension, although he said in a statement issued Friday that he takes full responsibility for not stopping the bounties.
ESPN reported that Payton has spoken with Parcells about the idea of coaching during his suspension. Parcells, who attended Monday's Mets-Cardinals game in Jupiter, Fla., said he has spoken to Payton regularly since the suspension was announced Wednesday. But Parcells called any talk that he might take over in 2012 "hypothetical.''
"I have said that Sean Payton has spoken to me about the situation, but he's really sought my counsel," Parcells said. " . . . That's really the extent of it."
When asked if they had discussed coaching the Saints, Parcells said: "Not really, no. I think everything is hypothetical at this point. It would be hard to be interested in something I don't know exists yet."
In a later telephone interview with Newsday, Parcells said he has spoken with Payton several times since he was suspended. Payton is expected to address NFL owners and talk to reporters this week. He has issued only a statement through the team about his role in the scandal.
Parcells would not discuss whether the two have spoken about a potential coaching job. Parcells, 70, did say he has turned down two coaching opportunities since he stepped down from the Cowboys after the 2006 season. He wouldn't name the teams that had reached out to him.
Parcells also said he has not been contacted by any Saints official but Payton. The team declined to comment on the report that Payton spoke to Parcells about coaching in 2012. It is believed, however, that the team would not want Payton selecting the coach who would replace him during the suspension. The team reportedly is considering three in-house candidates: defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and offensive coach Aaron Kromer.
If the Saints hired Parcells -- even on an interim basis -- they first would have to comply with the NFL's Rooney Rule by interviewing a minority candidate. Also complicating matters is the possibility that Payton will appeal his suspension and possibly have it reduced. But he might not have much luck because Goodell would hear the appeal.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday that no appeal has been filed. Payton's agent, Don Yee, said in a statement Monday that no decision has been made on an appeal.
Parcells also said he was concerned that returning to coach might imperil his chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a finalist this year but was not selected. A rule recently enacted requires coaches to be retired for at least five years before being considered.
"Of course I think about that," Parcells said. "I can't worry about it, because that's worrying about something that might never happen. Was I disappointed I didn't get in the Hall of Fame? Yes, but I'm way over that now. I'm past it now."